Odd Thoughts: Hefty price tag for athletic party

If you had $51 billion to toss around, what would you do with it?

If you made a stack of $100 bills, it would reach high enough to obstruct international flight paths. Laid end to end, your $51 billion in $100 bills would circle the world twice.

But really, what would you do with it? After all, having $51 billion would make you the fifth richest person in the world, according to the Forbes list of billionaires – just a couple of billion behind Warren Buffet, and two and a half times as wealthy as David Thomson, Canada’s richest citizen.

Let’s say you’ve decided you’ve spent enough time making your money, and now you want to spend it.

Would you follow the lead of Buffet and Bill Gates (who is second on the Forbes list, and about $16 billion ahead of you)? Would you spend it on fighting world hunger, poverty, and disease?

Or would you use it to finance an extravaganza for pampered elite athletes?

The anticipated price tag for the Sochi Olympic Games is $51 billion.

Right now, the world aid community is looking for $15 billion to fight AIDS throughout Africa. You could foot that bill and still have enough left over to re-run the 2012 London Olympics twice – and if you do it the way the Brits did, you’ll snag yourself a tidy 100 million pounds profit.

Of course, defining “profit” in Olympic terms is a bit of a tricky business.

The 2000 Sydney Olympics broke even… after taxpayers kicked in about $2 billion. The operating budget was $5.6 billion.

The same year, while all that was going on, the U.S. offered a $1 billion loan – spread over five years – to Sub-Saharan countries… to buy U.S. medicine. Three countries were lambasted for declining the offer on the basis that the loan would further increase their debt and dependency on foreign aid.

The initial budget for our own 2010 Vancouver Olympics was $2.3 billion.

Our estimated final cost of $6.4 billion is listed as a “break-even” result… but that’s not including the billion-dollar security tab, $2.5 billion for transportation infrastructure improvements, or nearly another billion dollars for the Vancouver Convention Centre.

And then there’s the half-billion dollars spent on the campaign to bring the Olympics to Vancouver/Whistler. That’s not included, either, in the final “break-even” accounting.

By the way, in 2010, global efforts to secure essential HIV, TB, and malaria services fell short $4 billion.

Greece planned to spend $9 billion in Athens in 2004 – and lost more than $15 billion.

Until Sochi’s anticipated $51 billion price tag, the gold medal was secured with Beijing’s $44 billion budget. Of course, we don’t know how much was spent in Nagano in 1998, beyond about $10 billion for infrastructure, since the books were ordered burned.

Something to consider: whether the Olympics end up with a profit or a loss, all that money goes somewhere – and mostly to large corporations and the richest segment of society – most certainly not to orphans whose parents have died of AIDS.

I’m not suggesting that we kill the Olympics and turn all the money over to saving humanity. In fact, striving for the best in any human endeavour is a step towards saving humanity.

But the Olympics have become an exercise in international excess, with flags and anthems and medal counts taking precedence over the individual achievement touted in all the brochures – not to mention the one-upmanship that has bloated costs for a couple of weeks of athletic partying into tens of billions of dollars.

A little restraint could be shown… and maybe a little compassion.

Just Posted

Freezing temperatures expected in Lower Mainland

Snowfall warning ends, but surge or icy air to continue

Man found guilty of murder of Good Samaritan

Brad McPherson was murdered at a party early on the morning of Christmas Eve 2011.

Langley lacrossers roughed up 22-12 during Calgary stopover

Next Saturday, Feb. 24, the team hosts a Vancouver Stealth Experience, inviting guests on the floor.

Aldergrove welcomes new Community Association

Several dozen attend introductory meeting of new Aldergrove Community Association

Langley City honours volunteers who give so much

At least 200 people came together Thursday to be recognized and thanked by the City of Langley.

VIDEO: Widen the freeway now, Langley chamber insists

Business advocates describe cancelling bridge tolls and highway expansion as ‘disappointing.’

B.C. files new legal action against TransMountain pipeline

Province tries to uphold City of Burnaby bylaws, provoking Alberta

BCHL Today: Powell River stuns Vernon and BCHL grads lead Team Canada

BCHL Today is a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

One dead after targeted shooting in Coquitlam

IHIT also asking for information about a car on fire nearby

Reports of money laundering in B.C. real estate ‘troubling’: attorney general

News report alleges people connected to fentanyl trade are using B.C. real estate to launder money

Heavy snowfall warning continues

Kelowna - Expect snow in the Okanagan, Southern Interior and the Kootenays

VIDEO: Injury-riddled Vancouver Giants find a way to edge Edmonton Oil Kings

Giants win 2-1 at home despite missing four key defencemen from lineup

RCMP member challenges court to prevent further disciplinary action

RCMP member launches appeal to avoid new hearing over alleged harassment

Most Read