Lastweek, in a referendum, the citizens of Hamburg voted against hosting the Olympics in 2024. To the surprise of the media and a very respected and supportive social democrat city mayor, the citizens have said “No” to applying for an event, which they felt, should not burden the local budget. With their narrow vote (51.6%), the citizens of the city state of Hamburg followed the citizens of Boston in the US who earlier this year had already caused their city managers to withdraw from applying for the prestigious sports event, which took place in London in 2012. Amazingly, over 50 percent of Hamburg’s citizens went to vote!
According to informed analysts, many reasons nurtured the “no” vote. The high costs, estimated at €11.2 billion, which the Federal government did not promise to partially subsidize, were a factor, of course. There was also the German angst over managing the security challenges of such an event. Fundamentally though, there was also a strong reaction against the increasingly non-Olympian, capitalistic spirit of the international sports system, caused by the recent FIFA scandals. The slogan of the campaigners was 'NOlympics'.
Hamburg, internationally praised for its very innovative Hafen-City urban redevelopment project, had hoped to use the Games as a catalyst to add another jewel of urban regeneration to its inner city (see photo of the model for the design), as London did successfully in 2012. This hope did not come true.
I feel this incident should be an occasion to reconsider the Olympics. We need to avoid a situation where the Games can just take place in countries where people are not involved in decision-making processes, such as in China, Japan or Kazakhstan, or still believe in the non-political spirit of the games. Therefore, the Olympic Games could be revitalized by a de-concentration strategy for the event, creating a truely Global Olympics, a 'GlOlympics'.
The coverage of the Olympics by the global media has become the key means of money raising. Why not use this power and ask 159 cities in the world to host every four years one specific Olympic discipline, for example karate in Pusan/Korea, table tennis in Changchun /China, football in Manchester/UK and horse-riding in the Den Haag/Netherlands, swimming in Perth/Australia, boxing in Havana, sailing in Naples/Italy or baseball in Houston/Texas.
Once selected by the International Olympic Committee on the basis of a long list of indicators focussing on local strengths and sports tradition, each city can provide the required infrastructure for a period of at least three consecutive games, with option for re-nomination. It is than the media that communicate all events. Their profits would certainly not soar. Such an approach would bring the mega-event back to its origins. It would end the race of cities and countries for an event, which has lost its spirit. Glolympics would be good way to end the race to a few megacities in a few countries.
Comment from Robert Upton
Excellent article. Forgoing the giant avocado in the picture won't be much of a loss, either.