The Olympics – a time everyone looks forward to, when nations join together and set aside their differences to celebrate the hard work of incredible athletes. Yeah right. Lesser concentrations of bovine manure can be found in freshly fertilized pastures. It would be lovely if we were really celebrating the athletes. I can actually relate to the people who compete in these events. Olympic athletes and classical musicians have a lot in common. We both throw ourselves into hours and hours of solitary training for short moments of performance that either result in glory or complete and total failure. People might know who we are for a week, but they quickly forget, for the most part. We do what we do because of an inner burning passion that drives us, not because we have dreams of offshore bank accounts and second homes in Tahoe. You do what you do with the awareness that you may struggle financially for the majority of your lifetime. Who cares? Money isn’t everything.
That is actually not the case for the majority of inhabitants of developed nations. Money IS everything. In fact, it is ALL about money. Countries vie for the rights to host the Olympics with the hopes it will bring money to their economy. The US outsourced the production of the Olympic uniforms to China, no doubt to save money (that was patriotic, wasn’t it? And I'm sorry, but what was up with the berets?). NBC spent $1.3 billion for the rights to broadcast the Olympics so they could make money showing you lousy advertisements. That number makes me sick to my stomach so I’m going to forget it and focus on a smaller, yet equally sickening number.
Let’s discuss the international pissing contest that is the opening ceremonies. In a rational world, this would be an event purposed to welcome and celebrate the competitors. It would be about the athletes. I can’t remember an opening ceremony I have seen that was about the athletes. The openings have turned into ridiculous events where the host country attempts to outdo the spectacle created by the prior host country. They have singing and dancing staged by movie directors and choreographers who have nothing to do with the sports that will take place. Famous people come to perform. There are usually fireworks. Often there are light shows, supposedly symbolic displays that are so esoteric they make sense to no one, and don't forget the technical malfunctions. All of this costs an obscene amount of money. The ceremony in London this year cost $42 MILLION, and I must include that number would have been higher if they had actually PAID the performers. They did not. That may be fine if you are Paul McCartney and have goo gobs of money, but as I mentioned earlier, most performing artists do not. How did they get around this? By asking musicians to volunteer their services. Those who would not "volunteer" were then informed they would not be needed. I can not even begin to tell you how offensive this is to those of us trying to make a living as performing artists – to think that people believe it is acceptable to expect us to perform for free and be honored to do so. No one else works for free. A lack of compensation does not say that we are doing it because the art is so important but the complete opposite. It says that they want us to do it for free because they do not put any value to the art.
So $42 million…. I imagine they could have created a pretty extravagant spectacle for $21 million as well…. As food for thought, I would like to propose to you some things that could have been done with the other $21 million had they chosen to spend half the money on the ceremony and half the money on something actually worth while.
According to thewaterproject.org the average cost to provide clean water to one person in the countries they work in (Rwanda, Uganda, Sierra Leone, and Kenya) is about $20. So with $21 million they could provide clean water to about 1,050,000 people in Africa.
Blue Planet Network can provide a village of 110 families in Africa with a complete water system for $10,000. That would be water systems for 2100 families.
"Nearly 90 percent of all diseases in the world are caused by unsafe drinking water, inadequate sanitation, and poor hygiene. Every year, there are 4 billion cases of diarrhea as a direct result of drinking contaminated water; this results in more than 2.2 million deaths each year—the equivalent of 20 jumbo jets crashing every day." Living Water International
$1.20 is all it costs to immunize a mother against maternal and neonatal tetanus. From my calculations, $21,000,000 would actually take care of a few hundred years worth of vaccinations in the world’s poorest countries, thus curbing the deaths of 180,000 infants and 30,000 mothers a year.
Another huge problem is polio. This disease is still endemic in Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Eradication of the disease requires pretty much EVERYONE being vaccinated. UNICEF can get the vaccine in its many forms for an average of about 14 cents a dose (it's OPV in the table of vaccines listed). $21,000,000 could help vaccinate 150,000,000 children.
I think I’m making myself pretty clear. I’d rather lives be saved than see fire and dancers on television help make NBC's $1.3 billion investment pan out. And I have an inkling that many of the athletes from these developing nations would feel a lot more celebrated and touched if instead of showing up for the flashiest, most boring party of all time, they found out that something was being done to improve the living conditions of the nations they represent.