Next week representatives from Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington will present evidence that their cities should host the Summer Olympics in 2024. Bill Littlefield thinks there should be some ground rules for those trying to make that case to the IOC and to the citizens of the various cities.
The Olympics come with baggage.
It can be argued that the baggage is sufficiently ugly as to render the Games unworthy of the effort and disruption their production requires.
Those representing allegedly hopeful cities should be forbidden from arguing that preparing for the Games will benefit citizens by accelerating road repairs and the construction of better public transportation.
Hosting the Olympics is always expensive, and often, as in the case of the Games in Montreal and Athens and Sochi, it is ruinously expensive. Building done in the name of the Olympics often displaces the people least capable of finding somewhere else to live. Sometimes that construction results in venues that prove to be useless when the circus has left town. Check the photographs of the dilapidated and abandoned venues that hosted volleyball, rowing and canoeing in Greece.
But as long as we all crave images of excellence and buy the idea that striving for it is worthwhile, the Games are likely to go on. On balance, I’m fine with that. I was in London for a week during the 2012 Summer Olympics. I’d been told there would be weapons mounted on the roofs of the hotels and that everything everybody did would be captured on videotape. Perhaps that was so. Perhaps it still is.
But what I will remember about those Games was an arena full of people cheering more and more heartily for Epke Zonderland of the Netherlands as he bid gravity adieu on the horizontal bars, and the celebrating fans of the basketball team from Argentina after their guys beat Brazil. Those fans sang and danced in the concourse of the O2 Arena so long that they missed the next game … and that next game featured, among others, LeBron James.
[sidebar title="A 'White Elephant' In The Amazon?" width="630" align="right"] The future is murky for a Brazilian stadium constructed for the 2014 World Cup. [/sidebar]So the Olympics are at once a mad indulgence and a glorious spectacle, and perhaps it will be thus as long as we have corporations and athletes.
Still, perhaps there ought to be a limit on the sleaze. Those representing allegedly hopeful cities should be forbidden from arguing that preparing for the Games will benefit citizens by accelerating road repairs and the construction of better public transportation. That pitch reminds me of the TV ads in which the oil companies assure us that their chief concern is protecting the environment.
And as those representatives from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washingto and Boston attempt to win the opportunity to host the 2024 Summer Games, shouldn't they be required to acknowledge that precedent guarantees their cost estimates are a lie? Shouldn't they admit upfront that in their town it will be as it has been elsewhere: the Olympics will be hard on the poor and hardest on the poorest? Shouldn't there at least be a warning label that says unless the people of their cities are willing to accept all that, they should wish the games on somebody else?