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Bring the Olympics Back Home To Greece: A groundswell of support for the idea

Tuesday, August 23, 2016  |   |  Tags:

Yesterday, HALC launched a petition to the International Olympic Committee asking it explore the idea of making Greece a permanent home for the Summer Olympics.

Paul Glastis made the case the idea this summer in The Washington Monthly:

The IOC fancies itself not just the trustee of the modern Olympics but as a player in global governance. Its power derives from its ability to choose which countries will get to host the games—a prize that nations covet and compete for almost as hard as they do the games themselves. The IOC wields that power to ends it deems worthy. It bestowed the 2008 summer games on Beijing to incentivize China’s peaceful integration into the world community. The 1998 games went to Seoul to encourage an emerging civilian government. Brazil won in large part because no South American country had ever hosted before.

The problem is that hosting the Olympic games in a different city every year is unnecessary and, as a matter of basic management, moronic. For one thing, it’s incredibly expensive. A host city must build billions of dollars worth of infrastructure to accommodate the games, much of which later sits around unused or gets torn down. Part the reason for Greece’s debt crisis—and the continuing Depression-level economic hardships Greece is suffering under the jackboot of its European lenders, especially Germany–is the billions it borrowed to host the 2004 Olympics. Greece’s dilemma was not lost on the UK voters who supported Brexit.

Glastris isn’t the only one calling for a chance in the Olympics. For years, commentators, economists and pundits have called on making Greece the permanent home (or one of the permanent homes) for the Olympics. This year alone, there’s been a flood of editorials and op-eds on the matter. Here’s just a sampling…

Jonathan Zimmerman at Salon:

The international community has providedseveral bailouts in exchange for austerity measures, which have only made matters worse. But here’s one thing that might make them better: moving the Summer Olympics to Greece. Permanently.

There’s no good reason to keep rotating the games every four years to a different country, which must then expend billions of dollars on new infrastructure. […]

So the IOC should take charge of creating a permanent home for the Olympics in Greece, which could ease its debt burden by selling land for the facility. Meanwhile, the IOC could pay for construction by floating bonds based on future revenues. […]

With the assistance of the international community, however, Greece could surely serve as the permanent home for today’s Olympics. Some observers have suggested that the IOC build a new facility on a deserted Greek island or on the Peloponnesian peninsula, site of the ancient Games. Others say that the buildings erected in Athens in 2004 could be upgraded and expanded for future Olympics. […]

Now that the Rio games have concluded, then, let’s resolve to make a permanent home for the Summer Olympics in their original one. We have the strength to achieve anything, as the triumphant Eleftherios Petrounias proclaimed last week. But we have to do it together.

, writing in MarketWatch:

[H]olding the Games in one place will discontinue the bidding process that breeds bribery; it will deprive rich countries of the opportunity to taunt their wealth; it will rob despots of the opportunity to masquerade as entertainers; and it will save developing countries the kind of embarrassments that now await Brazil.

As for the permanent host’s identity, it should be a no-brainer: Greece.

Greece already built everything the Games require, and in fact will be able to use its new task to rehabilitate economically, though that national benefit is marginal in what should be a global benefit.

The global benefit, besides tempering the Games’ financial contamination, will be in the political realm, because a permanently Greek Olympics will lift them above the world’s political struggles; just like they did, for two weeks, every four years, for nearly a thousand years, in ancient Greece.

Matt Hickman at Mother Nature Network:

Why not completely do away with the host city selection process, a process deemed by Bloomberg as a “perverse form of auction,” and erect — or better yet, repurpose — two permanent, dedicated Olympic venues in two different cities? Or how about a single permanent venue that could feasibly host both the winter and summer games and be used for smaller sporting and cultural events in the interim?

After all, holding massive, once-a-year sporting event in the same location instead of moving it around isn’t all that rare. It has worked well for tennis — and it also worked well for the ancient Olympic Games, which were held in the same exact spot every four years on Greece’s Peloponnese for hundreds of years beginning in 776 B.C. Why not apply this model to large-scale biennial and quadrennial events?

Sure, the prestige and multicultural appeal of a globetrotting games would be all but lost along with the glory of competing — and winning — in one’s home country. But when looking at the pros and cons of the Olympics host city model, a model increasingly associated with corruption and financial ruin, the argument for a permanent home for the Olympics becomes stronger.

Derek Boosey at InsideTheGames:

My suggestion would be to have countries bid to “theme host” the Games near Olympia with the IOC and Greece. To explain further, let me use an example – India. Assume that India is chosen to “theme host” the 2028 inaugural new home Olympic Games.

Here we have a civilization which is distinctive for its antiquity and continuity. The continuity of Indian civilization is largely due to its ability to adapt to alien ideas. India has a population of over a billion mostly young people and is expected to be in the top three countries in the financial world within the next 20 years.

India could be responsible for the Opening and Closing Ceremony. You’d have many years to prepare in India and then could move the cast of people and equipment to Olympia in time for some rehearsals in the Olympic Stadium and then the historic Opening and later the Closing Ceremony.

They should also be allocated a sufficient number of positions in each of the different organisational divisions in Olympia from 2024 to 2028 which will provide a learning experience which goes with hosting the Games.

The Olympic Torch would be lit in Olympia and then flown to New Delhi. Following an extravagant ceremony the Torch could then be carried by tens of thousands of runners, walkers and wheelchair users to every corner of India over several months. Then the Torch would be flown back to the Peloponnese peninsula, and run through the nine cities, or maybe ten by 2028, before finally entering the new Olympic Stadium during the Opening Ceremony.

Greece can provide the main stadium and other venue decorations as well as the security, with assistance from specialists from around the world, including Greek and United Nations military personnel.

Uri Friedman at The Atlantic runs down the many, many proposals for revamping the Olympics:

But wouldn’t installing the Olympics in one country tarnish the global nature of the Games? The author Roger Howard offers one potential solution: What if the IOC granted long-term hosting rights to one city, which in turn could sell rights to host each Olympic Games to a different country? The city would essentially be renting out its Olympics infrastructure. Imagine, for instance, Kenya organizing the opening and closing ceremonies in London. Howard continues:

Of course the choice of a permanent home for the Games would be highly contentious. But such a responsibility could be exercised imaginatively, and even used as a form of developmental aid. So the IOC could offer this exclusive right to a developing country that desperately needs foreign investment. …

Alternatively, the Games could be based on Western soil but the hosting rights perhaps sold to a developing country at a heavily subsidised price.

Some propose rotating the Olympics among several cities that recently hosted the Olympics—perhaps choosing five to represent the five interlocking rings of the Olympic symbol—or cycling them through one permanent venue on each continent.

Here’s more from Christina Larson at The Washington Monthly:

We may be looking at a future in which the games bounce between a dozen large countries–each inventing more creative ways to bribe the IOC, but none capturing the experience to perfect the art of hosting. One can only pray that the Olympics this summer in Athens don’t go horribly awry. But if the city manages to carry it off with only an average number of snafus, there’s an argument to be made that we keep the Olympics there forever–and give the Greeks a chance to perfect their invention.

Norman Chad at The Times Union:

it makes abundant sense to abandon the cash-pit carousel and give the Olympics a permanent home. That’s the way it used to work — the ancient Games were held in Olympia, Greece for nearly 12 centuries starting in 776 B.C. and nobody on social media complained about any of it back then.

So why not reestablish Olympia as the permanent site? It’s Olympia, for goodness sakes — if you’re called Olympia, nobody expects you to host the Grammy Awards, but it’s somewhat obvious you should be home to the Olympics.

Amanda Vanstone at The Sydney Morning Herald:

Being the permanent host for the Olympics would give [Greece] a great lift. Basic infrastructure would improve, which, aside from servicing the Olympics, would help people who wanted to work and make money do just that.

Tourism would increase, providing jobs. There are other reasons why it’s a good idea. For a start it would end the ridiculous competition associated with countries vying to win the hearts and minds of the IOC.

The Bloomberg editorial board:

Olympia in Greece, which hosted the games for almost 12 centuries from 776 BC, is often proposed for the Summer Games — indeed the Greek government offered 1,250 acres near Olympia in 1980. The Winter Games could take place in Japan, say, or Switzerland. At these permanent locations, the investment in state-of-the-art facilities would make financial sense. The venues could be carved out on neutral soil, much like the United Nations in New York, and operated using revenue from tickets, TV rights and merchandise.

Another reason to find the games a permanent home is politics. Sochi has attracted controversy for Russia’s laws against promoting homosexuality. The Beijing Games in 2008 were a concern for many because of China’s poor human-rights record. And the tit-for-tat U.S. and Soviet boycotts of the games, in Moscow in 1980 and Los Angeles four years later, did huge damage to those as sporting events. (In 1984, the U.S. Congress debated a resolution in favor of a fixed Olympic home, precisely to end such boycotts. It passed, both Congress and into oblivion.)

The self-interest of the cities and countries wanting their turn in the Olympic sun has so far prevented change. To meet the criticism that grounding the games would favor one part of the world over others, maybe there could be five permanent venues, in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America, and the games would rotate among them. That could work, too.

Which solution is used to end Olympics inflation, and the corruption it encourages, is less important. What matters is that one is chosen — and that the selection merry-go-round is stopped.

The Houston Chronicle:

Athens as a permanent home would mean that an infrastructure already would be in place, as well as trained personnel, and there would never be any question about whether the host city could follow through with its commitment, as was the case this year. (Which city ought to host the winter games is a knottier question.) Athens also would be a permanently neutral place, presumably free of the regional conflicts and sectarian disputes that have roiled the games in the past.

Tokyo is the 2020 host city. Beyond Tokyo, the Olympic flame should return to Greece – and never leave.

That’s enough Olympic crankiness for one day. Let the games begin.

If you haven’t signed the petition yet, click here to add your name and help bring the Olympics back home to Greece.  

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