Friday 18 May 2012

Who Gets To See The Torch? Who Gets To See The Games?

This is a guest post by Mark Perryman, sports writer and co-founder of the excellent Philosophy Football

As the Olympic Torch relay starts its route around Britain, author of a forthcoming book on the Olympics Mark Perryman questions the claim of a Games for all

Beginning its long route around Britain, the Torch Relay is one of the few examples of decentralisation and free-to-watch events that could have transformed the 2012 Olympics into a Games for all.

There is little doubt that the sight of the Olympic torch as it passes through a village, town or city up and down the byways, with photo-ops at famous landmarks will ignite popular interest and huge media coverage.

But the scale of that enthusiasm reveals the lack of ambition behind the 2012 model for the Olympics. In my new book Why the Olympics Aren’t Good For Us, And How They Can Be, I propose Five New Rings for the Olympic symbol. The first, and most important, of these is decentralisation. As a mega-event football’s World Cup has its problems too with new stadia sometimes built with no obvious future likelihood to be full again once the tournament is over. But the singular advantage for the hosts of a World Cup over the Olympics is it is spread all over the country, and sometimes more than one. In this way the global spectacular becomes not only a national event but a local event too. The Olympics is an entirely different model, apart from the yachting and the football tournament every single event is London-based, most of Britain will have no contact with the Games except a fleeting glimpse of the Torch relay as it passes through.

Decentralisation could have changed all this, and saved enormous amounts on new builds too. Glasgow and Edinburgh, Cardiff, Manchester, the North-East, Yorkshire and the Midlands all posses world-class stadia and arenas with huge capacities and multi-use possibilities. North Wales, the Lake District and parts of Scotland have the natural landscape perfect for events including the canoe slalom and mountain biking. Badminton is one of the finest three-day event venues in the world, its not in London so its not being used for 2012.

Avoiding those costly new builds by using existing facilities would not only magnify the Olympics’ local appeal but vastly increase capacities too. With imaginative reconfiguring Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium could have hosted the show-jumping, Manchester’s Old Trafford and Eastlands stadiums plus the MEN Arena the boxing, between Glasgow and Edinburgh share the Hockey tournament , the Midlands Stadiums host the Beach volleyball, the North-East already hosts the Great North Run, why not stage the Olympic Marathon there, give Yorkshire the Football tournament and so on.

Decentralisation enables this spread of venues with far bigger capacity than many hosting the events in London. And with Scotland, Wales, regions and cities hosting entire parts of the Olympic programme an effective campaign combining civic pride and participation in the adopted sport could have been mounted.

Decentralisation could also afford an extension of the Olympic programme to include events that are both nation-wide and free to watch. Why not an Olympic Tour of Britain multi-stage cycling race, and a Round Britain sailing race. The potential for crowds lining the streets and the quay-sides to watch , for free, as the Olympics comes to their town or port would have been huge.

The book that I have written is neither anti-Olympics nor it it against sport, I am a fan of both. But I am opposed to what the Olympics have become, the false promises made on their behalf and the chronic lack of ambition in the way they have been organised. My argument is that a different Olympics isn’t only possible, but better. If our only experience of the Games in this much hyped once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to host them is watching them on the TV, well they might as well be anywhere else but here, and a lot less costly too.

Mark Perryman’s Why the Olympics Aren’t Good For Us, And How They Can Be is available at a pre-publication 15% discount from

Mark Perryman is the author of Ingerland: Travels with a Football Nation and the editor of Breaking up Britain : Four Nations after a Union.

Mark has written for a range of publications, including the Guardian and The Times, and is a regular commentator on the politics of sport for BBC Radio 5, BBC TV News and Sky Sports News. He is a Research Fellow in Sport and Leisure Culture at the University of Brighton.


Europe's No 1 Anti Ryanair Campaigner John Foley.... said...

Decentralisation i agree with but the games would loose much needed profit and London is the pulling power of advert revenues and were will this profit go, to the 1 %....

Europe's No 1 Anti Ryanair Campaigner John Foley.... said...

Also what a great logo you have on this post...Said it all for all to understand..thanks,

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