July 13, 2004

The last Olympics

I guess it will be seen as fitting, in retrospect, that both the first and the last Olympics will have been held in Greece. Post-9/11, such events are just not feasible anymore: You can't insure them, and you can't get people to come to them: Only a third of all tickets have been sold. Visitor figures in Greece are actually down 15% on the year.

In the long run, the only surefire defence against mega-terrorism is decentralization. Maybe, in the future, technology will allow simultaneous races on tracks all over the world. One WMD can't touch 20 such events. Most of us already telecommute to the Olympics via TV. Why not the athletes?

Posted by Stefan at 04:16 PM GMT

Stefan, are you honestly saying that the 2008 Olympics in Beijing aren't going to happen?

Posted by: Felix on July 13, 2004 04:21 PM

On similar theme, see also this, from Niall Ferguson, in latest Foreign Policy, suggesting that we're facing a period of "apolarity," (in which presumably people stay home and don't go to the Olympics) rather than American hegemony or some fruity, chewy multipolarity:

"Unfortunately, the world's experience with power vacuums (eras of žapolarity,Ó if you will) is hardly encouraging. Anyone who dislikes U.S. hegemony should bear in mind that, rather than a multipolar world of competing great powers, a world with no hegemon at all may be the real alternative to U.S. primacy. Apolarity could turn out to mean an anarchic new Dark Age: an era of waning empires and religious fanaticism; of endemic plunder and pillage in the world's forgotten regions; of economic stagnation and civilization's retreat into a few fortified enclaves."


Posted by: Matthew on July 13, 2004 04:59 PM

No, the only surefire defense against terrorist attacks against population concentrations is a return to the Stone Age. Of course, we'd have to get the population back down to the 100 million or so humans that can be supported in a hunter-gatherer set-up, but we can do that using support for and encouragement of population-reducing activities. This of course would include encouragement of terrorist events. The Iraq War was a genius first step in that direction, if I may say.

We'll show 'em, when all they've got to break our bones is sticks and stones.

Posted by: charles on July 13, 2004 04:59 PM

As it turns out, the problem isn't Osama, but the lesser known Lassie Bin Laden, terror dog of the Athens Streets. The greek authorities are dealing with the problem, however, and ticket sales are expected to rebound soon.

Posted by: charles on July 13, 2004 05:30 PM

Meanwhile, in other housepet-related news, the Pentagon, having run short of reservists to play music at funerals, is now calling up cats to provide emotional support to the bereaved.

Posted by: charles on July 13, 2004 05:44 PM

I think we've found our weapon of mouse destruction.

Posted by: Stefan Geens on July 13, 2004 08:42 PM

Felix, please allow me the rethorical flourish. Yes, Beijing will of course hold their games, by hook or by crook, because: They've got a billion people they can order bussed to the venues; money is no object; they're a homogeneous closed society, and don't hesitate to arrest funny looking people.

On a larger timescale, this might bode ill for the chances of open heterogenous societies in a future of mega terrorism. Could it be that societies like China flourish, comparatively, in a world of where the qualities of open heterogeneous societies also make them supremely vulnerable to terrorism?

Or are we going to see the likes of the US adapt? Is Ashcroft already taking us into this brave new world, whether we want to or not?

Beijing is definitely the last games ever, unless they volunteer to host it in perpetuity, in keeping with the 21st century being theirs.

Posted by: Stefan Geens on July 13, 2004 09:13 PM

I think the lagging ticket sales has more to do with all the press regarding the ill-preparedness of the Greek gov't, whether or not that is founded information.

Posted by: sac on July 13, 2004 09:35 PM

To say the Olympics are over, kaput, is a bit much. To say the Olympics have peaked is probably fair. Greece may start a new trend, though, of small countries hosting big events, while the big countries who don't have anything to prove get out of the way. China is a bit of both and a good transition.

But the Olympics survived Munich. No one's talking about stopping the World Cup, or international cricket or rugby events, or even the soon-to-be-born Baseball World Cup.

Also, who is to say the political climate won't improve in eight year's time?

Posted by: Jame on July 14, 2004 03:40 AM