A permanent site would reduce the economic & environmental burden of the Olympics

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Photo: Curtis Heinzl

In the 21st century, the Olympics have proven to have negative repercussions on the people who live in host cities, causing insurmountable amounts of debt and the mass destruction of local environments from event preparation.

For these reasons, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) should seriously consider a permanent site for the Olympics where these problems can be properly managed.

In 2016, the summer Olympics hosted in Rio promised tourism revenue, job opportunities, improved public transit, and a new public safety plan to create a safer and happier city. Instead, tens of thousands of residents were displaced from their homes to make room for an Olympic Village, and increased policing resulted in a surge in police brutality.

The 2016 Rio Olympics exemplified a problem host cities have been facing for a long time—the cost of the Olympics causes a level of economic burden that doesn’t result in long-term benefits.

For citizens within the host city, the Olympics is often detrimental and destructive. The positivity and stability the Olympics is supposed to bring to a city rarely benefits those who are already struggling financially.

The problems associated with hosting the Olympics aren’t isolated to Rio. Beijing, for instance, evicted and relocated 1.5 million residents in preparation for the 2008 Summer Olympics. Los Angeles has already started to increase policing in preparation for the 2028 Olympics.

It’s often assumed the costs of hosting the Olympics will be recuperated by the funds brought in by tourism. However, the expenses have risen to the point where tourism alone can’t save these cities from Olympic debt.

Olympic debt was considered “manageable” throughout the 20th century, but this is no longer the case. Even before the pandemic eliminated tourism at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, it had already gone over budget by more than $15 billion USD.

This money is often spent on building infrastructure essential to the games. Stadiums, swimming pools, and ski jumps are built without a concrete plan for long-term use. This results in abandoned, rotting buildings present all over the world.

The IOC was founded on the principles of unity, solidarity, and sustainability. However, it’s clear these principles can’t be accomplished when host cities are being constantly devastated financially by the hosting process.

Finding a permanent site—or multiple permanent sites available for rotation—would curb many of the Olympics-related problems. Not only could the infrastructure be reused and maintained, but a permanent management team could make continuous improvements on how the Olympics are run instead of passing the responsibility onto new people every year.

If the IOC is concerned with creating a sustainable, harm-free Olympics, they need to start thinking long-term. The best way to do that is to stay in one spot.

Kirby is a fourth-year Global Development Studies student and one of The Journal’s Features Editors.

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