Recent news reports claim that up to 80% of Japanese residents think that the Tokyo Olympic Games should be delayed again or canceled. The country has already announced that outside spectators are not welcome due to safety concerns. The cost will now be over $15 billion, which will eventually come out of the pockets of average Japanese citizens.
It’s not just Japan, of course. The Games have meant hardships for others as well. There was the manic push in Brazil to finish the facilities, sometimes located on sites that were once home to the poor and underserved. Greece went bankrupt after hosting the Games in 2004 – the Games were not said to be the direct cause. Still, it did not help that the costs were significantly underestimated, and the financial benefits were significantly overestimated. This combination led to why many regard the Greek games as a failed Games.
China is the host of the upcoming 2022 Winter Games. The country still faces global scrutiny for its human rights practices; nevertheless, it will have hosted the Games twice in 14 years. Russia has similarly faced global scrutiny for its human rights practices, yet it held the Olympic Games in 2014 which led to a landmark doping scandal that got the country banned from international competition.
How about refocusing on the athletes?
Yes, we do watch the competition — Who knew curling could be so exciting? – but there are also the opening and closing ceremonies. The athletes claim to love the pageantry of these events, but it’s much more likely that they are thinking about the medal stand when they train.
To avoid the economic and political controversies, some have proposed permanent Olympic sites for the Olympic Games. The athletes deserve all the acclaim they get for their performances, but maybe it is time to consider whether the perpetual Olympic bidding process is the best model.