Five-Rings Bling and Patriotism

By Old, John | International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship, July 2008 | Go to article overview

Five-Rings Bling and Patriotism


Old, John, International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship


It's easy to have an opinion about the Olympics. Most of those I come across seem to be gripes, typically falling into three categories.

First, there is the cost of the whole thing, particularly for venues which it appears will be used once, and then urgently need an alternative use. Isn't it possible to do the whole thing on a shoestring, like in 1948? (Except it would cost a fortune to rebuild a tram system for the athletes to ride on the way to the stadium.)

Second, isn't the whole patriotism thing hopelessly overdone? Shouldn't we simply see the best performers in action, irrespective of where they come from?

And finally, why is it necessary to have increasingly overblown and elaborate ceremonies? If stilt-walkers are essential, why not have a stilt-walking event?

The trouble is that in many ways, these three are now what the Olympics are about. As a purely sporting event it suffers that there are only a minority of sports which are really big box office, and virtually all of those are either, like motorsport, one-day cricket, pro boxing or American football, unrepresented at the Olympics or, like football, basketball or tennis, distinctly junior versions of the real top-flight competitions held elsewhere. Just about the only Olympic sport with real standalone mass appeal is track and field, and that has suffered badly from the various doping scandals. (Virtually the only branch of athletics that has not been affected is marathon running, and it's not a coincidence that it hasn't had a high profile drug embarrassment. …

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