With growing global concerns over the Beijing Government’s less-than-stellar Human Rights and Foreign Policy track record, is it high time for the International Olympic Committee to consider a permanent site for the Olympic Games?
By: Vanessa Uy
During the dawn of Western Civilization, the Olympic Games were originally part and parcel of ancient Greece’s theology and belief system. The games were held in honor of Zeus for nearly 12 centuries with almost no intrusion by politics. Back then, the Olympic Games were more than a display showcase of athletic prowess. Contests of dance and choral poetry are held together with the games on the plain of Olympia. The Olympic Celebration was of paramount importance to the ancient Greeks, even wars were interrupted to assure that the quadrennial (every four years) celebrations would take place.
But isn’t it high time for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to consider a permanent site or venue for the Olympic Games – preferably in Olympia, Greece. After all, the Olympics have been cancelled three times since the Games’ modern revival in 1896 because of the two World Wars. Never mind the constant plague of nationalistic political rivalries, plus the newer threats of “commercialism” that had turned the beloved “Hallowed Ground” of the Olympics into just another backdrop for advertising. Plus the constant threat of boycott every time the nation who won the coveted IOC bid still needs a lot of progress. Especially when it comes to Human Rights, the right to habeas corpus, or just the plain basic ethics that we in the “Enlightened Christian West” seems to take for granted on an alarmingly daily basis that this inevitably created “Gitmo” and Abu Ghraib.
Under our current agreement, the IOC chooses sites for the summer and winter Games several years in advance. Once the host countries are selected, it is the responsibility of the governments – and their respective local business entities - of these selected countries to provide all the facilities and the bulk of the financing for the Games. But these requirements have shown a track record of constantly reverting to excessive displays of nationalism by the host countries. Not to mention the construction of extremely expensive facilities which are seldom utilized after the said country’s duration to host the Olympic Games ends.
A permanent site for both summer and winter Olympic Games would be helpful in turning our present Olympics into a much stronger institution. Currently, the Olympics are seen as nothing more than a short-lived spectacle that’s vulnerable to political and commercial exploitation by their temporary host’s country. Given that the proposal for a permanent Greek site has a rational that the region is relatively stable politically both at present and in the foreseeable future. Plus, there could be an added bonus that the Games could acquire an identity of their own just like the celebrations of old.
In addition of a permanent site for the Olympics, it could also be a big help if the duration of the Games were extended from two weeks to, maybe, two to three months. In my opinion, this would allow the Olympic participants / athletes an opportunity to better know one another and also allows them to share experiences that are generally impossible in our current politically-charged competitive setting.
During my research: I’ve found out that thirty years ago the government of Greece had suggested proposals on some ways to proceed in establishing a permanent site for the Olympic Games. Especially when it comes to on how the financial burden shall be born. The Greek proposal suggests the formation of a politically neutral and militarily inviolable “Olympic State” in the area of the original site at Olympia. If this Greek proposal does go underway, the “Olympic State” would fall under IOC jurisdiction, although sovereign territorial rights would remain with Greece. The IOC would install and own the facilities at the site, plus the Olympic Committee would also be permitted to administer the Olympic area and granted powers to govern it. This enables the IOC to determine the terms of and conditions for entry. Greek law would apply within the area, but Greek military forces are forbidden to enter under any circumstances.
For all intents and purposes it was a good proposal. But many IOC member countries failed reaching a consensus especially when it comes to how the financial burden should be borne. And also of on how to equitably appropriate the financial benefits of the games among IOC member nations. Faced with this difficulty, the Greek proposal for a permanent site for the Olympic Games became more or less shelved indefinitely. But given the “perennial” problem of countries with less-than-stellar Human Rights and Foreign Policy records managing to win the much coveted International Olympic Committee bids to host the Olympic Games, isn’t it high time to reconsider the Greek proposal for a permanent site / venue for the Games?