Host city for 2020 Olympics: Why not Jerusalem?
If Israelis and Palestinians agreed to cohost the 2020 Olympic Games, it could help them clear hurdles to sustainable peace.
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Regional powers vying for dominance are likely to find the Games a goal worth pursuing. An Olympic pledge, with the support of the world’s leading nations contingent on successful regional cooperation, is likely to catapult Middle East politics in a new direction.Skip to next paragraph
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Furthermore, sports events are the closest substitute to armed conflicts. One need only observe the brawls between soccer fans, when certain European national teams meet, to be reminded of the wars those very nations waged against one another a few decades ago – and be comforted by the diminished form those conflicts presently take.
When such sublimation, inherent to sports, is combined with regional cooperation over a goal that is bound to deliver economic benefits, the prospects of the plan appear to improve a great deal. Israeli and Arab sport teams usually avoid playing on the same field. This plan would not only put them on the same field but also on the same metaphorical team.
The scores of new sport stadiums, hotels, and shopping malls connected by upgraded road systems and modern mass transit, and tens of millions of tourists flying in through state-of-the-art airports, funded by Saudi and Emirate investments with the cooperation of Turkey and Egypt, and to the benefit of Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria might seem distant. Yet, the work to plan and build those (and the associated benefits) could commence shortly.
Skeptics might say that, like its predecessors, this plan is doomed to fail.
Granted, those who benefit from economic stagnation and thrive on uninformed publics would oppose Middle East cooperation. They would probably point to what so far have been unsolvable questions such as the right of return, the settlements, and sovereignty in Jerusalem/Al Quds. And, religious fundamentalists, terrorist groups, and others who felt that peace in the region would not benefit their best interests could opt for more lethal measures rather than settle to watch disagreements play out in sports events.
The Olympic Games, however, with its economic, political, and mental benefits may be just the strong enough incentive to overcome the hurdles both Palestinians and Israelis have so far been unable to clear on the way to sustainable peace.
As hard as the challenges may be, nothing has stood in the way of an Olympic opening night. In 2020, the world could see peace in the Middle East and the torch relay conclude in the lighting of the Olympic flame positioned between the plazas of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Wailing Wall.