Monday, August 11, 2008

How do you justify funding sports, but not the arts?

I'm down in Boston for a conference, right now I'm stuck in the lobby of a Westin while I wait for the powers that be to straighten-out my room booking. A TV off to the side is showing, of course, the summer games in Beijing. And as I boarded my Air Canada flight this morning in Toronto, the seat-back TVs were running an Olympic-themed slideshow. I was also up far too late last night watching rowing, or sculling or whatever the heck it is, and volleyball and what not. Olympic fever.

And while Canada is so-far meadal-ess, should our athletes reach the podium they'll be in for cash bonuses. Indeed, our governments over recent years have been investing heavily in amateur sport and our Olympic programs, with the goal of improved performances and more medals. And we should be making those investments.

As we read today though about more cuts by the Conservatives to arts funding, one wonders how they can justify heavy investment in sport while scaling back investment in the arts and somehow unworthy, as not the kind of thing the government should be involved in? How is one more meretirous than the other?

Do sports and the arts really offer differing returns on our investment? Both raise our country's prestige and standing on the world stage. Both provide role models for youth, and encourage them to explore their talents and get involved in their communities.

I hesitate to proffer the theory that Conservatives see sports as macho and the arts as, well, not, but that may be part of it. It may well be many of them would cut sports funding too, if they had their druthers. They'd be hard-pressed to get away with such cuts now though, in the lead-up to the 2010 Vancouver Games.

Both sports and the arts are important though, and both are worthy and deserving of our support.

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7 comments:

The Rat said...

The big difference is that funding sports **is supposed** to encourage youth to live a healthy lifestyle and therefore save us money in the long run by reducing health care costs.

That said, and admitting that I have been heavily involved in youth sport in the past, I do not believe it is government's job to fund anyones athletic dreams, or to promote nationalistic pride in sport. Frankly, blowing millions on "pride" when we can't train enough doctors is truly sick.

Avdhesh said...

Hi rat,

I agree with you, but i even think if the government does not sponsors the sport who else will.

Because every country lies to be on top for everything.

Avdhesh
http://www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk

The Grumpy Voter said...

>> How do you justify funding sports, but not the arts?<<

Because athletes that do well wind up doing McCain Drinkin' Box commercials whereas people who make sculptures out of, oh... say..."meat", well, they're not commercially viable.

Moreover, I suspect that the number of Canadians actively pursuing and supporting Canadian art versus the number of Canadians who enjoy, participate and view sports is a pretty fair spread.

In short:

Arts=uncool and not commercially viable

Sports=wicked cool and contributes bajillions to the economy not to mention promoting healthy lives and reducing our overall costs to the health care system.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Grumpy,

I'm not sure amateur sports is "commercially viable" in the sense that you mean. Are you confident that the Vancouver Olympics will turn a profit? Are you confident that our swimmers could make a living swimming without government support?

And I defy anyone to prove that water polo is cool, let alone that it contributes bajillions to the economy.

Socially Active said...

Arts and the appreciation of art is a billion dollar industry with millions of small players. But lacks national chest thumping that the Olympics enjoys.

I enjoy the Olympic games, but I really don't care who wins. It is the show I enjoy.

Greg said...

Because sports promote "manly" virtues and arts promote "unmanly" ones. This has been another episode of simple answers to simple questions.

Jason Hickman said...

I'm late to the party on this one, but Jeff, this:

As we read today though about more cuts by the Conservatives to arts funding, one wonders how they can justify heavy investment in sport while scaling back investment in the arts and somehow unworthy, as not the kind of thing the government should be involved in? How is one more meretirous than the other?

... is a strawman argument if ever there was one.

By *that* logic, unless the feds were funding each and every "art" *and* "sport" out there, and doing so to the same levels, they'd be violating your "fair is fair" rule.

I'm assuming that you are not *really* saying that a government isn't entitled to make choices as to what it will and will not fund. But even if this post is hyperbole on your part, it contains a pretty flawed analogy & message.