Initial success. Over-confidence. Downfall. It happened to the Athenian Empire, just as its great historian Thucydides foresaw, and it may have happened again.
Were the great man around today, he might be a little confused by the way the world now seeks its glory on the sports field not the battlefield, but he might have a gentle chuckle about how the new Athenian Empire that is the Olympic Games has learnt so little from his prescient work.
From noble, rather humble beginnings, in Athens 118 years ago, the Games are now, it seems, so bloated, and so seemingly corrupted, that only governments who don’t burden themselves with the concerns of the people can host them.
In turning down the chance to host the 2022 Winter Games, as Oslo has done this week, Norway has dealt a serious blow to the International Olympic Committee.
Mega-rich, mega-successful in winter sports, yet the Norwegians are mega-unprepared to stump up for the chauffeured limousines, magical traffic lanes, and banquets with the king that the men (and it is almost entirely men) of the IOC demand.
It leaves such men rather stuck, with a choice between Beijing and Almaty in Kazakhstan, which in a world increasingly sensitive to human rights in almost all the countries currently lined up to host the world’s mega sporting events, is not an ideal choice.
It is remarkable, really, that the Norwegian people and their government, despite the near guarantee of a sackful of gold medals, simply don’t want it.
Unlike Italy, France, Spain and everywhere else who may never bid for an Olympics again, the Norwegians could actually afford it. But they simply refused to accede to the blazerati’s wishes.
The IOC makes the point that, technically, its hotel expenses, banquets and wanton traffic abuse is not met from the public purse. It’s paid for from ticket sales and sponsorship rights. But for a host nation, as London and the rest of the UK knows, it does not feel that way.
It is an unedifying spectacle, that clique of sporting VIPs who bestride the earth as a travelling city state, like the spacecraft from Independence Day, selecting its next target and then zapping it with ever more costly infrastructure before moving on to the next, leaving the host scratching its head as to what it ever thought it might do with an Olympic luge run.
They should hardly be that shocked that only dictators will have them.
Norway’s withdrawal from a race they were certain to win all but re-writes the criteria for a modern Olympic host: 1 A massive stadium of minimal practical use; 2 An unquestioning population; 3 A large stockpile of missiles.
London, in the end, had all three, but it wasn’t easy. North Korea already has the lot.
Bad Korea move as judges bring out the devil in Devi
Such lands, this column hopes, would find much to admire in the Indian boxer L Sarita Devi, who has raised the bar of bad sportsmanship to surely unreachable heights at the Asian Games in South Korea.
So outraged was she at the decision of the judges, in advancing home crowd favourite Park Ji-na to the final at her expense, that come the medal ceremony she refused to have the bronze medal placed around her neck, then wandered to the other end of the podium and plonked it over her be-silvered nemesis.
She will now, it has been confirmed, face disciplinary action. One can only wonder what her response will be should she find the tribunal’s conclusions unsatisfactory, too.
Thailand to stage the Tour de France? If only...
Many a middle-aged man has returned from Bangkok with a tale of something having been lost in translation that he’d rather not be made public, so pity the Tour de France chief Jean-Etienne Amaury, who had barely touched down back at Charles de Gaulle before Thailand announced it was hosting the 2016 Tour de France.
“We’re not sure yet how many stages we will hold, whether it is one or two stages or the whole competition,” its tourism chief said. “This is something that still needs to be discussed.”
What actually needed to be discussed was that no such thing had ever been discussed. In fact Thailand may host a critérium – a rather pointless exhibition event – which makes this column particularly sad.
If its sojourn to Yorkshire taught the Tour anything, it is that the event is ripe for reinvention. How glorious it would have been to see the riders mobbed by bucket-downing floppy-haired old Etonians covered in neon body paint and ’shroomed off their tits.
What better way for a sport to prove its successful reinvention from its drug-addled past than for its compatriots to cycle 10 laps of a Full Moon Party and all emerge clean at the end of it?Reuse content