Do the Olympics contribute to society?

Although the arts are celebrated for their contribution to human society — recent provincial cuts notwithstanding — few have made the same case for sport, even though many more participate in sports than in the arts.

Is the International Olympic Committee contributing to a better world through sport?

Bruce Kidd, one of Canada’s most famous Olympic athletes and dean of physical education at the University of Toronto, takes the question head-on in this podcast issued by Intellectual Muscle, a remarkable series of lectures on sport and society sponsored by the Globe and Mail in association with VANOC.

No starry-eye booster, Kidd is candid about the IOC’s shortcomings, but spells out how the IOC “deserves credit for the steady, persistent way it has spread sport around the world.” Although critical of the IOC’s refusal to allow women’s ski jumping, for example, Kidd argues the IOC has done much to advance women’s sports, much more than the professional sports leagues that dominate North American sport, where “women’s sport has been symbolically annihilated.”

Kidd is visiting Vancouver this week and again March 13 for a lecture at the Chan Centre on the Vancouver Games’ long-term legacy.