When I run out of sensible things to amuse myself with on the internet, I read up on the most embarrassing moments of other people's lives. It would be convenient if the Wikimedia people just set up one of those list pages under the heading "Debacles", but they don't, so I have to go link hopping in order to find hilari-awful things. Like the story of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, wherein one of their crowning achievements in the area of Things No One Will Ever Live Down was when a ranking member of the organizing committee decided -- correctly -- that the least mortifying way to respond to a comment a South African swimmer made about the crowds in Delhi was to publicly admit that they were having a problem keeping feral monkeys out of the pool area.

(The article mentions in passing that there are feral monkeys all over Delhi. No kidding. Apparently the local method of getting rid of a large number of small loud thieving monkeys is to procure a single much larger loud thieving monkey, and bribe that one effectively. I expect this to escalate over time, until one very very rich man with no concern for his neighbors imports a gorilla with anger-management issues. Nobody will ever be able to get near his house again, once the gorilla settles in, but on the bright side, the place will probably be free of monkeys.)

The Olympics in general are a great source of these. Cities bid crazily for the chance to host the Olympics, because apparently before you are allowed to talk to anyone on the International Olympic Committee you are required to have your common sense gland removed. As far as I can tell, the only Games that have ever not resulted in the host city losing money hand over fist were the ones that were called on account of war. In a display of intelligence not seen before or since, the city of Denver, Colorado, USA, was awarded the 1976 Winter Olympics and promptly voted to give them right back, probably because they figured it would be more efficient to spend that winter burning cash for warmth.

The Games are very nearly the proverbial perfect storm when it comes to chances to mung things up. The financial stake is enormous, the bureaucracy involved is huge, and the people planning this turkey are not the people who will have to go in and deal with it when it's done. There are hundreds of cameras pointed at your project from every angle, which inspires glossy façades that make Potemkin villages look like a third-grader's shoebox diorama. There is a very hard deadline for completion, set years in advance by completely separate people, and when the schedule slips during construction as it always does, the only solutions are to throw buckets of money at it, slap things together in a quick but slipshod fashion, or -- the most popular option -- both.

Boston is apparently on the short list of bids for the 2024 Summer Olympics. This would be hilarious, in that Douglas Adams black comedy sort of way. Have you people seen this place? They did the urban planning by paving over the bare lines in the grass where the cows kept walking. It'll be just like London, except full of Americans.

Comments