Post Olympic Blues
Oh yeah, Baby. I for sure have those ole post-Olympic Games depression blues . . .. Everyone has blogged, written, raved, posited and postulated (Is that last one a real word?) about how wonderful the Vancouver-Whistler Olympic Games were. And they would be absolutely right. There is no question that the ‘Own The Podium’ programme was a great success. This despite how uncomfortable it made many Canadians (And Brit tabloid writers too apparently).
I want to take a different tack. I want to compare the International Olympic Committee, represented by VANOC to the United Nations, both organizations I have now worked for at the ‘grunt’ level. I worked for the UN last year in the Sudan as a military observer and for Olympic Broadcast Services this year as a media liaison officer, during the Winter Games in Whistler. Unlike the military observer work, the OBS job was not at the ‘pointy end’, but rather in a support role, acting as an interface between OBS and the various international broadcasters in attendance.
The similarities I see are the following: Two over-large organizations, in existence so long that they have ’empire-built’ with little oversight or accountability. Sadly, this has led to the ‘Royalty Syndrome’, where the various players arrive at locations in private jets and limousines with courtiers of assistants and deputy assistants and are received as royalty. This syndrome is also reinforced by their policies of hiring from within, sort of ‘self-feeding’ if you will.
The original mandates of both the UN and the IOC are valid and laudable. And the two organizations do indeed still do a great deal of good. The UN provides local employment wherever it sets up shop. ie. in Khartoum, Sudan where the HQ of UNMIS is located, hundreds of jobs have been created As well, the various stations, posts and camps hire local labour. The same can be said for the IOC and in this specific instance, VANOC. Much largesse has been spread around through contract hiring for the Winter Games. And most important of course, is the venue created, where the athletes get to perform their wonderful skills to the highest level for all the world to see and honour.
I argue however, that both organizations have lost their way. They seem to exist for themselves. The local employment created is not supposed to be the raison d’etre for either, but has now become so. Perhaps it is inevitable that over a long period of time organizations like people (Or politicians) lose their way. They become encumbered, less sharp, out-of-touch. The people working for the organizations get more and more comfortable in their positions. In both organizations at my ‘grunt’ level, I saw petty power and empire building: Who got to have the shiny new vehicles? (Story: While serving in the Sudan we would go to UN headquarters in Khartoum and see rows of new, gleaming SUVs for the HQ staff, while we in the field drove clapped-out, bald-tired vehicles with various components missing or not working.). Or who received accreditation passes to which venues? From the higher levels we hear stories of VANOC making imperious demands of local municipalities and businesses.
So, here we have the UN and IOC/VANOC. Past their time/prime? Perhaps. Is it time to tear ’em down and rebuild from the ground up? I think so. I would like to see both organizations called to account and reminded what they exist for and in my mind, they exist for THE PEOPLE.