Blast those Anglo-Saxons.
That’s what the French were screaming in between sips of wine, bites of cheese, and drags from their cigarettes last week when London was awarded the privilege (er, curse) of hosting the 2012 Olympic Games.
In what was the closest vote in the International Olympic Committee’s history, London overcame its cross-Channel rival in Paris by a count of 54-50 on the fourth ballot last Wednesday that saw bids from Moscow, New York, and Madrid thrown to the trash like bags of cellulite at a liposuction clinic.
“Many people do reckon that London is the greatest city in the whole world at the moment,” Prime Minister Tony Blair told the Associated Press after hearing the result in Gleneagles, Scotland, where he was hosting the G-8 summit.
But man are the French peeved. This is the third time they have been denied (also for the 1992 and 2008 Games) and they are screaming “Sacré Bleu.”
And maybe they have a right to be.
“We did everything we had to do. I don’t know what more we could have done,” said NBA star Tony Parker, who is French. “It proves that the committee is Anglo-Saxon. They prefer the English.”
It was the English who lost the 2005 World Track and Field Championships because of failure to find proper funding. And it was the English who had years of delays and budget problems in building a new Wembley Stadium.
Contrast that with the French.
It was the French who hosted the 2003 World Track and Field Championships. It was the French who hosted the 1998 World Cup of soccer. It is the French who already have the gorgeous ready-to-go 80,000-seat Stade de France.
And it was the French who last hosted the Olympics back in 1924 (London last hosted in 1948).
But it also was the French who voted down the European Constitution last month that ruffled the feathers of many card-carrying European Union countries.
Now I’m not saying the Olympic voting process is political (actually, that’s exactly what I’m suggesting), but after looking at the 2004 Summer Games of Athens, did the English really win?
Me thinks not.
It cost those poor Greeks almost $14 billion (Cdn.) to host their games, which was more than double initial projections. Now that’s a lot of feta cheese.
To put things in perspective, the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia cost a measly $1.78 billion while the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 went for a puny $2.04 billion.
Now here’s another figure that will blow the tzatziki out of you. The security bill for Athens was (gulp) $1.39 billion—the highest in Olympic history and nearly the entire cost of the Sydney Games.
“When cities are awarded the Olympics, they cheer,” my always opinion-giving uncle said. “But when Athens was given the Olympics, everybody went—Oh no!”
So why did London and four other major cities want a piece of the Olympic pie?
Well, they think it will help boost their economy. Showcase their city and country. Make people want to see the real thing. Nudge businesses into establishing themselves there.
But you know what else hosting a post-9/11 Olympics will make you? A target.
Unless you’ve had your head stuck in a gopher’s hole this past week, you know of the horrific events that transpired in London last Thursday morning, which will go down as one of the saddest days for that country—a day after one of its happiest.
A late edition of The Evening Standard rolled off the presses on Wednesday with a banner headline: WE’VE WON!
The following day’s headline read: TERROR BOMBS EXPLODE ACROSS LONDON, along with the following subheads: Many dead and injured-Blasts on Tubes and bus-Al -Qaida prime suspect-Soldiers patrol the streets-Entire city in gridlock.
More than 50 people are confirmed dead in one of the bloodiest attacks that London has ever seen. And more than 300 people are recovering from injuries suffered in the terrorist bomb attacks.
The city of seven million screamed for joy on Wednesday, but held their collective breathes the next afternoon.
But now, it seems, they have all exhaled and are resuming their daily lives.
Now, I’m not suggesting the attacks on London were connected to the city being given the Olympics—such attacks take months to organize. They were done to protest the G-8 summit in Scotland.
But it begs the question—Why would a city like London, which already is seen as a target for terrorists because of Britain’s ties with the United States in Iraq, want to shine any more of a spotlight on itself?
Good question, but one that nobody can surely answer.
“It wasn’t an attack against the Games,” said IOC president Jacques Rogge. “I’m deeply saddened that this should happen at the heart of an Olympic city.
“Unfortunately, there is no safe haven. No one can say their city is safe.”
You got that right, Jacques.
And then there was the comment made by IOC spokesperson Giselle Davies. “We have full confidence in the London authorities in securing the [Olympics].”
That may be true, but I also have full confidence that if al-Qaida wanted to interrupt the London Games, or any other Olympic event, then they will do just that.
In other words, hosting a post-9/11 Olympics has become more a burden than a gift.
Blast those Anglo-Saxons.