Why Can't We Just Host the Olympics in the Same Place Every Year?

September 6, 2013
Economists agree: the Olympics are bad for cities. There's an obvious solution.

On Saturday, the International Olympic Committee will change the destiny of one city forever. Yes, tomorrow's the big day when committee members will decide whether Istanbul, Madrid, or Tokyo will host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games. For the chosen city, it's a decision that could catalyze transformative infrastructure projects and long-term investment.

Of course, more likely, it will shackle the host city with cost overruns, underused venues and displaced and disaffected citizens.

The evidence is far from murky. Montreal famously took 30 years to pay off its swollen $1.6 billion Olympic price tag. An estimated 150,000 people, mostly slum dwellers, are being displaced in Brazil ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, are expected to be the most expensive in history. And in 2004, cost overruns helped lead to Greece's economic collapse.

John Rennie Short, a public policy professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County* thinks he has a solution. It's on an island.

Instead of investing billions of dollars in new Olympic host cities every four years, Short suggests it would be cheaper and easier to create a sort of Olympics island that can play host to the more expensive Summer Games, at a minimum, year after year. The IOC could essentially take over an island – maybe a Greek island, Short suggests – and turn it into a permanent venue. It would function more or less like an international city-state, overseen by the United Nations, dedicated to hosting the Olympics and its training in perpetuity.

Read the full article at The Atlantic Cities.