Bigger isn’t always better, and there’s probably no better example of that then the 2016 Summer Olympics. My family have been die-hard fans of the Olympics since back in 1972, when my Grandfather participated in organizing the Summer Games in Munich. The same summer games now remembered best for the Black September attack on Israeli athletes in the Olympic village.
The 1972 Summer Olympics were large, featuring 7,134 athletes in 195 events. The 2016 Summer Olympics are gargantuan, featuring 11,304 athletes in 306 events. It’s way too much. Brazil, when it was chosen to host back in 2009, seemed to be a country on the rise. Along with Russia, India and China, Brazil was considered to be one of the hot economies. They even had an acronym for these four countries on the rise: the BRIC countries. Now, with the possible exception of China, these economies are no longer roaring along. In addition, Brazil has been beset by its own special problems, many of them of its own making. Dilma Rousseff, the country’s president, is currently under impeachment proceedings.
But the point is, the whole event is much too large. Cities that have considered hosting the Olympics have pulled out. My two home towns – Hamburg, where I grew up as a child, and Boston, my home once we arrived in the United States – each pulled out of contention for the 2024 Olympics after the citizenry became cognizant of the financial commitment that would be involved.
At this rate, the only cities that are going to be willing to host the Olympics are cities that have hosted them before. London, Paris, Tokyo, Beijing, Los Angeles. These are cities that already have Olympic facilities. Beijing, in fact, is slated to become the first city to host both the Summer Olympics (2008) and Winter Olympics (2022). Does Beijing have enough snow to host the Winter Olympics? Doubtful. But they do have the facilities.
The Olympic Games should be reserved for sports and athletes that rarely get attention except for at the Olympics. They should not include, for example, soccer, basketball, tennis and golf.
- Soccer may be the best example of a sport that does not need to be at the Olympics. The men bring their “Under 23” teams, and the women bring the same teams that have already competed at the World Cup just a year before. The Men’s World Cup is probably the most watched sporting event in the world after the Olympics.
- Or why does tennis need to be at the Olympics? They already have four grand championships a year, with tons of TV coverage.
- Or why does golf need to be at the Olympics? They already have four grand championships a year, with tons of TV coverage.
- Basketball one could make a case for, primarily to showcase the poor teams not from the United States whom nobody ever sees. But FIBA has its own World Cup, and most of the European players are professionals and paid as such. They don’t really need to be here either, especially to play 2nd fiddle to the United States.
The Olympics are supposed to be for amateurs, or at least they were supposed to be for amateurs. I realize that the distinction is not very clear anymore. Is Usain Bolt an amateur? Hardly. He may make most of his money from endorsements, but like most of the competitors at the Olympics, he trains full time. (Not necessarily so for some of the more obscure sports, like archery.)