Delay Or Move The Olympics? Sure. When The Hellenic Games Freeze Over.
A Canadian public health expert has demanded the International Olympic Committee delay or move the 2016 Rio Olympics because of the Zika virus threat. “But for the games, would anyone recommend sending an extra half million visitors into Brazil right now?” wrote University of Ottawa professor Amir Attaran in the Harvard Public Health Review.
As the Talking Heads would no doubt advise the good professor: Stop making sense. Since when does a lowly academic get to be the one to finally force the IOC to listen to reason? Mightier foes have tried to bring a little common sense to the Olympics in the past. They had great arguments too. But no dice when dealing with the Swiss suits.
In case you haven’t been paying attention, this is an organization that has, in the past:
Given a publicity windfall to Adolph Hitler’s Nazi schemes at the 1936 Summer Games in Berlin. 76 years later they did the same for Vladimir Putin’s triumphant bonfire of his vanity in Sochi in 2012.
Turned quid pro quo into a medal event via its awarding of Games to (among others) Berlin, Atlanta, Sochi, Athens, Beijing and now Rio.
Tolerated the craft of crooked judging to a point where even mobsters were envious of how the IOC allowed political and personal interference in the results.
Ignored the juicing of competitors with all manner of horse medicines until it was ratted out by disaffected folks within the athletics community.
So if Professor Attaran thinks he’ll give the IOC pause over a mosquito-borne pandemic I have news for him. The men and women who own the trademark five rings are made of stern stuff. Their colours don’t run just because there’s a little speck on the windshield of history. When the going gets tough, the Olympic family gets going to the vault in Lausanne, Switzerland, to count their cash..
The reason they can perpetuate this dog-and-pony carousel is simple. No matter how high-handed, how boorish, how unresponsive the IOC may be as it works its dubious magic, the public forgives all if their national heroes bring home the gold. We know this because TV networks around the world will bid the third mortgage on the house to get a piece of the viewing audience turning in for either a Winter or Summer Olympiad.
Remember the soothing balm of the Vancouver Winter Olympics on Canada’s tender sensibilities? How not even a dead Georgian luger could rain on the medal parade for Canada’s newest sporting heroes? How we tuned in to see hockey heroes Sidney Crosby and Haley Wickenheiser deliver gold medals in the only sport that really matters in Canada?
Of course you remember. It’s the same for every country worth its flag. And if a few hundred folks have to risk having deformed children to deliver the goods to the world’s sports fans, the IOC is not going to stand in the way.
Attaran has as much chance of having the Olympics moved or delayed as he does having them set to Michael Jackson music and opening on Broadway in a fright wig. But we should thank him for trying all the same.
One practical Olympic proposal that the IOC might look favourably upon involves the participation of the NHL in the Winter Games. As of this moment, the chances of the NHL going to the hockey desert of South Korea in 2018 are about the same as our Dr. Attaran getting the IOC to move the Rio Olympics to Vegas or Lichtenstein.
The league has participated in every Winter Games since Nagano in 1998, shutting down its business for over three weeks in February to send its best players to compete for gold. It has been good at a certain level for the NHL, even if the money payoff has been very modest. In an ideal world the deal would continue. But the era of the NHL putting down tools to satisfy whatever market the IOC chooses is over.
So South Korea is a bridge too far to take the players in midseason. What’s the solution? What the NHL should do is tell the IOC that it wants to se its best compete for gold. But the NHL, in cooperation with the IOC, will choose a market in North America— say Toronto or New York— or Europe— say Helsinki or Frankfort— and stage the competition there.
It satisfies a lot of NHL issues about travel, security and, most of all, TV primetime viewing. (Games from South Korea would be seen live in North America in the middle off the night.) It keeps the Olympics as prime hockey event. And with its choice of venues it can generate more money than a tournament played in smaller 10,000-seat arenas where many iff the tickets are given to non-paying IOC sponsors or hacks..
The cities bidding for the Winter Games won’t like it. But they won’t like a hockey tournament played by payers who aren’t in the Top 2000 players in the world. Their choice. And a win/ win situation for hockey fans.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy
Bruce's career is unmatched in Canada for its diversity and breadth of experience with successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also the best-selling author of seven books. He was a featured columnist for the Calgary Herald (1998-2009) and the Globe & Mail (2009-2013).