It’s February, and the 2018 Winter Olympics have arrived. South Korea, this year’s host nation, pumped $13 billion into stadiums and facilities that will host the world’s athletes, media members, dignitaries, and sports fans for all 17 days.
There don’t seem to be any looming disasters in Pyeongchang, like unfinished accommodations or malfunctioning venues as there were in Sochi and Rio. At least some of this year’s stadiums will be torn down, rather than left to rot like other Olympic complexes, hulking monuments financed by taxpayers and constructed with cheap labor.
The massive monetary and cultural burden of hosting the Olympics that falls on a new nation every two years often leads to social upheaval. Six years after Greece hosted the Olympics in 2004, the country adopted austerity measures and the people rioted. Rio’s citizens protested the Games themselves, along with the corruption of their political leaders and the destruction of their cities, which they viewed as inexorably linked to the Olympics.
The only similar worldwide event to the Olympics, the World Cup, has many of the same issues. Both events leave hundreds of derelict buildings– offsprings of corrupt politicking, massive expenditures for a brief payoff, all financed by taxpayers. Economies, countries, and localities alike are all left devastated, yet the Olympics themselves are undeniably a good thing.
The high-level competition between nations showcased at the Games ranges from entertaining to inspiring. Athletes strive against each other in truly global challenges, seeking to claim the title of “best in the world.” Countries work through their differences and develop fierce rivalries on battlefields that aren’t battlefields.
The Olympics should continue, but the nations that choose to host them often suffer great economic and structural harm as they scramble to shoulder the cost of such an undertaking. How can we make sure the tradition of the Olympics endures while addressing the problems it brings to its host countries?
We should resolve this disparity by creating a permanent Olympic host venue, partially financed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) itself, with the aid of participating Olympic nations.
Allowing the Games to move from country to country fosters national pride and gives unique nations an opportunity to display their cultural heritage for the world, it’s true. However, this policy ruins countries by requiring an extravagant expenditure for a festival that lasts less than three weeks. A permanent Olympic venue would be far more cost-effective.
Where would we place this new Olympic site, however? I suggest not one, but three permanent venues for every Olympic Game type. Each venue would play host to the Winter or Summer Olympics every twelve years, and there would be six venues total. The Olympic Parks, as I call them, would be spread across the world, with different regions of nations responsible for each Park. These regions would jointly host any Olympic Games in their Park.
I would place the Summer Olympic Parks in Olympia, Greece, in Johannesburg, South Africa, and in Rio de Janeiro. The Winter Olympic Parks would be hosted by Seattle/Vancouver, Beijing, and Lausanne, Switzerland.
If you’re an Olympics history buff, you may notice that all the host sites for my Olympic Parks have previously hosted Games or World Cup events– some quite recently. I expect this will make the initial construction of an Olympic venue easier, as host regions can refurbish existing stadiums and infrastructure. In between Games, the Parks will be kept in decent order by the IOC and their respective host regions, which will hold them open to any Olympic athletes who wish to train.
Building six Olympic Parks would halt a biennial cycle of wasteful expenditure that ruins nations and fosters corruption. It would also honor cities with rich Olympic history. The Games began in Olympia. Lausanne serves as headquarters for the IOC. Vancouver already hosted the Games twice. Beijing will soon host the 2022 Winter Games, making it the only city to host both Games. Rio has hosted the Games once before, and many of its existing facilities can be speedily repaired. South Africa has stadiums remaining from its World Cup venture not long ago.
Alternatively, the IOC could embrace a truly worldwide solution to the problem of oversized Olympic spending. As author Roger Howard suggested not long ago, in this age of technology, we have no need for events to occur in the same country. Each event could have a permanent venue, and the opening and closing ceremonies could move from country to country.
Whatever the choice, the current system of Olympic construction and abandonment is horrible stewardship that goes against both the uplifting spirit of the Games and good common sense. The world deserves better and the IOC can honor the Olympic tradition by ending this wasteful cycle and seeking permanence.