SHOULD CITIES BE CAUTIOUS ABOUT HOSTING THE SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES?

As you might have already heard, Tokyo won the “honor” of hosting the 2020 Summer Olympics, beating-out Istanbul and Madrid. It reportedly emphasized the turmoil in the Middle East and the very high Unemployment in Europe in embellishing its assertion that Tokyo was the safer venue.  The linked article from the Washington Post is as follows: http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/olympics/tokyo-will-host-2020-summer-olympics-beating-out-istanbul-and-madrid/2013/09/07/3952a5bc-17e3-11e3-804b-d3a1a3a18f2c_print.html.

The Summer Olympics can cause the Host City and Country to go deeply into debt.  Athens and Greece were prime examples of that, in 2008.  Greece was the sentimental choice; but Athens severely lacked the Infrastructure, which the IOC requires.  Few cities have anywhere near the myriad of sporting venues in which competition is held; so, they will need be built–and financed.  That is in addition to the necessary Infrastructure–hotels, mass transit, road construction, etc.

But, is Tokyo truly the “safer” city to host the Summer Games?  Tokyo lies near one of the earthquake fault lines, on the the so-called “Ring of Fire” which rings the Pacific Ocean.  In March of 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake caused a tsunami with 49 foot high waves waves that knocked-out the Tokyo Power Company’s entire Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant.  That resulted in the release of radioactivity for three days.  What if something similar happened again in 2020?   

Here I am referring to the safety issue, and what that can mean for the legacy of a city’s having hosted the Summer Games.   As I think of the cities that recently hosted the Summer Games, just about every one had the potential for some natural disaster: earthquakes and tsunamis; flash floods; wildfires; hurricanes; significant air pollution; radioactivity; etc.  Then consider gang violence, hate crimes and terrorist activity.

I was at home one day during the summer of 1972 and had the TV tuned to the Summer Games, hosted by Munich.  When I looked up from the term paper I was writing for grad school, I watched as the Palestinian terrorists attacked the apartments of the Israeli Weightlifting Team, within the Olympic Village, taking them all hostage.  As the helicopter was taking-off, late that evening, the terrorists exploded several hand grenades, killing all aboard–Palestinians, Israelis and the German crew.  (Jim McKay did a phenomenal job as ABC’s TV host, staying on the air from early morning through late evening.)

The Olympics should not be used as a political weapon.  In 1980, President Jimmy Carter ordered the American Team to boycott the Moscow Summer Games in retribution for the Soviets invading Afghanistan (remember them?) the year before.  And, as a pay-back, the Soviet Union, several of its East European satellites and Cuba passed on the 1984 Los Angeles Games.  Iran and Libya boycotted, but for other reasons.

And now, some are calling for the boycotting of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.  That is in response to its very oppressive Anti-Gay Laws.  Sports, as well as cultural and educational activities bring countries together–not tear them apart.  But, to me, Munich will always be synonymous with the 1972 Olympics and terrorist killings.  Let’s hope that such violence doesn’t happen again.

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