Two days to the Rio Olympics opening ceremonies, and the games of chance are still being played. The Zika virus, polluted water venues, and a bacterial risk to horses.
Glanders is a contagious fatal equine respiratory disease. Humans can contract it too. In the past few years, hundreds of Brazilian horses have been killed to stop its spread. Horse owners argued that the tests are too often inaccurate. Health officials did not want to endanger horses coming for the games. The risk of infection is still there, and riders decided to take it.
You’d expect a story like this would get a lot of coverage. It didn’t. There’s been too many other things going wrong in Brazil.
Officials of the IOC and host country will take any and all measures to ensure safety and smooth-sailing, so to speak, for the games. They can kill horses, can’t they, but they can’t kill problematic humans. They can move them however. Poor areas deemed unsightly or dangerous to visitors and tv cameras are relocated, with bulldozers usually.
National funds are used to build facilities always said to improve post-Olympics life for residents. Rarely do they. Rushed or shoddy construction, and Olympic-size facilities that are way more than what a city needs for sports and recreation.
Tracks, playing fields and pools don’t keep themselves up. They require continued expenditure of money and time. Cities around the world are littered with unused remnants of their Olympic Games. No money. The buildings may crumble quickly, but the Olympic debt doesn’t.
Reuse: A Permanent Home
It’s way past time for a permanent Olympics home. Greece, for summer games, and Switzerland, winter games, would work. Greece has the history of the ancient Olympians. Switzerland has the Alps, clock makers and an aura of neutrality. It also has the IOC headquarters. Greece, analysts and athletes have made good arguments for these sites long before I thought of them. Maybe another couple of sites as well, so there is a fallback in case of natural or political turmoil.
Pierre de Coubertin, father of the modern Olympics, believed that moving the games around would foster global understanding by letting people get to know different countries, different peoples. Good point. But it is outweighed by the cost, corruption and conflict that accompany every Olympic games.
I hope the Rio Games go well. But I hope too that we remember the frightful games of chance – natural and socio-political – that occurred in the lead-up to them. It’s time to rethink the Olympics for the long term. Not just say whew, that went better than expected, and stumble along to the next ones.