The significant cost of hosting the London 2012 Olympics is justified, in part, by claims that the games will inspire greater social cohesion, promote peace and encourage the public adoption of active healthy lifestyles. This critical review paper examines these justifications and finds them wanting. The first section provides a socio-historic examination of the development of Olympism to reveal the concept as mythical in a Barthesian sense. In contrast to the idealistic claim that the Olympics fosters peace, this paper argues that the "spectacularization" of the games has produced them as a space that encourages performances of protest and threats/acts of terror. Through critical analysis of governmental justifications for investing in the Olympics, the second section concludes that such investment rests, in part, on the flawed rhetoric of Olympism. Overall, it is contended that the International Olympic Committee's promotion of a set of Olympic myths play a significant political role in government decisions to host the Olympics, as evidence illustrates that lay knowledge reigns supreme in the context of sporting policy development.