Saturday, August 20, 2016

Go East, Young Athlete

With the 2016 Rio Olympics coming to a close soon, attention shifts east . . . far east.

The next three Olympiads, winter and summer, take place in eastern Asia, and in all three countries Americans once commonly referred to as the Orient - Korea, Japan and China, in that chronological order.   The 2018 Winter Olympics take place in Pyeongchang, South Korea, which is too small to be seen on this map but is about 110 miles east of Seoul.  It's already a ski resort town, so that makes sense.  The 2020 Olympics are to be held in Tokyo, which last hosted the Olympics in 1964.  I guess Tokyo is overdue for a repeat, but there's still the problem of the Fukushima nuclear power plant site being just up the coast. But given that the alternatives were Madrid and Istanbul - Spain has been mired in a big recession, and there was the proximity of Istanbul to Syria at a time when it was becoming apparent that the Syrian civil war wasn't going to end any time soon - it still made sense.
But Beijing hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics so soon after it hosted the 2008 Summer Games?  
You know, the Chinese have a lot of damn gall wanting to host another Olympiad in the same city only fourteen years after hosting the first one.  They couldn't wait awhile and give someone else a chance?  I know, I know, Innsbruck, Austria hosted the Winter Games twice within twelve years - 1964 and 1976 - but it hosted the 1976 Winter Games in an emergency after the residents of the original city of choice - Denver - said no to the bonds necessary to make the Winter Olympics happen.  And, of course, the Americans hosted the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta a mere twelve years after Los Angeles hosted the 1984 Summer Games. That shouldn't have happened either, something then-IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch acknowledged with great subtlety once the Atlanta Games ended, refusing to call them the greatest Games ever at the closing ceremony, as had been his custom at previous Summer Games closing ceremonies.  (Atlanta is Los Angeles with more cars and fewer health nuts.)  So why go back to Beijing so soon?
Oh yeah, another thing.  Winter Olympic cities tend to be smaller places, since the Winter Games have fewer countries and fewer athletes. Winter Olympiads tend to be, in comparison to the regular ones, cozy and intimate, like a comfortable ski lodge. Beijing, home to 21.7 million people, is not a cozy or intimate city. Unlike Pyeongchang, it's not hard to find on a map.
As it turns out, the logistics and the cost of staging even the Winter Games have gotten so out of hand that, when it was time to decide on a site for the 2022 Winter Olympics, there was only one other bid - from Almaty, Kazakhstan, a city whose biggest claim to fame is being the place Stalin banished Trotsky to before Trotsky made his way to Mexico.  So why not Almaty?  It would have been the first city in a former Soviet republic other than Russia to host an Olympiad, winter or summer, and it would have continued the streak of Olympiads in Asia - central Asia, yes, but still Asia.  Why not Almaty (population, 1.7 million people, twenty million fewer than Beijing), indeed?
Was it because of Borat
Aside from Beijing, though, I have no problem with the next Olympiads being held in three consecutive Asian cities.  After all, back in the 1920s, five consecutive winter and summer Olympiads were held in European cities, and no one had a problem with that.
Except maybe the Chinese and the Japanese . . .

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