London 2012 has been a marvellous Olympics. The Brits learned a lot of lessons, particularly from Sydney, and sought to stage the best Games ever. As a patriotic Australian, I think they almost succeeded. It’s the second-best Games ever.
But there are a lot of questions that this Olympiad has thrown up, including the cost of staging such an extravaganza and the use of the very expensive infrastructure once the event is over.
So I pose the question: Have the Olympic Games grown too big for one city to host? Obviously, I think they have.
Just a regatta
While it has been an amazing experience being part of the Olympic sailing, in many ways it feels just like another major regatta. No different, really, to the World Championships at Perth 2011, except the weather has been about 10 degrees colder here in Portland.
The problem is that all the action is happening in London. Our sailors don’t get to see the Dream Team basketballers or Usain Bolt or Roger Federer or any of the other sporting megastars wandering around the athletes’ village.
I believe it is time that the IOC abandoned the “one city” policy and awarded the Games to a country or even to several countries, like a joint bid from Holland and Belgium, for example. I know that the whole concept of the Olympics was built on city states, but in our global world individual cities are no longer all that significant.
I propose that there would be two or three cities which would host various events. You would build the main stadium in the biggest city as track and field is still the keystone event. You would also stage some of the indoor events such as boxing, wrestling and weightlifting there. Perhaps restrict it to “original” Olympic events.
Then you could have an “aquatics” city, staging sailing, swimming, rowing and canoeing. The third centre would build a new velodrome for cycling and perhaps host all the ball sports such as tennis, football and golf, along with triathlon.
The advantages would be many:
Instead of needing a massive athletes’ village to host 23,000 athletes and officials, you would build three smaller ones to hold around 7,500 each. The sailors’ village in Portland will be sold off as a new townhouse development when the Games are over, reducing the overall cost of providing infrastructure. This could be done in each city, allowing three run-down areas of the country to be given a make-over, instead of just one.
By spreading the athletes over three venues, it would be easier to accommodate new sports or add new events to existing ones. Sailing could have windsurfing AND kiteboarding, and a men’s and women’s multihull for example, without having to drop other events.
Instead of one city having to build a new main stadium, a new aquatic centre and a new velodrome, which always threaten to become white elephants after the Games, there would be one major infrastructure item in each of the three centres. The host country would be able to base its elite athletes in three different centres after the Games, boosting three economies instead of one.
Accommodation for all the visitors is a problem at modern Olympics. No city has the hotel beds to accommodate all the international visitors who would like to come to the Games. Spread over three cities, more people could attend. Again, you would boost three economies instead of one.
Transport is always a problem. Again, by spreading the numbers of athletes, officials and supporters, existing infrastructure could be upgraded more easily to cope. The residual legacy from such upgrades would benefit more people in more places for many years after the Games.
There are no doubt problems with this concept that I haven’t thought through, and I welcome comments and suggestions below.
The major one would be getting everyone to the opening and closing ceremonies. But provided the three centres were less than an hour apart, those at the two outlying centres could be taken to the main stadium to participate. No-one who is competing on the first day marches in the opening ceremony anyway, so there would be plenty of time to get the athletes back to their own centre – and maybe the opening ceremonies could start earlier and be a bit shorter – a benefit in itself.
By spreading the load, we would open up hosting an Olympics to new countries such as South Africa and smaller European countries. If we carry on the way we’re going, there will be a hard core of about seven countries who can afford to host. This is the third London Olympics, for example…
Anyway, that’s the Olympic future according to McMillan. Let me know what you think.
- Roger McMillan
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