Commonwealth Games in Edmonton: another make-work project?

The city of Edmonton needs yet another Commonwealth Games like a dead person needs a winter coat.

And still, our intrepid city parents sent a five-member delegation all the way to London, England, to find out what exactly a successful bid should consist of.

Even if one agreed that government-organized and/or –sponsored Commonwealth Games would be useful to the city, and one doesn’t, why go all the way to good, old London? What’s e-mail for? With all kinds of new media that help antipodes talk to one another as if they were sitting in adjacent rooms?

Oh, the airlines have to make a living, somehow, and the international airport hasn’t been buzzing with as much activity as anticipated, either?

If we stick to the topic of Commonwealth Games in Edmonton: the plan is to bid for their 2022 edition. Whether the bid will succeed is another question. The South African city of Durban is the other bidder. If the organizers keep their heads in the politically correct sands by decision time, Edmonton hasn’t a chance.

Failure after failure

It wouldn’t be the first time Edmonton invested in perfectly non-sensical bids for perfectly non-sensical events. The 2015 FISU (International University Sports Federation) Games, or Expo 2017 come to mind as the most recent examples.

The Expo effort was the more outrageous of the two: the city spent a few million (U.S. currency, in case you want to know) to apply for the right to apply for an application for the right to apply to Canadian organizers for the right to represent the country in the international contest, where you (again) had to apply for the right to apply for an application to apply (to the world body) for the right to apply for the application to get into the bid process. Needless to say that each application had to include a non-refundable fee, and each of those fees had to be in millions (again, in U.S. greenbacks).

Why this merry-go-round? Well, the organizers have to make a living, somehow, too, don’t they?

What’s the point?

Those shortsighted (read: stupid) stupid enough to apply for such events claim holding them will improve their community’s prestige, image, even, and besides, it’s good for business.

Indeed, it is good for business. It is very good for the businesses of those who own the real estate where the events would be held, and it’s about as good for those who are going to build the venues.

Supporters would go on to say that such events also create job opportunities. They’re not lying. They’re just not telling the truth, and nothing but.

Short-term job opportunities at the bottom of the economic ladder? Yes.

Long-term job opportunities with the chance to climb up the economic ladder? Absolutely not.

And so far as prestige and/or image are concerned, well, a city that is unable to keep its infrastructure in good repair, its roads and other public places clean (meaning, for example, free of all kinds of debris), that city hasn’t got a chance in hell to win prestige and display a squeaky clean image.

We will all agree that Edmonton isn’t as big as New York.

Why is it, then, that New York’s public services are capable of cleaning each and every roadway in the Bedlam on Hudson once a week, every week, while entire Edmonton neighbourhoods have to wait for weeks on end before city crews come to clean their roads?

(There are a few additional minor questions of major proportion, such as: who is planning the cleaning effort, anyway? Just check out the city’s website for their road-cleaning schedule: it just makes no sense. But that’s another point for another day.)

Why is it that cities of comparable size (Winnipeg, for example) have their roads cleared of snow within hours of a snowfall, and that includes all neighbourhoods, and Edmonton doesn’t?

Spending like drunk sailors on shore leave

A look longer than a glance at Edmonton’s budgets gives you the answers.

In a futile effort to win immortality, Edmonton’s councils have been going after all kinds of events, investing money that has never been theirs in projects of such dubious character they don’t deserve any other description than that they stink to high heaven.

It’s megalomania gone bonkers.

To help fund a private professional sports club’s new arena using public money, now that is beyond insanity. It’s criminal. Why? Simply because all economic indicators say that what may make business sense to that club’s owner, makes no economic sense to the city at large. This information has been available for years. And ignorance is no excuse, either.

It has been proven, also, that even university sports are now getting more and more professional. How come? Who are the most successful university athletes? Why, those who had come to the hallowed halls of learning on all kinds of sports scholarships. Just note it: they are recruited and scholarshipped for their knowledge of how to shoot three-point balls, or pucks in the net, or any other popular university sport you wish to name. They are not recruited and scholarshipped because they know, say, advanced math better than anybody else in their district.

So, they are paid for their athletic abilities. Where does it differ from professionalism?

By the way, please note: not sporting abilities. Athletic abilities. Why? Because the only mantra they hear is that it’s all about winning, baby. Have you heard any loud calls for fair play lately? For sportsmanship, that is? Come to think of it, it’s logical. Potential rich sponsors prefer their names to be associated with winners, and who cares at what cost.

The basic formula is simple: investing taxpayer money in professional sports is a win-lose proposition. A win for the organizers and sponsors, a loss for the taxpayers.

Again: drivel about such ephemeral effects as downtown revitalization is just that: drivel. It just doesn’t work that way.

And drivel about such legacy as Commonwealth Stadium is just that, too: drivel, that is. Why? Who’s using it? Amateur athletes of all kinds? School children, by any chance? Kidding, right? A professional sports team uses the place. The effectiveness of use is questionable, too: how many weeks a year do the Eskimos use the stadium? How much does it cost to keep the place up so it’s ready for them when they return next spring? Who pays the freight for the maintenance and general upkeep in the off-season? The club?

Whether we like it or not, we’ll have to resign ourselves to the undeniable fact: sports at their highest competitive level are nothing an amateur can achieve.

And, whether we like it or not, we’ll have to resign ourselves to another undeniable fact: all and sundry international events, such as world-wide bazaars known as Expo, do nothing whatever to help the economics of their host cities at all.

Still, if anyone wants to stage them, by all means. Do. Use your own money to invest, though. If you reap any profit whatsoever, listen to the applause all the way to the bank. And if your venture didn’t meet with success you had anticipated, well, tough. We’ll watch your future endeavours with considerable interest.

Commonwealth Games is a poor man’s Olympics. Montreal has been paying its 1976 extravaganza for about 34 years. Vancouver won’t be debt-free at least as long as that. So, the only good thing about Commonwealth Games would be it might take us less time to pay the whole bloody thing off.

Do voters have a say?

If voters agree that this is a good reason why we should be spending our money on ventures like this, then there’s not much to be said.

But: has anyone asked the voters? And make it biblically simple: yes? Yes? No? No?

Most Edmontonians, one would suspect, would prefer having their city clean, courtesy city crews, their roads passable, courtesy city crews, their infrastructure working, courtesy city crews.

Granted, this is not enough to lead a fuller life than 9 to 5 at work, and so on.

But Edmonton is called Festival City for a reason. And, besides, what’s wrong with creating your own entertainment?

In any case, spending another chunk of taxpayer cash just for the right to apply to host yet another non-sensical professional sports event makes no sense whatsoever.

Whoever has come up with this moronic Commonwealth Games idea should receive an apron with a city logo, a broom with a city logo, and a wheelbarrow with a city logo. Then, they should be instructed which region of the city they should go and clean up.

Maybe that will teach them that life as it is has priorities other than taxpayer-supported professional bread-and-games events.

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