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My Modest Olympic Proposal

08/09/2012 05:27 EDT | Updated 10/09/2012 05:12 EDT
AP
Teams prepare for the first baton change during a heat of the men's 4 X 400-meter relay during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

The Olympic spirit is about the love of sport, solidarity, and fair play. Government officials from around the world care very deeply about these noble virtues, not about gaining prestige at the expense of global competitors on a very international stage, so, taken together, they spend billions so that their athletes can clobber their more impecunious neighbours by milliseconds and millimetres. But does this tell us which country has innate athletic superiority, or which has more money? Is this what the Olympic spirit is all about? I have the remedy.

The Olympics should feature unsuspecting citizens plucked from their normal jobs and forced to compete against similarly amateur athletes from around the world. It's simple to implement, and the benefits are practical for countries and entertaining for viewers.

Say Henry the Canadian construction worker is selected to potentially represent the country in the shot put. He will compete against...hmm let's say nine other random Canadians, and the winner of this qualifying round gets to participate in the Olympics. Unlike today, these athletes are really amateur. Henry beats the other nine because his lifetime of casual hockey playing has him in better shape than the other randomly selected Canadians, like Doug the dweeb librarian or Suzy the decrepit ninety-five-year-old. Suddenly Henry, hitherto a nobody anonymously toiling away for his family, becomes a national hero with a real shot at a gold medal. What's that feeling stirring your heart? Olympic spirit, baby!

Networks can milk the human interest stories by creating reality shows about candidates like Henry leading up to the games. They'll play soft music while portraying Henry's modest living, his humble family, his work-generated callouses. Shots will juxtapose the majestic Olympic flame and Olympic rings against his sweat-stained overalls and his beat up metallic lunch pail.

Economically speaking, countries would no longer need to spend a dime on athletics--handy during an international recession. Money spent on sports can be reverted to places in the budget currently considered less important, like healthcare or feeding the homeless. If they want, countries can spend money on national athletic programs to increase the odds that the random citizens selected are somewhat good at sports. Although, since obviously not all these people can participate in the Olympics, they'd be squandering untold money improving their citizens' health and fostering in them strength, persistence and a love of sport for no practical reason whatsoever.

TV viewers will love watching the new Olympics. In many events, it's impossible to tell who won until the results are announced, but when real amateurs compete the gratification will be immediate. The Olympics will take on a more average-Joe quality as competitors may completely fail to clear the hurdles, or their breath will falter before 100 metres is up. Henry might throw the shot put feet further than the Uzbekistani banker, not centimetres. Swimming races might be determined by minutes, not seconds. Personal flotation devices will be on hand.

More importantly, my recommendation brings the games closer to its original spirit. Henry competes in the Olympics beside other authentic amateurs from other countries--teachers, firemen, and other indispensable yet thoroughly ignored figures. If the Olympics are really about sportsmanship and fair play, not sordid things like proxy sociopolitical battles or corporate sponsorship, we should rejoice when our representatives have fun and try their best for their country. This is what it's all about, right?

Maybe not, you'll say. It's about finding out which country is best at sports. But my method rewards countries for having an athletically inclined population at large, not just for having a handful of elite athletes to display to the world while everyone else is famished or built like a house. And as a bonus, certain countries will end the ugly business of kidnapping their children who show early signs of elite athletic ability, and forcing them to train and devote their lives to their sport, free of burdensome things like education and family.

I'm sure that once my modest proposal comes to the attention of world leaders and Olympic organizers, their natural inclination towards fair play and high ideals will prevail, and the change will be implemented at once. Good! There are all kinds of Henrys from around the world with Olympics dreams, and they shouldn't be dashed only because they have never once practiced or participated in a sport which they may not necessarily enjoy, or even know the rules of.