It’ll be a heated summer in Paris and Los Angeles, as both cities vie for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Ahead of the announcement on September 14, even the number of social media followers are creating controversy.
This is exactly what the International Olympic Committee (IOC) would like, two competing cities driving online engagement, all in the spirit of the Olympic Movement. This healthy competition will push the planning and bid committees to spread positivity about the Olympics around the world.
In the end, both cities might be declared winners. There are rumors that the IOC will name one city the winner of the 2024 Games and the runner-up as the host of the 2028 Games. This is a good idea, as both cities are top-notch finalists.
However, the IOC’s plan highlights a deeper issue: the unsustainability of selecting different host countries for each Olympic Games.
High building costs, paired with limited post-Games usage are a very large barrier for potential host countries. Many countries are passing on hosting the games – which ultimately hurts the Olympic brand.
A look to the past
In December 2014, I had the opportunity to tour London’s Olympic Park. Since the Games two years prior, most of the Olympic venues had either been converted for new use or disassembled and used elsewhere. Besides a set of Olympic Rings featured prominently on a nearby hill, you would not be able to tell that the site hosted an Olympic Games.
This was entirely by design. London planners based every facility decision on future use.
This is very rare for most Olympic Games. The Rio games cost $12 billion. The Sochi Winter Games cost $55 billion. Many of the venues used in these Olympics sit dormant after only one month’s use. In fact, Rio’s top stadium, The Maracanã, is in complete disrepair. With elevating price tags, cities and nations are sitting out on the chance to host. The 2004 Summer Olympics had 11 bidders, 2020 only had five, and 2024 has Paris and Los Angeles.
A Greek Solution
The current model of creating and hosting an Olympics is unsustainable, but there is a simple solution: host the games in one location.
Athens, Greece is the original Olympic host and it should become the sole Olympic host. The IOC should invest in building permanent structures in this location with funds from television and sponsorship contracts. Countries that invest in building the permanent Olympic Park would then receive a percent stake in revenue every four years. By providing land used during the 2004 Olympics, Greece would receive a revenue share and a guarantee of tourist dollars. A similar scenario could play out in neutral Switzerland for the Winter Olympics. The result would be a sports hub that gives rise to a new class of athletic heroes with each Olympics.
While this seems like a logical solution, it will not be explored until no country throws its hat in the ring for a chance to host the Games. The IOC needs to be proactive in its planning efforts to ensure that a bidding process isn’t bid-less. This would be a black eye for the usually prideful IOC.
It’s time for the IOC to return the games to its birthplace – with the focus on sustainability.