If Sochi has taught Olympic watchers anything, it’s the need to limit funding and access to the games.
Reports claim the Russians have spent about $50 billion as the host site – an exorbitant amount compared to the games in London – which cost about $15 billion – and especially in Atlanta and Salt Lake City – each of which cost under $3 billion. And while Russia has experienced some democratization in recent years, problems with human rights, particularly related to sexual orientation, has tarnished the overall spirit of the games, which are supposed to help bring diverse cultures together.
The notion of having the Olympics in an authoritarian country has created problems for decades. Just a few years ago, China, which has experienced its own human rights issues, also hosted the games to the tune of about $50 billion. And while the atrocities and horrors of Nazi Germany aren’t comparable to the abuses of Beijing and Moscow, the 1936 Olympics in Berlin was perhaps the most egregious example of selecting an oppressive regime.
Providing a world stage for such governments shouldn’t be one of the headlines for the Olympics. Additionally, members of the International Olympic Committee have been accused of widespread bribery in the past as far as the selection process.
Mitigating that culture of corruption may warrant limiting the number of sites that could host the games.
By considering permanent spots for the Olympics – places such as the U.S., Canada, Chile, Norway and Japan – it would limit the concerns that have plagued past Olympics.
It’s clear that certain countries have a better understanding of contemporary human rights than do others. And while the games should put their focus on the athletes and the events, the Olympics are about more than just sports. There’s always a tinge of politics injected.
The games in Sochi have also obviously spotlighted tensions between the U.S. and Russia, especially with National Security Agency document-leaker Edward Snowden seeking asylum in the country.
American officials have also alleged the Russians are withholding security information even with significant safety concerns being a backdrop of the 2014 games.
Although security is no guarantee – consider the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta in 1996 – the most stable and secure countries are democracies, and those countries should host the games.
Those countries should have the capacity to keep the games reasonably safe as well as hold human rights at the forefront of their domestic politics.