26 Mar 2020

Time to rethink the Olympic programme - Bidwell

5:40 pm on 26 March 2020

Opinion - It's surprising that it took the International Olympic Committee so long.

Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic committee.

IOC president Thomas Bach. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

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There's no way the 2020 Tokyo Games could've taken place as scheduled and you might even argue that trying to stage them in 2021 is a bit optimistic as well.

Tone deaf IOC president Thomas Bach has even suggested this postponement will be shorter than the anticipated 12 months, although as recently as a few days ago he still insisted these Games would go as ahead as planned in July.

Whenever the Olympics are actually held, it would be nice to think they reflected the world we might be living in by then.

There's every reason to assume that codes and competitions across the globe will be leaner and meaner than they had been prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Player salaries are expected to be slashed in many sports, while there's also talk of shrinking footprints.

The accepted wisdom has been that the more territories you take your competition to, the more money you can make from it.

That may be so, but the more we all self-isolate now, the more we might prefer our teams compete closer to home in future.

Nothing is more bloated than the so-called 'Olympic Movement' and now might not be a bad time to look at just how big is too big.

You still want these Games to be global events, but that doesn't mean they have to include every sport under the sun.

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Football, in my view, can definitely go. Golf, beach volleyball, all BMX events, surfing, skateboarding and sport climbing too. Heck, I'd ditch the sevens rugby while I was at it as well.

Why stop there? Baseball and softball can go and how about karate?

These are exceptional and scary times, but also an opportunity to take stock and think about what's important in life.

To me, the Olympics are very much a luxury item. I saw bits of the 2008 Games, but none of the two that have followed. They're just not for me and I can quite happily ignore their existence.

But I understand why they might matter to other people and why athletes dedicate their lives to Olympic qualification, let alone the dream of a medal.

I know why governments pump lots of money into Olympic success and I appreciate the sense of shared pride and achievement that nations can feel.

But, again, these aren't times of plenty. Families all around the world are dealing with the death of loved ones, job losses or a severe reduction in freedoms.

The lucky ones among us will survive to tell the tale of this pandemic, but many others won't.

At the end of it all, maybe seeing a compatriot win an Olympic skateboarding gold medal will make all the pain and suffering worthwhile? Maybe not.

Or maybe a medal in one of those interminable swimming events might mean more?

No, that's in jest. At least sort of. I find swimming an unbelievable bore, but it remains a core Olympic event and that's the point here.

Swimming is a 'have-to-have' but some of these recent additions to the 33-sport programme are surely in the 'nice-to-have' bracket at best.

And in light of what the world's going through, aren't the Olympics also ripe for a degree of rationalisation?

I'd genuinely be interested in people's feedback on this and whether they feel the Games are a necessity of life in which all existing sports are sacred?

Or, in fact, whether such an inflated event is actually in poor taste right now?

We're all human, we all have frailties, we're all susceptible to the same illnesses and problems, so it's not difficult to sympathise with individual New Zealand athletes for whom the 2020 Olympics was a hugely big deal.

Hopefully they'll still be able to attend in 2021 and can still perform creditably.

But it's also fair to maybe look at the Olympics as a whole and what they represent and what they cost and how frivolous some of the constituent sports might be.

If, like me, you have a sense that it's all become a bit gross, which events would you happily see fall by the wayside?

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