Permanent Sites for Olympics, Paralympics and World Cups May be the Answer to Site Selection Issues

It’s almost go-time for the IOC to make a decision between Paris and Los Angeles for the 2024 Games. While early indicators are that Paris will come out the winner, everyone has heard the speculation about Los Angeles being named the host for 2028 so as to avoid a process that, in the words of IOC president Thomas Bach, creates “too many losers.”

Whether or not two Olympics are awarded at once, the years that have led up to the September IOC meeting are likely to be remembered as a time when bidders backed away from the table, rather than clamoring for a place there.

There has been no one overriding cause for this, but there have been plenty of real-life examples of a lack of political backing (Rome) and a dearth of residential support (Boston and Hamburg), coupled with the inflating cost of hosting the Games (everywhere) – not to mention a bid/award process that has gotten a bad reputation over the years (again, everywhere). Then there’s the fact that some venues go unused and start to disintegrate after the Games, creating a constant reminder that money was wasted.

And it has all added up to – if not a profound lack of interest in hosting – then at the least, a healthy dose of skepticism about getting involved.

It’s not confined to the Olympics, either. Just recently, Toronto, in the midst of considering a bid for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, was urged by its city council committee, to abandon this idea because of the risk and expense it would incur – which would not be offset by the potential for increased tourism and economic impact.

It is this trend that keeps the conversations alive about the possibility of permanent sites for large events such as the Olympics, Paralympics, FIFA World Cup and other large events. Proponents are saying that having permanent sites for large-scale winter and summer sports could help control costs, enhance safety and security, eliminate corruption, reduce doping and more. It could also cut down on environmental risks, create ideal infrastructure and more – all of which would be in the best interest of cities that formerly hosted the Games (and came out on the losing end.)

“It is time for sports to stop victimizing our cities. If holding big events in the same place every time is good enough for tennis and golf, it’s good enough for football and the Olympics,” noted Alex Pareene in Salon. (The site, Think Progress, has similar ideas.) The Conversation noted the use of one site would eliminate the problems, expense and unfairness to current residents, caused by countries’ need to create a manufactured ‘global village’ every four years:

“Host nations and cities want a sanitized space where imagined visions can be projected to spectators and the global community. Unsightly landscapes are removed and people are moved out of their homes, historic communities are broken down and cost overruns feed into national budgets and can damage citizens’ quality of life. In other words, the regeneration narrative is no simple tale to pull off; it is fraught with contradictions, questionable in its motivations and unverifiable in its results.”

In fact, the case of cities being mistreated in order to host the Games is a standing tradition. Only recently – and in certain places – have residents begun protesting and referendums become a matter of course when those same residents felt their objections weren’t being taken seriously. (In fact, there’s now a ‘how-to’ book for those who want to learn from others who have successfully objected to large sports events.)

So can we actually expect to see permanent sites for large sports events? As the pool of potential bidders for large events shrinks, and as more cities become embarrassed by having to back away from bids because of a lack of support, this may well become the option of the future.

Deciding on the actual locations for these sites will be an enormous undertaking as well, and it will almost certainly mean the IOC will have to invest more in the Olympics than it has in the past, should the same locations, even on a rotating basis, be hosting over the years.

Of course, for sports facility design professionals, contractors and suppliers, it would be a boon. Count on ASBA to continue to follow this issue.

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