Less than one year from now, Beijing is set to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Needless to say, there’s much talk about boycotting them over China’s miserable human rights record.
There’s been the usual suggestion of a boycott, but we all know that doesn’t work. It only harms the athletes who don’t get to participate, and the host country gets to control the narrative as well as get bragging rights from winning all the medals.
Mitt Romney, who organized the Salt Lake City Olympics, so he has some experience in these things, suggest we should participate – but counter all the Chinese propaganda by telling and showing the truth about what they are doing in Hong Kong and with the Uighurs.
But that isn’t a permanent solution to the problem. The scale of hosting the Games means that more than likely, a totalitarian state that can ignore the cost will wind up as a host. Some suggest moving the Olympics to a permanent site, but that just places the costs onto a single country – and the same country every time.
There might be a better solution.
Spread the Games out.
One of the things the IOC looks for in the bids is how close all the venues are to each other. That may have been important when the Games were small and it was possible for a spectator to go to a huge number of events. But now? And maybe it might have been useful for broadcasting the Games, but these days it shouldn’t be too hard to set up a bunch of “hubs” for the reporters and link everything by satellite or online.
So instead of making one city host everything, why not share the wealth? There’s no reason in theory that Portugal and Spain cannot combine efforts to host the Summer Games in, say, Lisbon and Madrid. For a Winter Games, have the hockey in Prague, the figure skating in Vienna, the speed skating in Bratislava, skiing in Krakow, etc. The athletes shouldn’t care too much; it’s not like skaters are going to be hopping on the bobsled between their events. Pick one city as the main “hub” and set up your Olympic HQ there.
At the start, you’ll want to keep things fairly close until people get used to it. After a while, there’s no reason you can’t have track and field in Istanbul, gymnastics in Johannesburg, swimming in Buenos Aires, basketball in New York, and still have them all be part of the same Olympics.
Now it is very likely that by spreading the sites out so much, you’ll dramatically increase the total cost of the Games. But that cost will be spread out over several cities and countries, so it won’t blow the budget of any single one.
It could do a lot to promote the spread of sports around the world – which is one of the things that the Olympics are supposed to be about.
And it would mean we’d wouldn’t have to rely on oppressive totalitarian regimes to host the things.