How Many Cheers for LA 2028?
I wonder if Mitt Romney's Spidey Sense started to tingle on Wednesday when it was announced for certain that Los Angeles would get the 2028 Summer Olympics.
Sure, we can all get a little excited over the idea of our country hosting another round of the Olympic Games, but hosting the Olympics is a little like when your friend gets an expensive new toy (like a boat or a sports car or a lake house) when they really can't afford it. You want to take all the advantage you can of the fun before the bills come due and the toy gets repossessed.
The Olympics don't seem to pay for themselves. The last Summer Games, in Rio, cost billions of dollars -- and many of the facilities were looted and abandoned just six months after the games ended. So much for a "legacy".
There are a wide range of problems with our conception of a worldwide rotation of Olympic games. The selection process is a welcome mat for corruption -- and that's not hyperbole. It's a documented problem. By moving the games from place to place, we leave behind big, disruptive projects in lots of places -- creating a negative endowment in the form of legacy maintenance costs that last long after the games have moved along to their next site. And none of this is to mention the massive problems with adequately funding the games without putting a hand deep into the pocket of the hosting government. Games with a balanced budget are about as rare as a stray hair on Romney's head.
The Olympics should continue, to be sure. But we need to find one, two, or at most three permanent locations for each Olympic series, winter and summer.
The event is too big and the infrastructure required is too vast for it to make sense to treat it like a three-ring circus. A rotation among a small number of permanent sites would make sense and could be optimized for travel and broadcast times.
Maybe, just maybe, we as Americans could justify trying to get one of those destinations, figuring that with decades of repeated use it might pay off (like the Rose Bowl or the Indianapolis Motor Speedway). Migrating around like a bunch of lost birds just doesn't make sense.
Along with everyone else, I hope that Los Angeles 2028 will be a giant, on-time, under-budget success story. But I wouldn't bet the farm on it. Great managerial and intellectual resources like the ones required to salvage the Salt Lake City games are better put to use elsewhere. Instead of undertaking the Games from scratch every two years, the world should just agree to a predictable schedule among a small set of permanent world-class facilities. The Olympics shouldn't require a massive biennial undertaking (and subsequent rescue effort). We need Mitt Romney-class brains going to work to do other things.