The Winter Olympics are not taking place

Is Beijing 2022 the first winter Olympics without natural snow? The ski runs and jumps have been carved out above an ordinary-looking industrial area surrounded by brown hills.

Completely absent is the charm of a ski town in an alpine setting, where the gorgeousness of the surroundings is a vital element of the event. The Tour de France cycle race, staged in the world’s premier tourism nation, understands that the scenery is more important than the actual contest for many viewers.


Banff, Canada. This town was once an Olympic contender.

What comes next, in terms of this trend? Surely a winter Olympics where the hills are erected, like a roller coaster frame, on a flat area in the suburbs of a major northern city.

Why stop there? If snow can be synthesized, so can the cold conditions necessary to sustain it. Refrigerant pipes can be laid underground, to preserve the white stuff once it’s been made.

Or the whole scene can be moved indoors, into a sort of large hangar, in which the ambient temperature is kept low. The skating and curling events have done this forever, so let’s ski inside as well.


Once we accept that snow spewed from pipes is as good as the real thing, we should take the next logical step and glide on plastic toothbristle, as seen in indoor ski venues in places like London and Canberra.

And since Covid has made international flights and quarantining such a pain, there’s really no need to travel at all. The contestants can phone in their performances from the local ski run or ice rink, leaving them to be expertly melded into a race on your screen.


From there it’s just a short step to using avatars instead of actual contestants, and the whole thing can be devised in a CGI studio in the Hollywood Hills, Silicon Valley or Wellington, New Zealand.

This accepts the fact that the competitions have few on-site spectators and are mainly staged for the benefit of people watching at home. The concocted event can look better than the real thing.

The Gulf War Did Not Take Place, wrote French cultural theorist Jean Baudrillard in his celebrated monograph in 1991. He was even more prescient than he knew.

Photo by Braden Jarvis


The glitter behind the lockdown cloud

Every cloud is trimmed with gold braid – even lockdown.

  1. It reduces our range of activities. This hurts, but also allows us to focus. We can concentrate on two or three important areas, rather than six or seven.
  2. Normal activities often involve conflicts. For example, R&D and sales can be in opposition. If we can deliver on one of these we’ll achieve something.
  3. Stressed systems, such as hearing, nerves, or our livers are given a compulsory rest.
  4. Lockdown forces us to do old things in new ways, as many of the historic routines can’t be sustained. Often the new ways will be found to be better.
  5. Fewer resources means we have to do things more cheaply or simply. Some of these economies will survive the ending of the crisis.
  6. Inevitably, lockdown will put firms out of business and reduce competition. This is a grim fact. If you can survive, you’ll find a clearer field afterwards. The enterprises that were struggling in normal times will have folded.
  7. On that topic, Bill Gates has said that every business should aim to have a year’s reserves – in other words, be able to last 12 months without sales. Who the hell can do that? Still, you can see his point.

After the perm, it’s still a dog

The corner restaurant near this office has been through five tenants in recent years. Each spends money on a new name and new fitout, but these don’t stop the venture from failing.

We’ve had a Mexican, Turkish, contemporary, Asian, and one I can’t remember.

In each of the formats, there’s been nothing wrong with the food or service. But the floor size of the premises is enormous and would need a lot of diners in order to be profitable. Many of the tables are empty during the week. The two-highway exposure must also push up the rent.


And this is on a high street that’s already overserviced with casual restaurants.

What startles me is the faith that each new operator has in a fresh concept, as if this will be the one to break through into profitability. A revamp is seen as the answer.

You can dress up these premises any way you like and the business fundamentals aren’t going to change much. A dog remains a dog, regardless of the color of its coat.

Go where your competitors won’t

We’ve all got business rivals, and it’s easy to believe that nothing is as tough as our own industry. That’s because we’re all fishing for customers in the same pond.

There are people out there who would love to hear from you and know more about your products. You simply haven’t thought of them yet.


Let’s say you’re working in the food industry, but dream of sailing the oceans as a luxury yacht captain. Indulge your hopeless fantasy by reading their blogs. Comment on providoring topics, where you might be able to add a fresh angle to the conversation.

Become the only person of your professional type whom they’ve ever encountered online.

You’ll one day be able to laugh behind your sails when colleagues and competitors complain how hard their life is.

Icecream isn’t hard

Next to our office is a coffee and food shop that is about to go bust. It’s the third to do so on that site. This is in a major suburban centre that already has about 100 coffee and lunch venues.

What’s the thinking behind these ventures? Perhaps it’s the notion that if they can make a go of it, so can we.

One hundred struggling casual restaurants.

In a different suburb that we visit, there’s also a surfeit of coffee and snack venues. As well, there’s a single tiny icecream vendor that is so swamped with business that it’s set up a purple velvet rope on the pavement to control the crowds.

Cut back to the dying coffee shop. Out of desperation, it has expanded its offering. The place now boasts breakfast, lunch and dinner with 20 dishes on the blackboard menu. Why miss out on a single potential customer?

But what do people crave after they’ve eaten lunch and coffee? A simple dessert, something sweet.

Such as an icecream.

Amazingly, nobody has set up in competition to this massively successful vendor. Yet.

The numerous restaurants in these two suburbs offer a free lesson in business success and failure to any member of the public who cares to take notice.

A chalkboard menu, the same as all the others? Or icecream and a velvet rope? The answer isn’t hard.