It’s always a pleasure to run across a brilliant, simple solution to a real problem which results in one of those forehead smacking, why didn’t I think of that moments. I had one of those today when reading an opinion piece at the Washington Post by Paul Glastris on the subject of the Olympics. His premise is a simple one: stop moving the Olympics around from city to city and country to country and just pick a place for it to happen permanently.
The best case for this argument can be made simply by observing the comings and goings in Rio, where this year’s Summer Olympic Games seem poised to be considered a success if a large number of people don’t actually die from the effects of pollution, disease, corruption, economic collapse, civil unrest or terrorism. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) keeps selecting host cities in a process which is clearly equal parts corruption and political correctness. The result is a mishmash of host cities which have been producing spectacular failures in the execution of the games, huge embarrassment and massive sports facilities which lie empty and fall into decay once the games leave town.
Glastris goes into a number of excellent arguments against this revolving door policy in his article. Even in the best prepared and most economically and socially stable countries, it’s almost a miracle if the games manage to break even financially and they are never the long term, hoped for economic stimulus which is promised. There are very few exceptions to that rule. Security concerns are a constant worry as well. The list goes on. In his summary, the author makes the case for a permanent home for the games quite persuasively.
The current Olympic site selection system has become so obviously ridiculous that countries that might otherwise like to host the Games are thinking twice about bidding. Two years ago, Norway pulled out of contention for the 2022 Winter Olympics because of the expense as well as revelations about the entitled demands of the IOC — including specially designated highway lanes for IOC members. Last July, despite efforts by the IOC to help host cities reduce costs, Boston dropped its bid to be the site of the 2024 Summer Olympics after a state-financed report concluded that the only sure way for a city not to lose massive amounts of money would be for the Games to return to that city every four years. A permanent home for the Olympics is such a clearly practical idea that it’s possible to imagine it garnering widespread support — except, of course, within the IOC.
We don’t even need this mess in the United States. It may seem like an honor, but it’s a massive headache. Glastris suggests returning the games to their point of origin and just holding them in Greece every time. That’s a fantastic idea. It keeps with the tradition of the event, it’s (at least somewhat) centrally located between various eastern and western cultures and it’s accessible. The Greeks could certainly use the income which would result from a permanent location as well. And it could be profitable in the long run if the games stayed there. Facilities could be built correctly the first time and workers would be needed permanently to keep up with maintenance and perform modifications as new games are added and older ones are dropped. The knowledge base of people who are able to run such an endeavor would remain intact as well, rather than having to build it from scratch every four years. And we could remove the corrupt influence of the IOC to a great degree. All of the countries who want to participate could kick in to a permanent fund to be used for the maintenance of the facilities and the operation of the actual games.
The list of reasons to do this is nearly endless and the arguments against it are little more than self-serving political ploys. Let’s just lock down the Olympics in one place, maximize the security around them and be done with it. And Greece is an obvious and acceptable choice to be their home.