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Posted: August 20, 2016

A can’t lose proposal to improve the Olympic Games

Gerry Warner“Perceptions” by Gerry Warner

You may not know it, but the Olympic Games really are ancient, stretching all the way back to 776 BC on the plains of Olympus when a cook named Koroibis won the foot race, which was 600 feet long and athletes were often naked when they competed, something like beach volleyball, but I digress.

The modern Olympics began fittingly enough in Athens in 1896 and were the brainchild of Frenchman Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who wanted the first Games held in Paris in 1900, but everyone was so enthralled with the idea, the Games were moved ahead four years and held in the ancient Greek capital to great acclaim.

Since then, the Olympic Games have been held every four years in 22 cities with Athens, London, Los Angeles and Paris each having held the games twice. Athletes don’t run, jump or frolic in the sand half-naked anymore, but there is one thing consistent about the modern Olympics – they almost always lose money, tremendous amounts of money.

The 1976 Montreal Olympics, for example, cost $1.6 billion and took 30 years to pay off. The Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia are believed to be the most expensive yet, but the actual cost is a closely kept secret. However, you can believe it’s more rubles than you or I can count.

But John Rennie Short, a public policy professor at the University of Maryland, thinks he has a better idea and many strongly agree with him. It’s a simple and elegant idea, and oh would it save money! Hold the Olympics at the same location every year. Not only would it save tons of money, but it would hopefully reduce Olympic corruption too if that’s possible.

“The poor get screwed to hold the Olympics because they often get displaced,” says Rennie, adding the Beijing Olympics alone forced up to half-a-million Chinese residents to leave their homes, which were promptly demolished.

Keeping the Olympics in the same location offers many other advantages too. The Games now are largely a real estate play with billions spent on infrastructure to build and service Olympic venues, which of course, are funded by the local taxpayers while the International Olympic Committee and big broadcasters make millions in profit in licensing fees and selling advertising. And more often than not when the Games are over the huge stadiums and other facilities left over from the events become giant white elephants sitting half empty or totally empty, or in the case of the infamous “Big O” stadium in Montreal, start crumbling to the ground.

The amount of waste associated with staging an Olympic Games has become obscene and so has the corruption accompanying the waste.

Another advantage to keeping the Games at one locale is it would create better benchmarks for the athletes because the venues would always be the same and so would the altitude and general weather conditions. When the Games were held in Mexico City in 1968 athletes who lived at high altitudes similar to the Mexican capital at 7,200 feet (2,250 metres) had a distinct advantage over the ones from lower coastal locations unless they were able to find a high altitude spot to train.

And to this writer at least, and probably many others, the most obvious permanent location for the summer Olympics would be Greece where the historic and mythological tradition began in the first place. Think of it. The Olympic torch being lit on Mt. Olympus and being carried by runners – preferably of the female, half naked, beach volleyball variety – down the volcanic slopes of the spiritual mountain to a Great Stadium in Athens where roses and garlands would be presented to them as one of the shapely runners mounted the pedestal to light the Olympic Flame.

You can bet this would draw a world-wide TV audience in the billions and in fairness most of the TV profits should go to pay for any new facilities needed to be built and to Greece itself which started this wonderful, world-wide tradition to begin with and has an economy badly in need of a boost.

I don’t see how anyone could disagree with my proposal.

Gerry Warner is a retired journalist, who hasn’t been to Wreck Beach in years.

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