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June 28, 2005

Why the 2012 Olympic Games should go to London not Paris

Posted by Christie Davies

Which city has been selected to host the 2012 Olympics will be announced from Singapore on 6th July 2005. Paris is currently the frontrunner and London is in second place. The London Olympic bid committee has today set off to Singapore for last minute lobbying. Their mission will be reinforced when they are followed to Singapore by Tony Blair, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell and by Conservative and Liberal Democrat spokesmen. Prof. Christie Davies does his bit by offering a novel argument for why London should host the 2012 Olympics.

If the Olympic Games of 2012 are held in Paris they will remain stuck in the military and nationalist tradition of the past since that is what France stands for. If they go to London, Anglo-Saxon liberal economics will push them firmly in a new progressive commercial direction.

The essentially military character of the present Olympic Games is shown by the organisation of the teams exclusively through nation states. In principle it should be possible to enter teams of Rotarians, people with red hair, teetotalers, lawyers, employees of Mitsubishi, left-handed people, Christian brothers, Basques, cannibals, holders of PhDs, asylum seekers or any other group that could be organised on an international basis - but the official Olympic rules won't permit this. All competitors have to represent a particular nation state, the unit on which armies and navies are based and if victorious to stand like soldiers while their nation's battle standard is hoisted.

Most of the Olympic events exist only because they embody anachronistic military skills. Why else should anyone want to throw a javelin or a discus? The Marathon named after the Greek battle of Marathon is simply a crude way of carrying an urgent military message over a long distance before the invention of mobile phones.

The very ethos of the Olympic Games is warlike for it is based not on competition in the sense that economic life is. In the market place some do better than others but most people gain a living and the cake that gets shared out grows and grows. In a truly free market everybody wins something. By contrast the Olympic Games is like a war, a zero-sum game in which the winners take all. In ancient Greece itself those who came second were jeered at and humiliated. What Paris will provide is a standard version of the existing Olympic Games based on military values and military qualities.

If the Olympic Games goes to London it will be about money. The commercial British could abandon the pretence that those who compete in the Olympics are amateurs and privatise it entirely. In an openly money-based Olympics a private corporation could pay its athletes up front any amount it liked and would be allowed to buy in foreigners in our new globalized economy.

In such a commercialised Olympics the appearance of each individual competitor would be decided by the television companies that have bought up the rights to the coverage of a particular item in the Olympics. If a Dutch television porn channel has bought the rights then it could decide that all participants of both sexes be pendulously naked as in ancient Sparta or wrap themselves in leather and latex for the fetish market. Alternatively a channel owned by Muslim fundamentalists might want to wrap them up from forehead to fetlock in dignified all concealing black robes. Advertisers could legitimately demand that competitors run the marathon dressed so as to enhance the sale of bananas, butter or bee-hives even be decked out to look like one of these commodities. In this way the London Olympic Games will be cleansed of corruption. Once all payments are made openly and publicly, corruption ceases.

In this brave new London Olympiad there would be freedom to take performance enhancing drugs. Why should individual athletes who courageously put their own health at risk in order to win not be allowed to do so? We do not as share-holders complain when workaholic hard drinking executives drop dead young and rich after ignoring warnings from their doctors. We do not complain if a steeple-chaser or a wall of death biker breaks his neck or a matador is disembowelled by a bull. They know the risks and they take them. If a drugged up competitor breaks a world record and then collapses, that will provide valuable research data for the pharmaceutical company sponsoring him. Drugs for excellence and death today mean drugs for life and health tomorrow. We should revere those brave athletes who push their own chemistry to the point of self-destruction in the pursuit of a brief burst of speed or strength thus providing knowledge that will benefit us all.

The alcohol, tobacco and obesity-food industries may well also provide sponsorship. Imagine the advertising value of a coughing chain smoker running in the hundred metres or a two hundred and fifty pound - a hundred and fourteen kilo - eighteen stone beer and burger guzzler leaping the hurdles. Fast food for fast people.

The Olympic Games has long been tarnished by militarism, pseudo-amateurism and drug taking. Paris will be no different. But London has the vision to make the Olympic Games a real contribution to the modern commercial world.

Professor Christie Davies is the author of many books and academic articles about the military, economics and drug use, most recently The Strange Death of Moral Britain, Transaction, 2004.


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This must be the least helpful, helpful comment about the UK's Olympic bid - the whole point of the Olympics is that it is not commercial. With supporters like this the London bid does not need any enemies.

Posted by: Jonathan at June 29, 2005 10:28 AM
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Very droll, brilliant satire, had me laughing out loud - and the piece also made some serious points in a comic way - well done Prof. Davies.

Posted by: David James at June 29, 2005 10:30 AM
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Is this man (I presume man) for real? I have looked him up on google and amazon etc. and he is clearly a real person and a real academic. But he must surely be having us on with this piece. Olympic athletes dressed up as bananas - I mean really.

Posted by: Daniella at June 30, 2005 12:14 PM
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Prof. Davies gets one thing wrong in his argument - in a commercialised Olympics tobacco sponsorship of athletes would of course be banned. After all, all tobacco sponsorship of sporting events is banned. Unless of course a repeat of a Bernie Ecclestone style donation is envisaged - buying an exemption for the Olympics,

Posted by: Ella at July 2, 2005 10:43 AM
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This is obviously the piece which clinched the vital votes enabling London to win the Olympics by 4 votes. Prof. Davies argument won it for London. The media should be congratulating him, not David Beckham or Tony Blair.

Posted by: Gabby at July 6, 2005 03:00 PM
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