Thursday, July 10, 2008

Should There Be A Permanent Site For The Olympic Games?

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?


Kirk said...

I do agree on a permanent site for the Summer Olympic Games that passes muster not only using our current criterion for Corporate Social Responsibility when it comes to how the Games should be financed, but also the host nation's Human Rights and Foreign Policy records should be placed under scrutiny. Sadly, I have reservations when it comes to Greece due to their government's stance on the divided island of Cyprus. Also have you heard the latest news about Mexico's 1968 "Dirty War" about the massacre of a student revolt being hushed up by then president Luis Echeverria so that the 1968 Mexico City Olympics can proceed as planned? I wonder what would have the US athlete John Carlos have done have he heard of this. Would the "Black Panther" salute be enough?

Diogenes said...

There was a New York Times article about this back in May 21, 1984 were then US Olympic Committee director F. Don Miller and William E. Simon, then committee president suggested a permanent site plan based on the Olympic "Five Rings" logo. The Five Rings represent the five most populous continents (Is Australia's winning the bid to host the Olympic Games just a consolatory fluke?). Miller and Simon's permanent site plan involves one in each in the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania (Australia?). Each site would be the Summer Olympic host every 20 years. And also, these sites could serve as permanent venues / locations for regional multi-sports competitions such as the Pan-American Games and Asian Championships.
With regard to the 2008 Beijing Olympics being labelled as the Genocide Olympics by Human Rights concerns around the world is now further fuelled by new evidence of the Beijing Government's complicity of the on-going genocide in Darfur. And who can ever forget their unlawful annexation of Tibet which forced His Holiness The Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet into exile in Dharamsala, India.

Claire said...

Despite of the controversy surrounding China winning the IOC bid to host the Olympic Games and failing the promise for greater press freedom and Human Rights, shouldn't it be that every state / country be granted a fair chance to host the Olympics in the spirit of egalitarianism? After all, if egalitarianism is not part of the Olympic Ideal, then what is the purpose of the Special Olympics / Paralympic Games? A permanent site for the Olympic Games seems like a good idea, but it reeks of elitism in my view.

Maribeth said...

As can be read in the Olympic Charter, the Olympic Symbol represents the union of the five continents and the meeting of athletes throughout the world at the Olympic Games. However, no continent is represented by any specific ring. Though colorful explainations about the symbolism of the colored rings exist, the only connection between the rings and the continents is that the number five refers to the number of continents. In this scheme, the Americas are viewed as a single continent - instead of two, and Antarctica is omitted. The current 5 continents are Africa, America, Asia, Europe and Australia.
I too favor the egalitarian spirit that every country or nation-state should have a fair chance to join the IOC bid for hosting the games, but there should be guidelines for screening them. Like do the prospective states have on-going violent crackdown against political dissidents, sponsoring genocide and / or terrorism, and the country's Human Rights record should be placed under scrutiny by the International Community. Didn't we learn the lessons of the 1936 Berlin Olympics? Which was often referred to as the "Nazi Olympics".

Al said...

The current Five-Rinned Olympic logo was originally designed in 1913 by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympic Games. But it has to wait until the VIIth Olimpiad in Antwerp, Belgium in 1920 for the Olympic Flag with the 5 Ring logo due to World War I.
I too would prefer the spirit of egalitarianism of the Olympic Games would serve as the only factor for any country or state for bidding to host the Olympic Games. But the bad news is no country in current existence has a perfect Human Rights record. Even the libertine sovereign of Netherlands is currently torn - albeit relatively mildly - between Islamic extremism and Islamophobia.

Girlie May said...

What about the Chinese dogmeat industry? The Beijing Government enforced a temporary ban on serving dogmeat on traditional Chinese gourmet restaurants around the Olympic Games venue to accomodate "Western sensibilities". Given the Beijing Government's clout over her own citizens' Human Rights and civil liberties, enforcing the dogmeat ban is not much harder than the unlawful eviction of residents who used to live on the Olympic facility grounds.

Pantaleon said...

Wasn't it Adolph Hitler who first proposed that Berlin - after hosting the 1936 Summer Olympic Games (that notorious Nazi Olympics?) - should be a permanent venue for the Olympic Games? Imagine if Nazi Germany had won World War II, the famed - but never completed - city of Germania would be the world's permanent Olympic City.