Boston is going to try to host the Olympics. That was the news Thursday evening as the U.S. Olympic Committee chose Boston as its candidate for the 2024 Games over Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Los Angeles. This is good news for the latter three cities, who do not have to cripple themselves financially with billions in unnecessary stadium/handball court development and predictably unpredictable cost overruns.
For those same reasons, Bostonians shouldn't be particularly thrilled by this news, although they can rest assured that, like the 2007 Patriots, they haven't won anything yet. They must still compete with Rome--and potential bids from the likes of Doha, Paris, and Berlin--for the official Olympic selection. In other words, there's still time.
Between the winter and summer Olympics, women's and men's World Cup, Cricket World Cup, Rugby World Cup, and countless other world or regional cups and individual sport championships, the constant process of bidding to host sports is an international municipal human centipede of waste, graft, corruption, and bullshit, and that's without mentioning Qatar. Cities and countries pay consulting firms to extol benefits that don't exist. The homeless and mentally ill are rounded up under the guise of civic beautification. The world simulates euphoric goodwill which it forgets when, say, the host country immediately invades its neighbor.
Our cities are not designed for this type of thing, where legions come from far away to congregate in one tiny section of the city all at once in order to watch team handball and buy official Olympic spermatozoa plush dolls. There's something Kafkaesque about spending years and billions of dollars retrofitting a city for this purpose only to go back to its other function--a place to work and live and coexist--within a few weeks, realizing all that money and time didn't make the place any better to live in and, arguably, worse. This is all so silly. We don't have to do this.
So here's my idea: let's not.
What if, instead, we, the Citizens of the World, build two cities--in winter and summer climates--specifically for hosting sporting events?
Maybe we build the summer one in the middle of the desert, the sporting analogue of what Las Vegas is to gambling (which, I guess, would just be Doha, but with no slave labor [hey, this is my fantasy, dammit]). Or let's build a giant island made of the garbage we have been casting into the ocean, killing two proverbial birds with one stone but not real birds because, unlike the new Vikings stadium, killing birds is not the aim of this sports thing. We can build the winter one somewhere snow is plentiful and frequent--unlike, say, Beijing--where it can double as training facilities for countries that may not have constant snow. It can be land owned by no one, or by everyone, or the entire concept of ownership won't exist at all, or whatever utopic vision to which you subscribe.
Any competing country will chip in according to how many teams they field or some other sensical proportion other than "you: pay all of it." It will be a tiny sliver of the country's GDP so as to not significantly burden any tax base. Athens need not crumble, Montreal need not spend decades recovering, Brazil could leave the people in the favelas un-murdered.
We could build state of the art facilities. Once. Then maybe fix them as need be.
Build hotels, casinos, bars, restaurants, saloons, clubs, bars, dens, bath houses, and bars. With all the global sporting events held every year, there will hardly, if ever, be an off week. There may be new jobs or economic development or there might not be. Who cares? There won't be any pretenses, falsehoods, or misconceptions about ancillary benefits in order to get a bid passed through inefficient bureaucracies like a kidney stone of financial doom. This will be a City For Sports.
Don't tell me it can't be done. Countries build entire cities from scratch during wartime. We, collectively, have spent hundreds of billions of dollars thus far on hosting global sports parties and for what? The City of Sports would be cool, it would be fun, it would be different, and it would be creative. But we don't do it.
We will keep bidding for something few people want, keep building for something we will barely use, and keep tearing down in an expensive attempt to salvage the useful parts. And then we will do it all over again somewhere different enough we can tell ourselves it will be different even though it never is and, in all likelihood, never will be. Is the City of Sports really more ridiculous than that?