Going for the green: Olympic torches for sale

By Sydney Stokoe

Don’t burn your hands, they might still be hot. Used Olympic torches from the 2010 torch relay have been popping up all over the Internet. Some of the torches were listed online before ever being lit, others are advertised as being covered in Olympic soot, which the buyer can clean off if they please.

We’ve been gearing up for the Olympics for some time now, building housing for athletes and stadiums for the action, making plans to herd the homeless off the streets for the duration of the event and carefully selecting those to represent us at the pinnacle of international sports competition. Along with the athletes, Canada also selects those who will hoist the historic Olympic flame. Over the course of 12,000 legs, the torch cuts its way across the country, from sea to sea to sea proudly bearing the flame over hill, dale and all sorts of emotionally stirring landscapes. It’s a proud image, Canadians joining together in the spirit of country, performance and good sportsmanship.

That is, right up until the moment the flame passes from one torch to another. Then the dead torch is whisked away and quickly posted on eBay, still warm from the Olympic flame. Torches have been fetching a pretty penny, listed anywhere between $1,200 and $2,500. Considering that the original bearer paid $350 for the honour of owning the torch they ran with, there’s some serious profit to be made.

With the personal pride that comes from being a part of such a historic event, one would think that the item signifying their contribution would be treated with a bit more dignity. It isn’t everyday that one is chosen to be in the Olympic torch relay, it’s an honour not only as an athlete, but as a citizen. Runners are picked to represent their community, their country and their fellow citizens. To turn around and sell their torches so quickly cheapens the event’s meaning.

Actions such as this are proof that our society has become so money-centric we are unable to see an honour as simply an honour, rather than the means to a payday. It would seem that everything, no matter how personal, can be turned into some sort of financial gain. How long until athletes start hocking their medals online? Oh, wait, they already are. Olympic medals have been fetching anywhere from $58 to upwards of $80,000. Most memorable would be Polish swimmer Otylia Jedrzejczak, who sold her gold in the 200m butterfly from the 2004 Sydney Games to raise money “for the children.” The sale fetched over $82,000 and the money was donated to a Polish charity for young cancer patients.

Touching as this is, very few medal sales, and torch sales for that matter, go towards charity. More often, sales pad the seller’s wallet. Legally, the owner is free to do what they please. However, the capitalistic ideal that our society has embraced has led us to a place where there can be no such thing as heirlooms anymore. It’s the sad reality of our society. So little is sacred that we are selling our achievements to the highest bidder.

The torch relay has been a proud tradition for the host country; athletes from all levels of competition fight for the opportunity to carry the flame though their community. This is our “patriotism.” Really, what’s more patriotic than a fist full of the Queen’s face? So to all you proud Canadians out there, you too can own a piece of the 2010 Olympics, for a price.

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