Monday, August 13, 2012

Bidding to host Olympics a terrible dream for Kenya

By WAGA ODONGO

Somehow, the idea that Kenya should host the Olympics keeps popping up to pad news schedules on slow days. The Vice-President wants us to host the circus in 2028, in time for Vision 2030.

The Premier prefers 2024, and the Sports minister would just like us to host it. Why, in the name of all that is fiscally responsible, would any sane country want the burden of hosting the Olympics?

Let us look at the latest outing. The games were designed by the French as an attempt at global diplomacy, but now have been turned into a medals arms race. China and the States go at it at the top as they shadow-box on the world stage.

The games are said to have cost £9.3 billion, according to The Guardian (I will not attempt to convert that into shillings because my calculator only has so many zeros). Beijing hit $40 billion (the Chinese never released the real figures).

Barcelona’s tourist numbers plummeted after the Olympics. Atlanta was accused of diverting money from social causes for their circus, leaving her worse off. An Australian study by Monash University said the Sydney Olympics had absolutely no economic benefit.

Athens is indentured to the Germans for bringing the Olympics “home” in 2004. Beijing’s tourist numbers have not taken off as expected. (There is no evidence that the Olympics increase tourism to a nation. In fact, the opposite is true. Most tourists avoid the lumpen louts that are sports tourists.)

A billion-pound security

In its latest incarnation, transport is a mess. Residents are encouraged to stay away and London is effectively under occupation. Surface-to-air missiles on the ready, fighter jets close by, troops brought back from a war zone to police athletes, snipers in the hedges, helicopters on speed dial, the cost of security alone for fortress London is a billion pounds.

A billion-pound security for a fortnight affair? Orengo’s suit is suddenly good value for money. Lanes have also been reserved for VIPs, reminiscent of Mutula’s idea when he was Nairobi Metropolitan minister.

All this to see just how far the human physiology can get, accompanied by copious amounts of pharmacology in what is essentially a global merchandising opportunity for American corporations. Pass the anti-emetics.

The Olympic motto should change from “faster, higher and stronger” to “richer, exclusive and out of touch with reality”.

The Olympic Games are an international statement of intent. They are used to announce triumphant entry into the comity of nations. Dictatorships use them to launder their countries’ reputations as they bask in the reflected glory of their nation’s victories and inspire fealty among their subjects. It is war by another name.

The Olympics are a chauvinistic spectacle of countries competing for medals. The cost of China’s position is a pile of broken teenage bodies. It is no longer an amateur meet where it is all about participating, as was originally envisaged, but is now a competition filled with chicanery and gamesmanship, as the disqualified Chinese badminton duo proves.

Preparing for the Olympics would require us to build specialised arenas for elitist sports that are bound to be consigned to rust and rot after the games are over.

There is a large number of sports, such as the one where they do weird dancing things with horses instead of the obvious thing: race them. Dressage and other sports are things rich aristocrats do because it is no longer legal to shoot peasants in their faces.

The Olympic Games would leave us with more white elephants than India, which, as you know, is the home of that rare pachyderm, the South Asian albino elephant.

I read last week that the Greek Olympic team, eight years after hosting the games, was training in Cyprus because the infrastructure used to host the games had gone to the dogs.

The Greek stadiums cannot be euthanised for sentimental reasons and continue to fall into disrepair.

I am worried for Brazil, which has the twin misfortune of hosting a World Cup and the Olympics in close proximity. If London can buckle under the weight, what will be the cost to the latest country wishing to make a splash on the global stage?

Fiscal blunder

Hosting the Olympics is a fiscal blunder, ecological disaster, and planning nightmare. They should not be constrained to one city or region, but spread over nations for cost reasons. They have become too expensive. No amount of medal success can justify the outlays required by the IOC.

Kenya has no business wanting to host such a gluttonously expensive festival of self-congratulation. We cannot afford to demolish houses, evict peasants, inconvenience locals, harass motorists, and wreck tourism for 16 days on the world stage.

Even if Kenya discovers Aladdin’s cave stashed with Croesus’s life savings and with its walls lined with uranium, we still cannot afford to be so callous as to try and host the Olympics.

It would be a horrific waste of money.
We should aim to have infrastructure with the capacity to hold the Olympics, but never be so stupid as to actually host it.

Is he right? Send your comments and observations to dn2@ke.nationmedia.com. Follow the discussion at www.nation.co.ke/dn2

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Make way for Amb Prezzo (Ti-hi-hi-hi!)

KENYA HAS a new ambassador. His diplomatic qualifications may be scanty, but he more than makes up for it in his love for all things foreign.

Prezzo, part-time rapper and full-time braggadocio — coming off the heels of being an also-ran in reality TV show Big Brother, the 21st Century’s metric for celebrity worth — is now an ambassador.

The exhibitionist extraordinaire has been made ONE International’s emissary to Africa against poverty.

We have now fallen into that “pit of no return” of celebrity advocacy of social causes. We have no situation too complex to be served up by a celebrity in easy-to-understand bites. We are too thick, perhaps, to know about poverty unless it is fronted by a rapper who constantly sings about his material wealth.

Prezzo shot to the limelight on the back of his affluent background. His family money partly did what his talent could not and opened up doors for him. He walks around with enough jewellery to send a Moi Avenue mugger into comfortable retirement.

He claims to have spent half-a-million shillings shooting a video clip which was stuffed with blondes and emphasised opulence.

So, is someone who promotes the nihilistic virtues of rank showiness, feral acquisitive greed, and a magpie’s eye for all things shiny and expensive the best person to be crusading against poverty?

All his songs and videos have the same background of wealth-without-work and offer a peek into his high-definition, opulent lifestyle. They feature a carefully constructed and expensive artifice that promotes a lifestyle that does not take into account his fans’ social realities.

His rap group Cash Money Brothers proclaims their mouth-watering admiration and glorification of Mammon in their name. They are interested in showing off wealth and never bother to tell us how it is accumulated.

Prezzo’s idea of poverty might have to take a limousine to a CHAT award show as opposed to a helicopter, which he once did.

His choice as ambassador has to do with the fact that he is an entertainer, not any credentials he might have in the war against poverty.

This is the worst idea for an envoy I have ever heard since British PM Tony Blair, the Conqueror of Baghdad and Slayer of the Taliban, was named a Middle East peace envoy after starting two wars in the region.

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