My favorite headline regarding the Summer Olympics seven years hence addresses the possibility that Tokyo's bid might prevail. It reads: "Radioactive Leak Won't Affect 2020 Games."
The citizens of Japan in general and Tokyo in particular certainly hope not, as does anybody partial to the viability of the Pacific Ocean as a source of life rather than death.
The Olympics are brave and glorious. They bring people together from around the world.
The Olympics are ruinously expensive and riddled with corruption on the part of those who choose the site and those who decide who'll build the facilities and those who do the actual building. The host city inevitably pushes the poor from their homes to construct flamboyant arenas certain to become derelict when the Games are over.
The Olympics enable a country to showcase its attractions to the world, providing a spectacle of diversity to everyone who watches the Games from afar and boosting tourism.
The Olympics provide tyrants with a political gift: the opportunity to celebrate their mad notions of the superiority of one nationality or political system over another.
When the Olympics occur in a country where human rights are threatened or denied, as such rights are, for example, for the gay population in Russia countries espousing democracy and tolerance of difference, no matter how recently they've assumed that stance, have a duty to boycott the Games.
Countries choosing to boycott the Olympics surrender the opportunity to make a statement. A skater or skier waving a rainbow striped cap as his or her flag is raised will make a more powerful statement than his or her absence would have made, and it will be more fun.
The Olympics are a blessing unless they're a curse. That's something either Tokyo, Madrid, or Istanbul will find out beginning this weekend, when one of those cities gets what it has officially wished for and wins – if wins is the appropriate word – the opportunity to host the 2020 Games. In each of those cities there are people who will be thrilled if their bid prevails. They regard the Olympics as proof of their city's rank among the world's top-flight sites. In each city there are also people who will be angry about the expense and concerned for the people who live or work in neighborhoods doomed to be destroyed and then beautified for the entertainment of temporary visitors.
Good luck to the losers in coping with their disappointment, but good luck to the winners, too.
This program aired on September 4, 2013.