People, not facilities

People, not facilities

We are shuttling between Barcelona and Athens in the debate over whether or not we should host the Olympic Games. The strongest argument of those who insistent that we should be hosting the Olympics is Barcelona, and the Spanish sports that experienced a boost in several branches after the 1992 Olympics. An instant response to this comes through Athens, with the negative contributions it made to the Greek economic crisis and with the question, “What changed in Greek sports after the Olympics?” Meanwhile, other Olympic Games held in other cities and their effects on their host countries are “none of our business.” In our society of black and white, all or nothing, these are all too familiar. Actually, when the topic is the Olympics, it is neither surprising nor abnormal that the places we look to are the due of the economy and success. 

While we are looking at the subject from the axis of, “Shall we host it, or shall we not host it?” as if this is solely dependent on our own decision, how about widening the spectrum and actually pondering what will be done about sports policy? We have all obtained excessive knowledge on how many facilities will be built where, how many minutes it will take to travel from where to where, and the budget allocated to this. Well, what about our short, medium and long-term sports policies, except for those branches that have been invested in? Or what about the talent hunts still to be held? Does anyone know? Talent scanning is, of course, necessary, but what are we going to do with the talent we found? What about those who we have not selected? How are we going to discover, for example, a child who was not found at a satisfactory level for that moment, but whose height will grow immensely in one year, or an athlete who may be physically inadequate but who possesses enthusiasm and sacrifice within himself or herself more than anyone else? 

If you remember, the slogan of the last London Olympics was “inspire a generation.” This was their target at the start. They did not do a bad job in the medal rankings. However, the generation they were aiming to inspire rose in obesity ratios, rather than in inspirations. One third of the U.K. population under 16 is either overweight or obese. One in every three children is fat. 

A child under 13 should exercise for at least one hour every day. He or she should watch only one hour of television every day. If he or she drinks one strawberry milk every day, the sugar he or she gets from that milk will be able to fill up a cart in one year. Those who do not believe it can watch the presentation Jamie Oliver made at the TED conferences a few years ago. 

What does it mean when one out of every three teenage children is either overweight or obese? It means generations who will die younger than the age at which their parents will die. It is even difficult to write it. 

When we are surveying how much people want to host the Olympics or how much they do not want to host them, when sport in Turkey has been minimized to the length of the running track of certain football players, the real question should not be whether we are hosting the Olympics or not, but how we will be able to inspire a population that likes to talk about football more than playing it. The real issue is how to introduce physical activity into the daily lives of people of all ages, not of future generations. 

Because, I’m afraid, you will not be able to change anything before changing the parents. Let’s not forget that the real role models of children are their parents. When the parents are glued to the television you can have the child leave his seat and stand up only temporarily, regardless of whether you have built the best facilities in the world. Just keep this in mind.

Banu Yelkovan is a columnist for daily Radikal in which this piece was published Sept. 4. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.