Much to the disappointment of the city of Toronto, the International Olympic Committee has awarded the 2008 Olympic Games to Beijing, China. The announcement was made in Moscow on Friday the 13th, an unlucky day for lobbyists from Toronto. Even though Beijing was considered the obvious frontrunner for a number of reasons, the Toronto group felt they had a good chance and reactions after the announcement suggested that the fix was in.
Those of us in Montreal who lived through the fiasco that was the 1976 Olympics find the Toronto reaction difficult to understand. The day after the IOC rendered its decision, the Globe And Mail newspaper ran eight pages of Olympic bid content in its first section, including the entire cover. It must have been a slow news day.
At least $20 million dollars were spent in the bid effort to obtain the games, and the bills are still coming in. Hindsight might be 20/ 20, but one can’t help but ponder on what $20 million could have done for the poor, feeble, and homeless of Canada’s largest city. Instead, the money went to fund a campaign that never really had a chance.
Though many pointed to China’s dismal human rights record as reason enough not to stage the games there (they have executed as many people in the past three months as the rest of the world has executed in the past three years), most recognized the overwhelming factors that worked in Beijing’s favour. China is the most populated nation in the world, is a major powerhouse in the international sports scene, and has never hosted the Olympics before. On top of all that, with the games having become a world stage for commercialism, the opportunity was taken to forge stronger economic ties between China and the West. While the Toronto bid team slammed the politics involved In the decision-making process, it is naïve to even entertain for a nano-second the thought that the Olympics aren’t political. Beijing was so heavily favoured that even Toronto mayor Mel Lastman’s cannibal comments weren’t seen as the cause of Toronto’s failure to obtain the IOC’s blessing.