Olympics or bust

The year 2016 will go down in history as the year when Finnish sports went bust.

Traditionally, ‘sports’ and ‘Olympic sports’ have been synonymous in Finland, and sports-loving Finns have been able to gauge the well-being of Finnish sports by checking the medal table of the latest Olympics. Did the athletes achieve what they were supposed to achieve? How many gold medals did they bring in?

This year, the Finnish Olympic team flew back from Rio virtually empty-handed. True, they couldn’t be officially blamed for failure because no medal target had been set by their bosses. The athletes had merely been told to enjoy their stay in and around Copacabana. Let them discover ‘good feelings’ and come home with a smile on their face!

The leaders’ pep talk fooled no one. Had it not been for Mira Potkonen’s bronze medal in women’s boxing, Finland would have experienced a sportive state of emergency and the imminent centenary celebrations of Finland’s independence would have been cancelled. Bronze medals, however, are not won in boxing. You just have to lose your last bout to gain access to the podium. Accordingly, the battered boxer not only shed tears in Rio; she also refused to display the wretched medal to the media.

Chances are that Mira Potkonen will soon win the Athlete of the Year award, which would be a fitting way to mourn the year when Finnish sports came close to extinction.

What is to be done, and by whom? Academic observers, of course, jumped in and dissected the crisis discourse without providing any solution. Luckily we still have visionary leaders in our country.

Finland should seriously consider bidding for the 2026 Winter Olympic games, opined the newly elected President of the Finnish Olympic Committee last month. In fact, Timo Ritakallio wouldn’t mind Finland bidding for the Summer Olympics, too!

Is the nation actually craving to host Olympics more than half-century after the Helsinki games? Hardly. Who might be willing to foot the bill for the bidding process? Nobody knows. In case the bid proves victorious, will the Finnish team have a medal target on its home soil? Maybe not.

Never mind, we now have a vision! Self-serving journalists and academics ripped into Ritakallio’s suggestion because they have no idea what it means to have a vision. Let the bidding vision shine and lead Finland forward – that is, back to Olympian heights!

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