It’s time for a permanent Olympic city

Jack Hudson

Recent issues in Rio de Janeiro such as raw sewage in water, the Zika virus, corruption, and rampant crime dominated headlines over the past few months.  However, this is far from the first time there were major issues with the preparation and execution of the recently-end Olympics, and the aftermath has historically presented problems as well.  A possible solution that could end these issues is moving the Olympics to a permanent location.

The idea behind hosting the Olympics is partly about pride and wanting to gain national attention, and partly about trying to stimulate economic growth. Host countries hope to subsidize the costs of preparation with a boosted tourism industry and the creation of jobs.  This plan sounds good on the surface, but it never truly comes to fruition.  

One major problem is the phenomenon of “gigantism,” which means the Olympics have become such a massive spectacle that the cost of hosting has soared to record highs.  Recently, the predicted cost of the Olympics has been dwarfed by the actual cost.  According to the New York Times, The 2012 London Olympics were predicted to cost $3.8 billion, and ended up costing over $18 billion, an increase of more than 473 percent.  The Sochi Winter Olympics were even more shocking, with a projected cost of $12 billion that ballooned to over $50 billion, an increase of at least 417 percent, and more expensive than every other Winter Olympics combined.

Redesigned infrastructure and new venues are almost always necessary to host the massive influx of people and athletes that accompanies the Olympics.  These have to be built somewhere, and this is usually in poor areas, where the land is cheaper.  

In a way, the Olympics can be looked at as a massive government-sponsored form of gentrification, forcing people of a lower socioeconomic status to have no choice but to leave their homes.

According to the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, in preparation for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, 1.5 million people were evicted from their homes.  Even during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, 30,000 people had to leave their homes to make way for new developments.

What makes this process even worse is that the buildings built for the Olympics often go into disuse and either cost millions for maintenance every year, or worse, fall into disrepair.  Billions are spent on building stadiums for an event that is only about two weeks long, displacing a tremendous amount of people each time, and then after the Olympics, the stadiums either become useless, or more money is spent on repurposing.

For example, the $700 million London Olympic stadium was repurposed into a stadium for soccer team West Ham United — better than not being used, but costing an additional $400 million according to National Geographic.

There was once a need for rotating host cities because the Olympics is an international event and people around the world should have the chance to experience it.  However, the rise of television and the internet, which allow people around the world to follow the games no matter the location, all but nullifies what was once the best reason for rotating host cities.

All of these economic and moral problems could be solved with a simple solution: move the Olympics to a permanent venue.  The location that would seemingly make the most sense is Athens, Greece.

This move would make sense on a variety of levels.  First, Greece is stuck in a crippling economic crisis, and needs a major project to help it recover.  The Olympics are undoubtedly a lucrative economic opportunity, but the potential for economic output is negated by the fact that they are a one-time event with such a high cost for preparation.  If the buildings received continual use every four years, the investment would be much more profitable.

Secondly, a permanent home in Athens would be beneficial to athletes and fans.  Security risks like terrorist attacks seemingly become a bigger and bigger problem each year, and a permanent venue could offer improved security to counteract these.  Also, a truly first class Olympic Village could be built instead of a makeshift complex with limitless issues.    

Also, Athens is the birthplace of the Olympics, making it a prime candidate with historical value.  The first modern Olympics were also held in Athens in 1896.  So, why not bring the Olympics back to where they started?