Monday 23 July 2012

Game Theory

We watched some of the Tour de France this year and were happy with the result.  It was an interesting race, lovely scenery and plenty of possibilities.  The Tour began as a commercial stunt a century ago, the French sporting newspaper, L’Equipe needing to boost summer sales and finding itself with a ready market.

Down the decades commercialism has always been integral to the event.  Not only for the cycle industry but other associated products and then any company wanting marketing and promotion opportunities.

Sales, marketing and the rest have never been far away and sometimes necessary to a variety of sports.  Cricket and football were soon featured as modern style adjuncts to shopping and consumer items.  Racing has a longer history.  Motor Sport has always been commercial.

The Olympic Games were devised to appeal to what was imagined to be a classical ideal of sport and competition to enable international contact and mutual respect in a sporting context.  Because of the 1890’s times the modern form emerged it was set up in terms of the type of nation state of the period.

The Berlin games of 1936 are claimed to be the first of the “modern” games, but in reality the Paris events of 1924 were not far short of this.  The Brit’s may have been trying to be amateur and international but this did not seem to the case with some of the others.  Rampant nationalism was already there.

From then on most, if not almost all of the games became essentially a propaganda and status matter.  The IOC then attempted to move it around but as time went on and more and more events were added the costs and organisational skills began to limit the number of places that could cope.

By the 1980’s it had become clear that expense was a major issue and with many large corporations wanting a slice of the publicity and coverage on a supra national basis then the games were going to become more commercial and the athletes more professional in consequence.

So the London Games of 2012 are just the latest manifestation of what has become a mix of political, corporate and propaganda interests merging to present a series of events, now not necessarily sporting but on a wider basis. 

Either you like or don’t like or don’t really care much what is going on.  But it is not a lot different, in fact much the same, as other “sports”.  Major soccer clubs present business and investment opportunities and valuable marketing assets etc.

In some ways we are back to the religious manias of the Middle Ages.  The UK torch relay is a case in point, almost an ancient pilgrimage around the shrines.  Look!  The sick rise up and walk!  Wonder at the saintly beings showering blessings as they process!  Marvel at the miracles of Macdonalds and the Confessions of Coca-Cola!

With the man who steered the early marketing of the Games now suggesting that it is all going too far and international events organisers wondering at the amateurism of the people controlling it all could Iconoclasm be far behind?

1 comment:

  1. " events organisers wondering at the amateurism of the people controlling it all could Iconoclasm be far behind?"

    I hope so.