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Restructuring the Olympics — For Fun and Profit

This way Rio may not run out of hotel rooms.

By 6.19.12

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The recent news was stunning: Twenty years after the United Nation's Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, a planned international environmental summit planned for June 20-22, dubbed Rio+20, was in disarray because there were only 33,000 hotel beds for an expected 50,000 visitors. "Rio U.N. Green Conference a Bust?" This portends no good for the hosting by Rio of the 2014 World Cup final match and the 2016 Summer Olympics. The report stated: 

The logistical meltdown is shaping up as a dress rehearsal for worse problems during the World Cup in 2014, when nearly 80,000 visitors are expected, according to the city's tourism authority. Even more people, some 200,000, are expected to visit the city during the Olympics.

World Cup organizer FIFA already has expressed misgivings about Rio's dearth of hotel rooms, even with hotel construction under way ahead of the 2014 soccer tournament. The Brazilian city is planning to build 17,000 more hotel rooms for the 2016 Olympics, 2,000 more rooms than the city had promised in its bid to host the games.

By comparison [with Rio's projected 50,000 rooms], London will offer 110,000 hotel rooms ahead of this summer's Olympics, more than three times Rio's current [33,000-room] capacity.

Back in 1986, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) realized that Summer and Winter Olympics had become so large that, as Roone Arledge declared, advertising revenues were maxing out with the two in the same year, just six months apart. And national Olympic organizations were having great difficulty in planning such large events in the same year. To achieve greater balance, the IOC moved the Winter Olympics to the even-numbered years between the Summer Olympics. Thus, there were Winter Olympics in 1992 (Albertville) but two years later, too, in 1994 (Lillehammer).

In the years since 1986, the Olympics, especially the Summer Olympics, have become even bigger: more countries, more sports, more events, more athletes, more attendees. The cost of hosting the Games increases. The after-Games legacy of debt and unused sporting venues increases. The TV channels, especially for the Summer Games, are saturated.

The Winter Games of 1988 (Calgary) had 57 countries, 1423 athletes, 46 events in 6 sports. The Winter Games of 2010 (Vancouver) grew to 82 countries, 2566 athletes, 86 events in 7 sports.

The Summer Games of 1988 (Seoul) had 160 countries, 8391 athletes, 237 events in 23 sports. The Summer Games of 2008 (Beijing) grew to 204 countries, 10,942 athletes, 302 events in 28 sports.

It's time to rebalance the Games again. My proposal is this: Move some of the indoor sports (or events) in the Summer Games to the Winter Games. This restructuring would most notably increase the number of countries participating in the Winter Games, increasing global interest in the Winter Games.

The Winter Games already have indoor sports -- and these attract attendees who have trouble with the outdoor venues: curling, figure skating, ice hockey, short-track speed skating, and speed skating. The venues for these sports are held in urban venues away from the outdoor venues. Some indoor sports (or events) historically part of the Summer Games could be held in urban venues as part of the Winter Games.

The indoor Summer Games sports (or events) eligible for transfer are: badminton, basketball, boxing, some cycling events, fencing, gymnastics, handball, judo, table tennis, taekwondo, volleyball (not beach volleyball), weightlifting, and wrestling. In addition, some sports or events that may be held outdoors during the Summer Game could easily be held indoors as part of the Winter Games: diving, swimming, synchronized swimming, tennis, water polo, and some track and field events. Of course, for a variety of reasons, many indoor sports (or events) would not be transferred away from the Summer Games.

For your convenience, I list the following Summer Games outdoor sports: archery, some track and field (marathon, decathlon, pentathlon, cross country), triathlon, canoe and kayaking, rowing, sailing, some cycling, beach volleyball, soccer, field hockey, polo, and shooting.

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About the Author
James M. Thunder is a Washington, D.C. attorney.