The Olympics in Ireland? Now that’s just cynical spoofery

Despite what Shane Ross says, the idea of an Irish Olympics is just feel-good fake news

The Olympic Rings in Dublin? Now that’s fanciful. Photo: Inpho

The Olympic Rings in Dublin? Now that’s fanciful. Photo: Inpho

 

Minister for Sport Shane Ross’s idea of Ireland hosting the Olympic Games begs another question. What plans might Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise and Innovation Frances Fitzgerald have for an international space station or a city under the sea?

Gay Mitchell originally brought up the Olympic subject back in 1992 when giddiness, potty ideas and bad promises from politicians were, as they are now, the norm.

Ross exhumed that corpse on Wednesday, telling an Oireachtas Committee that he was “energised” by the idea of developing “sports tourism” which opened “very, very exciting” opportunities for the country.

He added that “the sky’s the limit” for Ireland’s sports hosting ambitions, saying “we’re now thinking in these terms and it’s very, very exciting. Let’s think about the Olympics.”

He didn’t mention that in the last number of years the “give” to sport has steadily fallen and last year plateaued because in terms of tangible, measurable gestures Ireland doesn’t care and never has.

“I remember Gay Mitchell suggesting some years ago, and he was laughed to scorn, now it’s a real, realistic prospect,” said Ross of the idea of bringing an Olympics to these shores.

As sports ministers come and go – sometimes for a short spell, sometimes not – there is a sense that they are killing time in the department before moving on somewhere else.

It’s the departure lounge for those going up or those coming down. Not sure exactly which way Minister Ross is travelling. But when Mr Mitchell suggested the idea, it was the international man of mystery Pat Hickey, who poured on the scorn.

We all have a bone or two to pick with Hickey. But, as he said in the past, Ireland couldn’t even “build the jacks” for the Olympic Games. No wonder Fianna Fáil approached him to run.

Now and then Ireland hosting an Olympics seems like a good idea to brighten national spirits. Sprinkle a little magic dust, give the natives a nice idea they can play with.

Maybe it’s that innocent. But so too is it lazy and insulting, preposterous and counterintuitive. It is cynical spoofery, self serving and hollow. It is baseless, transparent, populism. It’s feel-good fake news.

It infers a government will consider sport as a functioning living entity, even take seriously the high tonnage of ignored research that links sport with health benefits, when the UCD running track, now a car park, sits there dog-eared and dug up, a metaphor for everything that is wrong.

Wow! Let’s do an Olympics.

For all we know the Minister was talking about the Winter Olympics. Sure an Olympics is an Olympics. Five rings. National athems and crying athletes. Sticking with the Summer Games The Oxford Olympics Study 2016: Cost and Cost Overrun at the Games had something to say.

The main findings of the study were, firstly, that the average actual cost for Summer Games is €4.56 billion (2015 level).

The most costly Summer Games to date were the London Games in 2012, which came in at €13.14 billion.

The numbers cover the period 1960-2016 and include only sports-related costs. That means that wider capital costs for general infrastructure, which are often larger than the sports-related costs themselves, have been excluded.

Mr Ross may take the €13.14 billion figure and more than double it because Ireland has virtually no infrastructure that would satisfy Olympic spec requirements apart from stadia, concrete and steel structures which Rio remarkably managed to turn into perishable goods.

Already a back of the envelope calculation puts the cost at about a third of what it took to break this country and for the EU to put Ireland on the naughty step.

“If we build up these stadiums and we are a credible bidder, which we obviously are if we win this (Rugby World Cup) bid, I think the sky’s the limit,” added Mr Ross.

That Oxford Olympics Study concluded with a view that many of us, although perhaps not Mr Ross, already knew.

“For a city and nation to decide to stage the Olympic Games is to decide to take on one of the most costly and financially most risky type of mega-project that exists, something that many cities and nations have learned to their peril.”

Somewhat even more financially perilous than re-opening a Garda station in Stepaside.

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