Never again should so much be wasted by so few

If you tire quickly of the tediously lengthy build up to Christmas, which starts about now, then heaven help you in dealing with two years of hyperbole about the 2012 Olympics. Even the most enthusiastic synchronised swimming fan will find it hard to imagine that the actual event will live up to the billing. And as a keen follower of sport (well, proper sport like football or motor racing), I hope that the London Olympics absolutely bomb.

 I want half empty stadia, feeble athletic performances (particularly from British competitors) and embarrassingly low television viewing figures. Because – after this fiasco has finally ended – I don’t want there to be anyone who can seriously claim that it was a success; that it was worth it; or – most cringe-making of all – that I should feel proud to be a Londoner on the back of it…

Read the rest of the article on the Spectator’s Coffee House blog.

I agree with the basic sentiment, the whole Olympics is a gross waste of money. Government ‘regeneration’ is unlikely to work in this context or any other. Still, now we have the games, I hope they are successful in terms of gate receipts, additions to tourism etc, so at least the costs may be minimised – let’s make the best of a bad situation.
By the way, the national sport is officially cricket, I believe. But whatever it is, I object to such an idea (from the DG of the IEA who ought to know better!) of investing taxpayers’ money in football or any other sport which you or the government should select as the chosen ‘national’ sport, thank you.

@Whig.I think there are substantial downsides to the event being perceived as a “success”. Yes, high gate receipts would mitigate the damage to the taxpayer in this one instance, but would make a repeat of this sort of thing much more likely. Making the best of a bad situation may open the door to similar follies in future.I’m not sure if there is an “official” national sport (or whether I’d be willing to accept the word of whichever official body would pronounce on such a thing), but football is pretty clearly the most popular national sport.I don’t support a £10bn subsidy (or any subsidy) of football though – it was merely an illustration of how vast the Olympic bill has become.

Mark – thanks for clarifying. I think we’re agreed on the second point, that there ought to be no subsidies for sport!
On the first point, there are downsides to both possible outcomes. In my view, the optimal outcome would be to maximise revenue but minimise the apparent popularity. Being a media man, I’m sure you agree that the press will create a narrative of the Olympics, possibly unrelated to the ‘real’ level of success. The trick would be to try to influence them in such a way as to strike this balance, if possible.

Whig – you’re right that the media narrative and the reality are distinct. But they are nevertheless related. If stadia are full, the British team win 25 gold medals and world records are shattered, the media story will be intensely positive and hard to redress. If stadia aren’t full, British athletes perform poorly and the BBC viewing figures are woeful, then the story of the missing £10bn will start to get hold. The recent World Cup in South Africa is a good example. the media was desperate for awful stories of crime and transport inefficiences, but actually the narrative has shifted on the back of low attendances.

PS My original comment wasn’t meant as too much of a criticism – do keep up the good work!
Tongue in cheek – a little research suggests that cricket is the national sport for traditional reasons (much as the rose is the national flower), it was never declared as such, so in a good Hayekian way we’ll stick with it – although no doubt some government agency will declare football is the national sport and then we’ll have no choice but to follow it by government diktat. Popularity is temporary and shouldn’t determine such things.

Perhaps you’re right. Of course, the next sporting event we might be lumbered with is the next football world cup.
Perhaps these international sporting events should come with a condition that they should only be allocated if the host nation can show that there will be no overall cost to the taxpayers of that country. Countries who might make a profit should be favoured, ones that want to engage in expensive ulterior ‘regeneration’ projects etc (which have nothing to do with the sporting event being held) should be discriminated against. In short, the complete opposite of the status quo!

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