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Why don't we care about the Olympics?


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So it’s finally happening – according to the city’s esteemed Mayor Boris Johnson, “Ping pong is coming home.” No really, calm down. Next summer London will be hosting the 2012 Olympics. Top athletes from around the world will be competing for a place in the history books in our country. The eyes of the world will be on us. So why aren’t we more excited?london olympics

A recent Opinionpanel survey found that of 1,000 students asked, over a quarter of students felt ‘indifferent’ about the Olympics coming to Britain, whilst one fifth said that they ‘weren’t excited at all’.

Why the lack of enthusiasm? When we consider that many of these students may have taken part in the recent nationwide protests against government cuts to education funding, the results may not seem so surprising. The Olympics have not always proven beneficial to their host country’s economy. Local infrastructure and communities will benefit; the employment and tourism sectors will be given a temporary boost (not that London needs any help drawing in tourists). But for those affected by government cuts nationwide, the event may seem an unnecessary waste of government money that could be used for other purposes.

As a London student who took part in the recent protests, Will Freeman admits he feels ‘disgusted’ that the government are prepared to spend ‘billions of pounds on a useless and obstructive luxury event’ particularly in the current economic climate.

It would not be reasonable to suggest, of course, that all students are guided by economic and political concerns. Another reason for the lack of excitement about the Olympics may be that they simply seem irrelevant. Freeman views the games as ‘pointless, boring and time consuming’ – a view that seems to be shared by many students.

We are told that we should be excited about the Olympics – but we are not told why they are worth our time, when there are so many other pressing matters to think about. Concerted marketing campaigns still touch a comparatively small percentage of the population, a problem compounded by the fact that the Olympics are essentially a single city-centred event. Only 16% of students surveyed applied for Olympics tickets: the government clearly has a lot more work to do to convince students – and the population in general – that the Games are relevant to them.

And what of the effect the Olympics have on a country’s sense of self and solidarity? Civic pride is not something Britain does well, as a rule – as opposed to apathy, which all the British students I know can manage just fine. Before expecting British people to blithely gather behind an event like this there must be progress in making Britain a place that all of its citizens can be proud of. Another London student, Pooja Tanwani, has already made her plans for summer 2012: she is ‘fleeing the country’.

All of this is not to say that no one is getting excited about the Olympics – two fifths of students asked described themselves as either ‘fairly’ or ‘very excited’ about the event. Perhaps only two fifths of students follow international sport. But the Games are about far more than that: they are about bringing countries together to celebrate the best of what they've got and they are about being proud of where you’re from. And if students can’t get excited about any of that, there are issues to be addressed by the government that won’t be solved by throwing billions of pounds at an event like this.

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