You may have heard this weekend that Tokyo has been awarded the 2020 Summer Olympics. If you haven’t well, now you have. Like many others , I read the stories on news sites, saw peoples reactions on Twitter and Facebook and even watched a couple videos of the reactions of some Japanese who were up at 5 am to watch the announcement that was taking place in Buenos Aires.
As I watched the members of the Tokyo bid committee and ordinary Japanese celebrate their successful bid I couldn’t help but feel good. I always get the shivers whenever I see large outpourings of jovial national pride, regardless of whether its my nation or someone else’s.
Inevitably, I made my way down to the comments sections on one of the news articles and, again inevitably, I found comments supporting and congratulating Japan mixed in with a healthy dose of “the Olympics cost too much and nobody cares, or benefits and the money should be spent elsewhere” comments.
The truth is, the Olympics do cost a lot of money. Sometimes, its money well spent and well managed and a host city can have a hugely successful games (Los Angeles ’84, Calgary ’88 and Vancouver 2010 come to mind). Sometimes its not (Montreal ’72, Athens ’04 and I’m sure others). But one thing that people don’t always think of is the emotion that the Olympics, not just the two weeks of Games, but the lead up that starts with the announcement, can bring to a country.
I remember in 2003 when the International Olympic Committee was about to announce who would host the 2010 Winter Olympics. At that time, I had just finished grade 10 and was attending a summer training camp for young skaters at the Olympic Oval in Calgary. There is always a buzz for all things Olympic around the Oval, and every T.V in the place was turned on to CBC to watch the announcement. When Jacques Rogge opened the envelope and announced that Vancouver would be host, the room went crazy. G.M Place in Vancouver went crazy. I think a lot of Canada went crazy.
In that moment, I remember feeling so much excitement. I added up the years and knew that 7 years from that announcement I would be 23, a prime age for Olympic competition. I vowed to myself that I would make it to those Games. It would be an amazing moment, an Olympic Games in my own country! Right after the announcement, I had to head to my next session, and I remember doing it with a little bit of extra energy, knowing that I had seven years to get to my best and not a second to waste.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that I didn’t make it to those Games. I just missed out. But thats not the point of this post. The point is that while the Olympics come with a hefty price tag, I’m guessing that if the excitement they generate are enough to make this 16 year old kid dedicate himself to seven years of sport and healthy living then there were numerous others all across our country (and maybe even the world) that did or wanted to do the same. And if a bunch of kids can be inspired to do that from one announcement, then imagine what an entire 2 weeks of games can do!
So congratulations Tokyo, and all of Japan. You may have just committed yourself to spending a big wack of cash, but I’m sure there is already a generation who are inspired to take up the Olympic spirit and carry it with them for the rest of their lives. Call me corny, but to me, thats the most important reason why hosting the Olympics is worth it.
If you’re interested, here is the video of the Vancouver 2010 announcement.