Small may be beautiful but big is hard to beat

SMALL is beautiful, so let’s talk big for a moment – big sports.

The biggest global sports event turned another corner this month with the election of Belgium’s Dr Jacques Rogge as the 8th president of the International Olympic Committee.

And here at home, the biggest online interactivity in Australia’s history occurred at – the web community behind the Big Brother TV program, which spied on 12 amateur actors competing for tenure in a goldfish-bowl house, to the apparent voyeuristic pleasure of millions of viewers. This was, by any reckoning, clearly an indoor sport.

The connection between the IOC and BB is perhaps shared by all largish sporting events – their dominant driver is commercial gain. And with it comes the potential for corruption.

Although Mr Rogge, in his “unprepared” victory speech, re-marked that the summer Olympic Games might have to reduce its size and scope to be sustainable, there is no suggestion that the more media-exploitable events will be touched

While Sydney’s global festival of sport brought together more than 15,000 athletes and officials, it also hosted a similar number of media representatives. Beijing has pro-mised, in its successful bid for the 2008 games, to spend $440 billion to improve the city’s services and conditions, in preparation more for commercial opportunities than athleticism.

The Olympics, established to showcase amateur athletes, have become what retiring IOC President (“Godfather” to some) Juan Antonio Samaranch has called the Golden Age of Sport, a title reflecting more on the commercial-isation of the games than enhanced sporting glory.

Along with increased comm-ercialisation came increased corruption, both within the IOC’s proceedings and within the training of athletes, as illegal and brutalising drugs became part of the price of wining.

In his victory address Mr Rogge also remarked that it was a tight contest for the presidency and the final decider of the election was the voters’ question of: “who do I trust?”

Indeed. Apparently aspersions abound, on behalf of the losers, that the IOC voting process was fixed. Trust is very difficult to find when commercial gain drives the decision-making.

Big Brother was about getting big ratings, which it did, leading to big advertising dollars. Prepare yourself for Son of Big Brother.

The perhaps dismaying comm-ercial success of Big Brother, however, looks insignificant com-pared with the commercial success of www.bigbrother.

This web community received more than 80 million page views and seven million unique visitors before its final episode. By mid series, more than 900,000 signed up to log in, with the numbers in-creasing by 100,000 daily.

The amazingly diverse commercial offers included products bearing absolutely no relationship to the program. The commercial success of the show and its spin-offs is unprecedented in Australia. Leaked reports suggest that the outcome of Big Brother was fixed by the producers to ensure the most commercially exploitable house-mate, the underdog, won the “public” vote.

Corruption plummets to new depths if these allegations prove to be something more substantial.

It seems a sad comment on the state of play when the more that financial gain drives any human activity, the more corruption will take hold – be it in homegrown TV or the Olympics.

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