Rio's example: Why no city should bid to host the Olympics

There were 27 world records set at the Rio Olympics last year – from swimming to weightlifting, archery to cycling. These were as thrilling as they were expected. “Citius, Altius, Fortius,” is the Olympic model after all – Latin for “Faster, Higher, Stronger.”

Now comes perhaps the most enduring world record of the Games: Just seven months after the torch was doused, the host country is already acknowledging the entire operation was a terrible, perhaps criminal idea. It has left them debt-ridden and without a clue what to do with already decaying facilities.

Never faster has been the condemnation for hosting. Never higher has been the local outrage. And, maybe, never stronger is the lesson for the rest of the world to avoid ever getting into business with the International Olympic Committee.

“There was no planning,” Leandro Mitidieri, a federal prosecutor in Brazil, said this week at a public hearing about the Olympic disaster, according to the Associated Press. “There was no planning when they put out the bid to host the Games. No planning.”

And what of the majority of the facilities the country built to appease the IOC, a major part of the $12 billion cost of hosting the Games?

“They are white elephants today,” Mitidieri said.

Maracana Stadium, renovated for the 2014 World Cup at a cost of about $500 million, is largely abandoned after the Olympics. (AP)
Maracana Stadium, renovated for the 2014 World Cup at a cost of about $500 million, is largely abandoned after the Olympics. (AP)

Seven months. That’s all it took and, actually, it didn’t even really take that long. Mitidieri began looking into corruption involving the host last year, before the Olympics even happened. That he found a dumpster fire is of little surprise to anyone who cared to pay attention or attend the Games.

Of course there was no plan. Everyone knew that … well except the IOC apparently, which isn’t big on “plans.”

“There was absolutely no flaw in the bid,” then IOC president Jacques Rogge said when Rio won the bid in an upset, besting a field that included a particularly well planned out Chicago, which came in fourth.

So there was either no plan or no flaw. Someone is/was lying. It’s not a challenge to figure out whom.

This is the Olympics, though. This is the IOC. This is what the world should be rejecting. They’ll coo into the ear of any politician considering a bid. They’ll play a public relations game built on a lie. They’ll provide cover against all the sober-minded critics.

Good old Jacque Rogge says it’s a flawless bid when it actually contained no planning at all and in swift fashion has left the citizens of Brazil, already enduring a deep economic crisis, to pick up an enormous check and confront massive waste and abuse.

Hosting the Olympics is a bad idea for anyone and a truly terrible one for any city or country that isn’t fully developed and in need of anything more than the bare minimum in new construction. Those countries are few and far between and, in turn, have proven less likely to engage in bid-rigging and bribery that (cough, cough) seem to produce “no flaw” bid assessments.

It’s time for everyone to reconsider the Olympics, because this can’t be sustainable. The IOC, and its many sport-specific governing bodies, want everything gold plated. There are demands for massive, opulent venues that make little sense for a few weeks of competition. And of course there is the royal treatment for their executives, like they actually matter.

The entire process hinges on finding new rubes that will play along – either overambitious developing countries or corrupt despots who rule their nation or wealthy cities that believe they can wade into the IOC muck and escape without a stench.

Rio de Janeiro never should have hosted the Olympics, something everyone, most notably many Rio residents, immediately recognized. Yet it did. And here we are.

The stadiums are falling part. The golf course is overrun. The housing hasn’t been transformed to help the poor. There is overwhelming debt and no way to recoup. Even the medals handed out in Rio are falling apart.

Meanwhile, the water is still polluted.

Whatever fun the Olympics brought is but a faded memory – and really, did anyone need a reason to throw a party on Copacabana?

Gone into the wind are the IOC cronies, pockets full of gold. They are always on to the next victim. No, no, they say, this time will be different. No, no, they say, it won’t be like the last one, your bid has no flaws. It was them. It won’t be you.

In Brazil critics are screaming out for the rest of the world to pay attention, to use their misery as proof that no one should bid for the Olympics, at least not under its present construct. Maybe the IOC needs to reassess everything, maybe find one site for the Winter and one for the Summer Games and stick with that for awhile, using its own considerable resources to help defray costs and upkeep.

No, it wouldn’t be as grand as touring the world. Yes, it would cut off opportunities for handouts and bribery. Something has to give, though. Something has to go.

The next three Games are set – PyeongChang, South Korea in 2018, Tokyo in 2020, Beijing in 2022.

The trend line is obvious, however, the message perhaps being heard. Beijing “won” the right to host those Winter Games in a process that contained just one other contender – Almaty, Kazakhstan. The 2024 Summer Games will be determined in September and are down to just two bidders – Paris and Los Angeles (after Boston, the USOC’s original choice, bailed out). Everyone else dropped out.

As for 2026, no one has yet stepped forward. No one.

If they don’t listen to the fast, high, strong howls of caution coming out of Rio de Janeiro, no one will.

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