Saturday, August 25, 2012

Does the Olympics benefit the poor?

IT is yet another Olympics meet and its feverish tempo and celebrations. The Olympics is a huge major international event-socially, politically, and economically—featuring summer and winter sports and held every four years, where thousands of the best of athletes from around the world come together to compete in a variety of sports.

The London 2012 Olympics is
no doubt comprehensive and well organized. Right from the time Britain won the hosting rights, to the staging of the events proper, the preparation for the events has no doubt been elaborate, meticulous, but resource—gulping. Billions of pounds sterling have been expended and more funds will certainly be needed for the maintenance of some of the structures and facilities at the end of the events.
We as a people can easily appreciate the extent of the anticipation of the people towards the staging of the events, if one relates such anticipation to the background of similar (but on a lesser scale) events hosted in Nigeria. The Commonwealth Games and the World cup fiesta that was staged in Nigeria. In those events, which lasted less than three weeks, billions of naira was reportedly expended by its organizers, prompting criticisms and justifications or the economic benefits against other pressing and competing national needs or demands.

In the case of the London 2012, the sum of 14.8 billion US dollars was reportedly spent in staging the events making it to be the most expensive of all Olympics in history. Such huge expenditure is trailed behind by those of Barcelona 1992 (USD 11.4 billion) and Montreal 1976 (USD 6.0billion). China’s Olympics was reported to be in the same league of expense with those mentioned above, but the Chinese authorities refused to officially disclose the amount spent to organize theirs.

Whatever amount of money was spent to stage these glamorous global sporting fiesta, its organizers seems to view and appreciate such, a huge investment from rather a peculiar aspect of the numerous benefits and values derivable from the staging of the events and the values are no doubt obviously enormous, ranging from physical, economic, political and spiritual.
Physically, exercises involved in the games make us good and are good for our bodies, its effects on our well being may be very difficult to quantify, yet playing games make us good, especially if we are on the winning sides.
Politically, the events have been used and still being used as a platform to promote political ideology, as seen by the Nazis in the late forties. The coming together of different races of humanity in the name of sports can go a long way to address the issue of racism and xenophobia. The hosting of the events is tied to national prestige and status and means by which nations can prove themselves and show off their ability to compete on world stage.
The economic benefits are also enormous and in most cases always forms the basis of criticism of its benefits or otherwise.

Critics have argued that for staging the events, the United Kingdom will get a temporary boost but no lasting benefits and would run the Olympics at a loss as Athens did in 2004. Whatever the diversity of opinion, the hosting of the events will provide the host cities  benefits that can influence the overall economy of the host-London-Business owners will benefit, the host cities will benefit, airliners will benefit and the food industry will also benefit.

Organizing the Olympics has not been without its own controversies and crisis. This has, however, not affected the zeal with which the events are competed to be hosted. Attempts to host some previous Olympics had been greeted with protests and boycotts. In the past, there was a boycott to protest the Palestinian causes, there was a protest relating to gender discrimination, racism and the Suez crisis and of recent there was a protest to drop Dow chemical as one of the London Olympics sponsor. The criticism that arose from the hosting of the event is derivable from the exorbitant cost and the concerns about turning Britain to a police state on the account of the massive mobilization of security forces and deployment of missiles.

Whatever the cases, the justification of the hosting of the Olympics therefore depends or rests on where we perceive it, either for or against.

The main issues is whether or not the Olympics benefit the poor.
Certainly everything about the Olympics is elitist. The poor may not really benefit as such. Most of those who we may refer to as poor certainly are not found in the developed countries but in the developing countries like African and Asian countries.

So the question as to whether the Olympics benefit the poor will be largely directed to these continents and its people and examined. Whether the hosting of the game is of benefits to its largely impoverished people.
Several Olympics had been hosted  and I doubt if any of such had specifically addressed issues that are of importance to the poor in these continents.

Both the African and Asian continents are inundated with series of challenges that include but not limited to the following; poverty, hunger (famine) diseases (malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS), drought, high maternal and infant mortality insecurity, conflicts, (child soldiers), poor infrastructure, increasing economic isolation, fragile political transition, desertification, other environmental challenges among several others.

The consequences of these are the increasing cases of conflicts, insecurity, terrorism and migration that also have impacts on the developed countries.
Concerned about this precarious situation, several international donor agencies and foundations have cooperated and contributed to ensure unrestricted aids to most of the developing countries, yet these good gestures seems not to be enough. The reality is that funds spent in hosting Olympics can be prudently managed to pave the way for due assistance towards helping developing countries.

Tony Blair’s African commission as well as the UN millennium funds stated that Africa needs about 50 billion dollars per year in aid by year 2010. We are in 2012, yet these projections have not been realized.

A report on sanitation and hygiene by the world bank states that “every day, 6,000 children die from diseases associated with adequate sanitation, poor hygiene, and unsafe water. Diarrhea alone killed one child every 20 seconds”, yet the organisers of sports events remain unconcerned.

As much as the problem continues, the Olympics will certainly not be for the poor.

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