Monday, May 10, 2021
May 10, 2021

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Problems surrounding Rio Games show selection process needs to change

Commentary: Micah Rice

By , Columbian Sports Editor
Published:

Come for the crime, stay for the corruption.

For the world’s top athletes, we offer only the best half-finished accommodations and venues.

Enjoy our world-class beaches, never mind the raw sewage.

Then there’s also the Zika virus.

Olympics fever. Catch it.

While that pitch probably won’t get me hired by the Olympics, worries of Rio’s dirty and dangerous setting have wafted over next month’s Games.

This is the second consecutive Olympics in which problems associated with the Games have been a bigger storyline than the Games themselves. The 2014 Sochi Olympics were marred by massive corruption, slapshod construction and police presence that was fitting for, well, a police state.

Rio and Sochi show that while the Olympics should be open to all nations, not every nation is fit to host them.

Hopefully, the worst fears surrounding the Rio Games won’t come to pass. But change is needed in how the Olympics are hosted.

It used to be that cities fawned over the chance to host the Olympics. The world’s spotlight was welcomed, along with the promised improvements in tourism, civic investment and infrastructure.

That was the Olympic ideal. But like many ideals, it has become divorced from reality.

Now residents are urging their cities NOT to host the Olympics. Public pressure ended Boston’s bid to host the 2024 Games.

When cost overruns occur, as has happened with most Olympics, cities are left holding a tab that can run into the billions of dollars. People don’t want to trade their tax dollars for security headaches and sports venues that serve only a small section of the public.

And then there’s the corruption that is attracted to mega-projects like flies are drawn to, well, a Rio sailing venue.

At the Sochi Games, $30 billion earmarked for the Olympics simply vanished. The region’s citizens were left with white elephants while oligarchs drove off with trunks of cash.

The International Olympic Committee is complicent in all of this with a bidding process that invites bribery. Corruption allegations have hung over most recent Olympics, despite the expulsion of several IOC members who were on the take during Salt Lake City’s bid for the 2002 Olympics.

So, what’s the solution?

The Olympics should rotate between a handful of hosts that already have the sports venues, public interest and civic infrastructure.

Colorado, home of the U.S. Olympic Training Center, would make a fine regular North American host for the Winter Games. So would Calgary or Vancouver, B.C.

Four years later, the Olympics would move to the Alps. Japan would get its shot after that, then back to North America.

The Summer Games would have a similar rotation between cities that are willing and able to be regular hosts.

No more corrupt bidding processes. No more examples of the Olympics being foisted on cities that are unready or unable to host safely and efficiently.

And maybe, the spotlight might just return to where it belongs — the athletes.

Micah Rice is The Columbian’s Sports Editor. Reach him at 360-735-4548, micah.rice@columbian.com or on Twitter @col_mrice.

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