On the eve of the opening of the 30th Olympiad in London in 2012, sports activist and writer Mark Perryman presents a sharply critical take on the way the Games have been organized and an imaginative blueprint for how they could be improved.
The London Olympics have been promoted as of great benefit for the host city and nation. The organisers insist that the lasting value of the facilities built, the tourism the Games will attract, and the popular participation in sport they will promote, all make the spending of billions of pounds of public money an excellent investment. Such claims have been greeted with near unanimous agreement across mainstream British politics and the media.
But outside the capital’s commentariat, enthusiasm for the Games has been less uniform. There are those who remain stubbornly sceptical of the boosters’ claims. Economists question whether the Olympics will provide the kind of economic regeneration London's East End has been promised. Sports coaches doubt the linkage often made between Gold medal successes and raising rates of popular participation in sport. And the tourism industry has produced reports showing that previous host cities have experienced an overall fall in visitors and their spending during Olympic years.
In this concise, gripping book, Mark Perryman raises major questions about the founding myths of London 2012. But Perryman, an Olympics fanatic who measures his life in four-year cycles and has the sticker albums of medal-winners from his youth to prove it, hasn't come to bury the Games; rather he wants to revive them. In these pages he sets out a detailed plan for how the Games can be made more inclusive and exciting to watch.
His proposals include: Extending the games from a single host city to an entire country, or even group of countries; using existing stadia with greater spectator capacity than many of the purpose built facilities; expanding competitions held outside of stadia altogether, with more road, cross-country and open water races; increasing the number of events based on sports like running and boxing where international participation is widespread, and reducing the number of those, such as rowing, fencing and equestrianism, where few countries have the facilities to compete; and shifting the onus of the games from corporate sponsorship to the involvement of community and volunteer groups.??
In these ways, Perryman’s dream of reviving the Olympics as a genuinely popular event, a People’s Games, could be made a reality. Why The Olympics Aren't Good For Us… is sure to prompt widespread debate during a summer when sport will be as impossible to miss as the muscular commerce and timid politics serving it up.?