The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics are here, and so is the bill. While watching the opening ceremonies, looking at the elaborate courses and tracks and seeing the lavish Olympic Village, it is hard to evade questions on cost.

Although there is a discrepancy as to what the official total cost is for this year’s games, Canada’s Globe and Mail reported in a Feb. 5 article that the games are estimated to cost around $6 billion. Not one, two, three, four or five, but $6 billion. This is a lot of money, regardless of whether or not it is in Canadian or American dollars. Is the global display of camaraderie through physical power and sporting stunts that is the Olympics worth the exorbitant costs?

My first reaction to a question like this is a slightly cynical response of course not. Think of all that $6 billion could do, not only for Vancouver and Canada, but for all of the countries represented in the Olympics.

As each opening ceremony proceeds to outdo the previous country’s doings, they become more ostentatious and grandiose, seemingly equating national pride with displays of wealth. Instead of having elaborate floor panels that can change color and pattern to emulate Canada’s vast prairies (although admittedly very cool to watch), the money used to make this scene could be used for a more practical cause. How does one justify doling out millions of dollars to have a kid harnessed in and ‘fly” around the stadium, with spectators waving Olympic-themed flashlights, while Vancouver’s homeless wait just outside, overlooked?

The Olympics are a global event, and part of their magic is that they include countries of vastly different resources and capital. But as these nations are assembled, would it be more worthwhile to focus on greater issues of global concern?

How do residents of Haiti look at the newly constructed venues when their own country is devastatingly piled with rubble? Is it an issue that people in underdeveloped regions represented in the Olympics do not have the means or the technology to see their own countrymen and women perform on the international stage?

On the other hand, perhaps the Olympics, despite the cost, can claim to do something incredible that otherwise could not be done. Every two years, whether for the Summer or Winter Games, the Olympics assemble over 80 countries to peacefully compete in games that inspire nationalism, pride and respect for each other. Delegations from Israel and Iran walked into the opening ceremonies within moments of each other, and despite the amount of global tensions whether political, technological or other the Olympic athletes are an example of how respectful people of different nationalities, religions and languages can be toward each other.

There may be skirmishes in the upcoming hockey games, and perhaps opposing skiers will have some choice words for each other. Maybe even some fans will get rowdy as they are overcome by patriotism. Yet, each time the Olympians take to the rink or track, they are showing their own countries acts of sportsmanship and cooperation. And each time they leave the rink or the track, and interact with their counterparts from other nations, they are showing the world that sportsmanship exists in more than the realm of sports.

If each nation can realize these virtues of peaceful play, then the Olympic Games are worth not one, two, three, four, or five, but $6 billion and maybe more.

Berrin-Reinstein a member of
the class of 2012.

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