Steven den Beste has a thought-provoking essay about Olympic competition, and its consequences for those who practice it.
It begins, though, with a brief discussion of World's Fairs, which is what I thought the comment would be about. It's saddening that the decline of this tradition doesn't warrant a whole essay in itself.
I'm fascinated by the 1939 New York World's Fair. (Apparently I'm not alone.) I'm not a collector of memorabilia -- but I would be if I could afford it.
The '39 Fair represented a peak of technological inspiration we spent the next fifty years trying to live up to. I find it all the more ironic that most subsequent Fairs left prominent landmarks behind, but very little remains of the 1939 Fair proper. The signature Trylon and Perisphere were torn down for scrap, for the War Effort, shortly after the Fair's closing. In a sense, though, the world we lived in from war's end through the sixties was the world promised us at Flushing Meadows in 1939.
But its dreams of the future, persuasive as they were, were eventually overrun by technology, which has a perverse habit of not developing the way its supposed to.
It may be that the construction of an intentionally short-lived theme park is less viable in these days of Disneyland, Six Flags, and Busch Gardens. Organizations who might have built a pavilion in New York in 1939, today sign a sponsorship / partnership deal with Epcot Center.
It may be that the world of the twenty-first century and beyond has easier, more cost-effective ways to celebrate itself. Part of what excites me about the Internet is that it may be one of those ways.