Olympics: higher, faster, more ironic


As you recall, poor old Venice got dragged out into the middle of the stage a few weeks ago and forced — not to recite poetry or sing a comic song in front of all the relatives — but to present itself as a plausible candidate for the Summer Olympics of 2020.


There's no question that Venice could make an amazing Olympics poster.  It

There's no question that Venice could make an amazing Olympics poster. It's a start.

You might also recall that Rome intends to make a serious bid for the same candidature.   And that Italy only gets to field one.

There was a flurry — a small hurricane, actually — of fevered activity/ verbiage from a group of people here who all had clear and present interests in snagging the nomination and, eventually, the Olympics themselves, for Venice.   There was also an equal amount of either rebuttal or silence (a more potent form of rebuttal) from non-believers.   The cads.

But the dream is probably dead, though its proponents aren’t ready to admit it.   (They’re like that person I read about a while ago who went to pick up the pension check for his just-deceased friend.   Obviously without having revealed that the check-worthy individual was just-deceased.   Obviously with the purpose of using the money himself.   When the person was told that the  friend had to come in person, he propped his dead buddy in a wheelchair and wheeled him to the pension office.   Too bad it didn’t work.)   The Venice Olympics people are still wheeling the idea around, but they’re not much more credible than the aforementioned dude at this point.

CONI (the Italian Olympic Committee), in the person of its president, Gianni Petrucci, had what must have been a fairly vivacious meeting the other day with mayor Massimo Cacciari, who is also  a professor of philosophy.   Everyone likes to point that out, I don’t know why.   Maybe to emphasize that he isn’t just a boring old politician, but a genuine intellectual, which ought to be an impressive thing if you didn’t notice that the two qualities are seem to be mutually exclusive.

Unfortunately, sometimes just being beautiful isn't enough.

Unfortunately, sometimes just being beautiful isn't enough.

Mr. Petrucci was pretty clear when the meeting was finished.   “As the philosophers say,” he began, “reality is that which is, and not what we would like it to be.”   Nice one!   “And I’m a realist: What will count is what is.”  

What “is,” in this case, is a raft of sports facilities which are already up and running (or jumping, or throwing) — and not a list of facilities  which are all  going to have to be built new from the ground up.  

“I was a realist with Prof. Cacciari,” Petrucci went on.   “CONI wants to win, therefore we want to present a really strong candidate.”  

These remarks were met with a random barrage of retorts — kind of like those moments when the embattled citizens on the parapets begin desperately to launch whatever they can get their hands on — rocks, wagons, donkeys — over the edge to stop the enemy advance.

“Venice would be something new,” was one retort.   The Northeast is a region that “gives much and receives little” (translation: you owe us) is another.   “They treat us like provincials.”   And so on.

Giancarlo Galan, the president of the Veneto Region —  in whose head dreams of a shiny new Veneto full of big new projects paid for by somebody else had been dancing — decided to object, not to the message so much as to the manner of its expression.

“I don’t think you’re capable of ironizing (it’s a verb in Italian, very useful) about philosophers,” he huffed in a letter to Petrucci.   “It shows that you haven’t understood two things: The fact that the Olympics serve to transform the infrastructure and change an entire territory.   (I never knew that.   Is that why the athletes cry when they hear their national anthem?) The second is that you don’t know the Northeast and what we’re able to accomplish.   Venice and the Veneto deserve this recognition because we’re among the most advanced in the world.”   (I didn’t know that either.   We may have reached the stage of launching a Jeep Cherokee over the ramparts.)

Petrucci was unfazed by this predictable range of objections.   (You don’t love us, you don’t understand us, you don’t care…..)   He replied, “Everybody knows his own world best.   Galan knows the Northeast well, and I know the Olympics well.”

While this was going on,  the mayor of Rome was off in London, busy bagging mayor Boris Johnson’s future vote for the Eternal City.

Maybe he’s the one who’s actually got the right philosophy  for this situation.

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Categories : Problems


  1. Robin Hilliard says:

    Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear…

    This is a nightmare in the making…and apathy will make it happen. It certainly did here in Vancouver BC Canada. The referendum about the bid for the 2010 Olympics was voted on by Vancouver citizens only. When all was said and done, less than 25% of BC’s population (50% voter turnout, 64% of them voting ‘for’) decided we were on the hook for a grandiose and frankly stupid variation on the “Greater Fool” business model for attracting “World Class” attention. Cost over-runs in the face of a global recession, Draconian measures to deal with a very vocal local anti-games sentiment, No-Go Areas in the center of Vancouver, on it goes

    Apart from those with dead friends in wheelchairs or using Jeep Cherokees to take out Ironistos (is that a noun in Italian?) storming the parapets, those who are opposed to this bid need to be strong and clear and get out the vote and not just ignore it and hope it goes away…

  2. erla says:

    I have heard this story in various other situations, in assorted reactions to the Winter Olympics and to the Summer Olympics in Athens (articles in National Geographic, February 2006 and August 2004, respectively). You are not alone in your sentiments. Apart from the detail that Vancouver made its bid when the world economy was going great guns, from your description it sounds as if the majority of its citizens were in favor of it. In any case, your exhortation to “get out the vote” isn’t any more useful here than it would be in, say, North Korea. Decisions this big are never submitted to the popular will — you might be able to get out the people who would vote in a certain way if given the chance, which is why that chance is virtually never provided. A popular vote on something deeply affecting the future of the city and its (dwindling number of) inhabitants? I suppose it could happen, at least theoretically. I suppose swine could get airborne.