Look, I love traveling every four years to a different venue for the Summer Olympics. Rio was my first real visit to South America and the country of Brazil is, as someone much brighter than I noted, “one hot mess.” I am drawn to hot messes, I believe, and that is part of the reason I love athletics so much. So much eccentricity over running, jumping and throwing.
Ethiopia rules the 10,000m, Athens 2004, photo by PhotoRun.net
But, stay with me for a moment, now that I have drawn you in. Aren’t we missing something about having a permanent site for the Summer Olympics? Of course, this is after LA hosts in 2024, as I do not need a whole group of LA trolls hunting me down as promote my agenda.
So, what is my plan? Well, not so much of a plan, but as a feeling…
In 2004, I took my son, Adam to Athens for the Summer Olympics. Adam was seventeen at the time and not sure what I actually did for a living, and at the time, did not really care. We flew from Chicago to London, London to Zurich, Zurich to Athens (used miles, what else?). Once we hit Athens, the whole working til dawn, finding a dinner in Syntagna Square, and then heading to Glyfada for five hours sleep took a hold on us.
After the Olympics, we took an extra four days, and hired two history teachers, one took us for 2 days and another for 2 days, and we went to the historic parts of Greece. Delphi, Olympia, Corinthos, Meteora, Thermopolae. It was amazing to share, driving in a small car on crazy little roads, spending nights in local hotels, eating great food, and learning about Greek culture.
In the twelve years since then, I have seen a wonderful country fall apart. The economic ruin continues and, I believe, much of it could be changed, if the IOC was open to a permanent home for the Summer Olympics.
That permanent home should be Athens. The history alone suggests Athens as a great place for the Olympic brand. The stadiums, in disaray, could be maintained and promoted for pre Olympic and post Olympic events. Major sponsors, global brands, could focus more efficiently on a site that they know well. And travel to Athens and the tourist dollars would provide a huge economic boon to the country where the Olympics began.
I know it is simplistic. I know that with the amount of vitriol flying around Muslims, Christians and Jews, that it might seem insane, but, really, it is not. All faiths have lived and thrived in Greece. The times around 2004 were very scary as well, but the Athens Games were quite successful and well loved.
For me, Athens changed my life. It was an emotional change. It was having dinner a few times with James Dunaway, my late editor and friend and watch how my son Adam and James spoke. It was having three non-stop weeks with Adam, listening to him, learning about him, and he, learning about me. Those three weeks in Athens changed our lives, forever. Sharing a life long love of history, and jokes about Greek history are part of our conversation.
A visit to the Olympics changes lives. The Nelson brothers, after their visit to the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles, were inspired to start Track & Field News sixteen years later. They changed our sport with their obsession. The Olympic brand is being challenged today, why not look at a simpler, more focused approach?
The IOC is dealing with escalating costs, fewer and fewer sites which legitimately make sense for World Sports events, and a people who want athletes to inspire them, and nothing inspires like the Olympics. Building up its historic traditions, its global nature and the narratives of young athletes answering the call, helps put the Olympics in front of pro sports every four years.
The drug issues and Russian cheating and doping are about to overwhelm the Olympic fathers. Why not consider something so outlandish, so strangely enticing, that sports fans around the world might support it?
And think what it could do for our friends in Greece.
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