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Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Let's Find a Few Permanent Venues for the Olympics

The Olympic Stadium in Barcelona lies dormant.  Montreal went into so much debt to host the 1976 Olympics that it took 30 years to pay it off.  The Sochi Olympics were iffy in their execution, and Rio looks to be a nightmare. You only have to be as dedicated and single-minded (or as crazy) to put up with the pollution that the waterborne athletes must.  What's worse, the IOC tries to extract a lot of high-minded commitments when soliciting bids, doubling down on the irony of the whole thing given that the IOC usually starts operating from somewhere just barely north of the gutter. 

So what's the answer?  In order not to bankrupt the entire world for games  when so many live beneath the poverty level, and in order to have good, modern facilities, good accommodations for visitors  and a safe environment for all, the IOC simply should focus on six venues that would rotate every twelve years -- three for winter games and three for summer games.  Perhaps they could host various competitions during intervals  to raise some funds.  I  don't know  where those should be  or what the process should be for hosting them, but they will get built -- with support from the IOC and its member federations -- and stay current.  Period.

The Rio debacle commands no less.   Brazil has a whole roster of problems that go beyond whether there are good shower curtains for the Australian Olympic team.  Their economy is a mess, their government is a mess, crime in urban areas is awful and  the country should strive to have many fewer people living in favelas.  So what do they do?  They go out and first host the World Cup, which went off surprisingly well, and now the Olympics, where pollution, crime and the Zika virus compete for front-page coverage around the world. 

My guess is that critics of this proposal would say it comes from an entitled first world and that everyone should get a chance to host the games, and sorry, Yankee, if you'd be more uncomfortable in Rio than say Los Angeles (which is home to air pollution, thousands of homeless people kept out of sight and a significant gang problem), where they speak English and you might get around more easily.  Perhaps I am blind to that.   But what is hard to dispute are the staggering requirements for people, organization, processes and funds to pay for these games.  And, if that's not in dispute, then let's work together to craft "permanent" locations that can  save governments around the world money and time. 

Everyone would still enjoy the Olympics.  The venues could be spectacular and accessible.  And safe.  And have uses for well after the games conclude, including as international conclaves for all sorts of sporting competitions. 

But with the IOC, who knows?   They could do just the opposite -- if the price is right.


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