Billions and billions of people tuned in yesterday to watch a little thing known as the opening ceremonies of the Olympic games. The few people that filled bar seats at the Sushi Bar- and myself diligently behind the bar mixing up scorpion bowls with flaming shots of Bacardi 151 and gin and tonics with side-car limes- were amongst those billions as we waited expectantly for something that we could surely make fun of.
The comedic material was ripe for the pickin’. As England attempted to show a history of their country via fictional characters such as Mary Poppins and Mr. Bean, sick children jumping on beds and James Bond, it was hard at certain points not to raise an eyebrow and think “what the…?” The spectacle included everything from glow sticks to oil refineries to texting to (supposed) parachuting queens to David Bowie. A sort of blend of Slumdog Millionaire, Great Expectations, Alice in Wonderland and the Spice Girls all came together to create a continuous show of zany, weird, and no doubt interesting performances leaving most people I know with their head spinning.
My gripe here is not with the British attempt at a grandeur show. I think they did a good job showcasing what they’re proud of (Harry Potter) and turning an eye upon themselves in the hopes that people would laugh. It’s clear they can let their hair down and chuckle at themselves. People will talk about it (case in point, this blog) and really what else is the opening ceremonies for but to bring attention to the hosting nation? Chip, Chip! They have succeeded.
However, the whole time I couldn’t help thinking ‘what a waste of money.’
The Olympics this year are estimated to have cost 14.6 billion dollars. How much of that was spent on the opening ceremonies, I am unsure, but overall, that’s a hefty tab for a country that is on the brink of a recession themselves. (Rumor has it, that the British are hoping this will single-handedly fix their economy.) Even that though is not a jab at England. No, because I’m sure I would say the same thing about any country including our own– who rather than start with Pip and dancing chimney sweepers, would have started with Snooki holding a bottle of champagne, two teenage pregnant mothers, and Jay-z holding up his baby like Simba while Beyonce rump-shook around him.
Imagine, if you will however, how many hungry people could have been fed if they had spent say, two billion on the Olympics and the rest to help feed hungry nations. Imagine if they had taken part of that money and put it towards disease prevention and research and getting countries with less means vaccinations. Imagine if they had built homes for the homeless with even the tiniest fraction of that amount of money. Shit, what if they just spent 13.6 billion on the games and took a billion and put it towards environmental efforts? I bet even just a meager 1 billion could save a sea turtle or two, a growling tummy, and a sick kid or five. I can hardly see how cutting out 15 seconds of Lord Voldemort is going to hurt the greater good of mankind.
I am not against the Olympics, as a whole. It is a great way to bring together surrounding nations and the world (ironically-or not so ironically- in competition) and it creates a sense of unity amongst people. I think it’s good and don’t get me wrong, when I’m slow at work, I tune in. (Mainly because I’m always curious as to which country has the best ping pong players.) I’m all for it. Let the games begin! However, oddly, I don’t root for one country versus another. I do not feel an overwhelming need for the US of A to win. I do not think, when all is said and done, they are anything more than what we claim: games.
I just wish that instead of bringing the world together through expensive puppets, dance ensembles and fireworks, the world would wake up and do it by actually helping one another.
Until then, can we at least cut back on the Harry Potter references? Jeez.