This is the seventh installment in our Things We’d Change in Sports series. To see the full list, visit this page.
It’s time for a radical change in the way the Olympic world picks its host cities.
It’s time for the sports world to tell the International Olympic Committee that it can no longer bankrupt cities in the name of hosting the Olympics.
It’s time for a rotation of cities that have already successfully put on the Olympics and have venues already in place to host the Winter and Summer Games, with a new site thrown in every fourth Olympiad.
An Olympic Games begins in celebration and often ends in frustration, disorganization and red ink. Cities, even countries, are plunged into debt. White elephants dot the landscape as once-glistening venues fall into weed-infested disrepair.
For more than a century, cities have competed for the honor of hosting the greatest sports event on earth. For decades, the decision was decidedly low key. Then things changed. Bidding for the Games became a decade-long ordeal.
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For several years, cities wine and dine IOC members in hopes of winning the vote for a particular Winter or Summer Olympics more than a half dozen years into the future. Millions of dollars are spent not on construction, not on youth sport development, not on municipal infrastructure — but on shrimp bowls and chocolate fountains and worldwide travel and jaw-dropping fawning over the faux royalty that is the IOC.
Enough is enough.
How would this work? Los Angeles is hosting the 2028 Summer Olympics, so let’s begin the rotation there. Sydney gets the 2032 Games, London 2036 and then a wild card — most likely a nation in Africa, a continent that has never hosted the Olympics — in 2040. Then the Games go back to L.A. in 2044, and on it goes.
Exchanging successful Olympic cities within a continent or global region is certainly an option, so perhaps the 2044 Games go to Toronto rather than L.A., the 2048 Games go to Tokyo rather than Sydney, and the 2052 Games to Paris rather than London. But the key to this rotation is that the infrastructure will already be in place so extravagant Olympic spending will not be necessary.
The same kind of rotation would take place for the Winter Olympics: Vancouver or another Canadian city; a city or cluster of cities or towns in Norway or the Alps; and an Asian city, perhaps in Japan or South Korea. Again, in the fourth Winter Olympiad, a new city or region would host the Games. And Salt Lake City or Denver or another U.S. city could switch out with Canada to host another Winter Olympic Games sometime in the future.
It’s understandable that some cities would feel slighted by being left out of the rotation while leaders in some of the chosen cities might not be so keen to keep hosting the Games every 16 years. That’s why there’s wiggle room built in.
Most importantly, the overwhelming financial burden of hosting the Olympics would be lessened. And the money that’s saved by those cities that are not starting anew every four years — Summer Olympic behemoths L.A., Sydney and London for instance?
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Place it in a fund to help a new Olympic site build its venues when it gets its chance, making it a win-win for all.