Case for permanent Games sites

Stop moving the World Cup and the Olympic Games around the world. Instead, allocate them permanent homes.

    I have a suggestion: Stop moving the World Cup and the Olympic Games around the world.

    Instead, allocate them permanent homes. I don't expect this idea to go down well with the majority of readers, but please follow my argument.

    First of all, let me congratulate South Africa. The pessimists who said the World Cup would be blighted by transport chaos and crime were wrong.

    The former South African president, Thabo Mbeki, said a successful World Cup would send "ripples of confidence from Cape to Cairo".

    He was right to argue that a well-run tournament will boost African self-esteem.(Too bad that the African teams, unlucky Ghana aside, did not play better).

    The cost factor

    There will now be other benefits for South Africa: transport infrastructure that might otherwise not have been improved, and a growth in tourism.

    And yet, it's impossible to ignore the costs. One billion dollars were spent on 10 new stadiums, in cities where many people live without clean water or electricity.

    Corruption flourished amidst the construction boom.

    Most of the profits from (sometimes disappointing) ticket sales went to the world football authority, Fifa.

    After it's all over, many of the new stadiums will become white elephants, and South Africa will probably have to pick up the tab for many unpaid bills.

    If so, it will be only the latest country to discover that hosting a sporting tournament is not all it's cracked up to be.

    Sensible use of money

    Part of the problem lies in the way these events are allocated.

    Countries, and cities, seek to outbid each other the winner has usually promised to spend the most.

    This is not a recipe for the sensible use of money.

    Recent examples abound the stadia that South Korea built for the 2002 World Cup are barely used today, whilst Portugal is struggling to pay for the 2004 European Championships.

    The Olympic Games have created even bigger financial hangovers.

    They require specialised infrastructure, from equestrian centres to artificial river rapids, that serves little purpose afterwards.

    Ballooning costs

    As Londoners contemplate the ballooning costs of the next Olympics, they may not want to dwell on the experience of recent hosts.

    From Athens to Beijing, all the way back to Montreal (which staged the Games in 1976, and spent the next 30 years paying for them), the Olympics have left debt, even ruin, in their wake.
    This brings me back to my proposal - that the World Cup and Olympic Games have permanent homes. This would ensure that sporting infrastructure is used again and again.

    Our new hosts should be both democratic and moderately wealthy.

    Repressive, or impoverished, regimes would no longer see the hosting of these events as an opportunity to burnish their image.


    The question then remains: Where? For the summer Olympics, the answer is obvious, at least to me, (the winter version, smaller and less dependent on man-made infrastructure, could carry on rotating).

    Ancient Greece invented the Olympics, and, after playing host as recently as 2004, modern Athens is ready to do so again.

    Let the Games return to Greece (a country that is also in need of some ripples of confidence these days).

    I know, I know, I live in Athens so you can all accuse me of self-interest.

    As for the World Cup, whichever country I suggest, the vast majority of you will be very upset. My preferred candidate would have been China.

    If Greece gets the Olympics because of past glories, China should be given the World Cup because it is the rising power of the future.

    Democracy test

    But I am afraid the Beijing government fails my democracy test, so I'll have to suggest three other worthy candidates, in no particular order ...

    1) England, if only for the reason that it invented football. Let the game return home, (and, please, let England find a new generation of football talent so that we can put together a half-decent national team).

    2) Brazil, because they are the greatest footballing nation of all time, with five World Cup wins, most of them achieved in enthralling style. Let the game find a permanent home in the country where it has been perfected, (and now that the pragmatic Mr Dunga has gone, let's all pray for a return to samba soccer).
    3) South Africa, because it did such a good job this time, and because everything is now in place. At least those white elephant stadiums I mentioned above (eg Nelspruit and Rustenburg) would get used every four years.

    Besides, what a boost to African morale, and to African football! Let the game move to the continent where it can be the greatest force for good.

    All other suggestions welcome ...


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