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Liz Terry: IOC Must Fundamentally Rethink The Olympics

We think of the Olympics as an unstoppable machine, but their future isn’t guaranteed. It depends on the IOC developing bidding and delivery criteria which enable a wider range of cities to host the Games in a sustainable way, while championing excellence

by Liz Terry, Leisure Media | Published in Sports Management Sep 2016 issue 126
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Wealth distribution is one of the biggest challenges facing the world. In both developed and developing nations, the privileged few have such an abundance of resources, while the majority live in poverty or relative poverty. Much of the conflict and misery in the world stems from this imbalance.

All can play a part in addressing this challenge, but governments and organisations such as the IOC have far more power to change the world than the average citizen, so we look to them for constant improvement.

The Rio Olympics have highlighted these issues on a global platform and although we’ve largely been shielded from the protests which have been occuring in Rio, as the people express their anger at the presence of the event in their midst, their lack of engagement – for whatever reason – has been evidenced by the empty seats.

This has been especially emphasised by the Paralympics, for which the organisers have struggled with ticket sales. In effect, Paralympians are flying to Rio to compete in half empty facilities.

The budget shortfall experienced by the Paralympics has also illustrated just how stretched the Brazilian government has been by the Games.

There’s no doubting the value of the Olympics in raising the profile of a nation, sparking a passion for sport and getting things done quickly – whole development agendas which would normally take decades to complete can be pushed through in just a few years with an Olympic deadline on their tail.

However, in the case of Brazil, it’s hard to reconcile when you consider basic healthcare and education is being denied to many and a large proportion of the population is living below the poverty line.

The IOC needs to take a hard look at this after Rio and decide on a way forward which enables cities and nations which are not wealthy or super powers to make a contribution to the Olympic movement.

There was only one bidder for 1984 – Los Angeles. The number of bidders increased to 10 in 2004, but dropped to five for 2020. Keeping momentum behind the Games, encouraging competition for the event, but also making it achievable for cities and nations with emerging economies, is the challenge.

If the IOC is able to fix this by adjusting the rules of engagement, while still ensuring that athletic excellence and legacy are the main priorities, then they will not only be ensuring the future of the Games, but also contributing to the wider health of the world.

Liz Terry, Editor, Sports managment

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