By Temba Ol’ltichil’lo in London
The Olympics are about prestige, sport and cash.
The British are spending nearly £10 billion (Ksh trillion) on the London Olympics, but they don’t really own the games.
The Games are owned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), that large family headed by Jacques Rogge. His immediate family comprises hundreds of officials of National Olympic Committees, such as that headed by the legendary Kipchoge Keino back home.
The IOC also has an extended family, which consists of the federations representing the 26 sports represented at the (London) Games.
A city like London, or Beijing before it, has minimal influence on how the Games are run. It is a little like the city has leased the Games for the duration they are held, and accepts to hold them subject to “terms and conditions of service”. The IOC has a lengthy set of “terms and conditions” that govern the Games.
Most host cities and many athletes mutter under their breath about how absurd some of the rules are, but they also know that the IOC won’t budge just to accommodate them.
Some of the rules forbid companies other than accredited sponsors advertising at venues. Rules also ban athletes from paying tribute to their individual sponsors through online channels, such as twitter, during the duration of the games.
London Mayor Boris Johnson has made angry noises against rules banning non sponsors from advertising in the expansive east London, home of the 2012 Games. Neither he nor his city can actually do anything about it.
If you look keenly, you will notice that during a medals award ceremony, an IOC official will usually call out the winners while the medals will be presented by federations that run the individual sport, reflecting the fact that the IOC and national federations work in harmony and respect each other’s roles.
Very much like a father in a family respecting the place of his teenage son or daughter: no encroachment on the space is permitted.
It is this complex arrangement within the Olympic family that is responsible for the empty seats at supposedly sold-out London events. Thousands of tickets have been handed to national Olympic committees, national sports federations, sportspeople and media from the 205 countries participating.