Hunting White Elephants: Exploring the Idea of Rotating Olympic Venues

By Jason Light, Liam Cleary, Kayley Leonard, Zayne Matulis, Noah Reimers, Davon Robertson, and Jocelyn Skoler

The inspiration for this article came from our conversations with the Boston Globe’s Shira Springer following an on-campus event in February. As the conversation had floated toward the upcoming Rio Olympics, it was Shira who had originally stressed the flaws with the current Olympic selection system and the potential benefits of having permanent hosts for the games. Our curiosity piqued, we chose to investigate if past Olympic data would tell a similar story. Our initial skepticism of her idea quickly faded as the data trends became apparent and the story materialized.  The conclusions of this article, and our disillusionment with today’s Olympic politics, is a direct result of this investigation into her ideas.    

The ruins of the first Greek Olympics in Olympia have stood the test of time for the last two millennia. Ruins of the last Greek Olympics may not last two decades. The fallout of the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics, the most recent Greek tragedy, has become symbolic of the problems with the modern Olympic narrative. In this narrative, a developing country or world power looking to rebrand itself wins the right to host the games after putting forth a highly imaginative and expensive plan. Massive stadiums, built in inconvenient places with taxpayer dollars, are used copiously over the course of a two-week span then rarely after that. While there have been success stories, the host is often left with domestic or international disapproval to complement a king’s ransom of debt.

We’re looking at a radical solution to combat this problem: Olympic recycling. What if venues were used repeatedly in cycles, instead of being left to rot as soon as the torch is put out? This paper looks at the implications of this question – why to change the current system in the first place, historical examples to build off of, and how to choose which countries to be considered as permanent hosts. We’re also going to evaluate potential objections to such a system and provide ways to limit the qualitative costs of having a permanent rotating host. Ultimately, we’re hoping that this new system can fix many of the rampant economic problems which plague the games.

Read the full article here:


A related article by Shira Springer is set to come out in the Globe in June.

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