Thanks for your posting above. From a very good friend of mine (a P.E. teacher) who married an Australian and emigrated to Australia in the 70's, I was told that the AIOS has a programme whereby schools are visited and pupils are evaluated in basic games skills to determine what sports they have natural ability to develope. Having identified that potential it is natural that the governing bodies of that sport take some part in future development of the skill of the next generation. Unfortunately, no such scheme exists in the UK, any native talent we may have wins through despite the system not because of it.
Polo and rodeo riding are basically too specialised and of marginal interest to warrant inclusion as Olympic sports. Sky diving is an interest not a sport, it cannot be viewed by the public and anything a sky diver might do between launch from the aircraft to opening the chute can be done by a trampolinist, or high board diver in full view of an appreciative audience.
Inferring that what is spent on the development of sport in Australia affects the incidence of Trachoma in Aboriginal children, or any other medical/social evil, is a bit of a red herring - if they didn't waste all that money on sport, they more than likely waste it on something else. The solution to that problem lies within the power of the Australian electorate in as much that the political parties in Australia can raise it as an issue of national importance - and the people can then vote on it. The issues, concerns and grievences of the Aboriginal people have been highlighted and championed by world class Australian aboriginal athletes who would otherwise have never been given a platform from which to be heard were it not for their international prominence.
The 2000 games in Sydney were an outstanding success, some say the best games ever held, many of the backpackers you refer to were probably attracted to Australia because of what they saw in connection with those games. To suggest that the experience of backpacking is in any way comparable to the experience that can be gained by being part of the Olympic Games is not comparing apples to apples. While one is personal and fairly restricted by a number of considerations, the other is organised and won by right, through an immense amount of personal effort and sacrifice, extremely focused and international in nature.
From some of the comments made in answer to this thread, which poses the question "Are the Olympics worth it", it would have been just as well to ask "Is sport worth it".
Steve Latimer, in his posting above states, "I would just hope that if the Afghanistan situation is not completely resolved by then that they would have the sense to remove a huge target for terrorism." According to Mr bin Laden - you and the whole of civilisation is already a target - can't get one bigger than that. So where do you draw the line defining what can go ahead and what can't. Restrict activities in any way and they have won without doing anything.
Another of Steve's comments was, "The other thing that drives me nuts about the Winter Games is there are too many judged events. I'm sure that people in the know can already tell you who the medalists will be in Figure Skating." Don't just single out the winter games - Bookmakers (people in the know) have made a extremely profitable business out of figuring out the likely results of all types of sporting events, elections, etc, for years.
To marty D who says above, "It seems the only people who REALLY feel the Games are worth it are the competitors and the thousands of IOC members who are on the payroll. They get a LOT of nice trips every year." The first part of the sentence is blindingly obvious - I have no idea what your interests are, or what you do for recreation, but how do you know if you are any good at it, how do you know how good you could be at it. From what source do you derive inspiration? What drives your aspirations associated with your chosen interest. Well marty, for thousands of kids all over the world who participate in sport the Olympics provides all of that. I would also ask you to take a look at what the IOC does do for sport throughout the world before making such a denigrating and dismissive comment as that quoted above.