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Should the Olympics stop moving around?

Some critics suggest that a semi-permanent home for the Olympics would put more nail-biting back in the stadium, where it belongs.

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    A National Security Force officer patrols outside the beach volleyball arena along Copacabana Beach ahead of the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016.
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Rio still faces massive challenges in its infrastructure, security, and even water quality just days before lighting the 2016 Summer Olympics cauldron, and their struggles have Olympic fans asking a question: Do the Olympics need a permanent home?

Any such call faces a mountain of opposition, not least because the modern games are so steeped in tradition that any change must, at first, seem as preposterous as a Jamaican bobsled team. It is not a totally new idea, but the continuing protests over Brazil's upcoming games and the still-remembered flaws in the 2014 Sochi winter Olympic production may strengthen the calls.

In 1999, amid intense dismay about corruption in the host-selecting process, government officials in Athens offered to play the host permanently, just to stop the scandal. At the time, however, most suggested the benefits of exposing the world to a new city every two years outweighed the costs.

"Giving the Games a permanent home, as some critics of the site-selection process have suggested, would also diminish their cultural dimension," The Christian Science Monitor wrote at the time, "and the opportunity for thousands of athletes, spectators, and TV viewers to get to know different parts of the world."

Since then, however, the logistical challenge of inviting the world's athletes and media to a city, coupled with the immense expense of building stadiums and stands for just a few weeks of use, has dampened many a would-be Olympic flame. Even the venues for the 2004 Athens Olympics, bought at such an expense that many believe it helped plunge the nation into its current economic crisis, now sit mostly idle but for incoming refugees

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) insists the rotation of cities provides benefits both concrete and tangible.

"Every city that hosts the Olympic Games becomes a temporary steward of the Olympic Movement," said Jacques Rogge, president of the IOC. "Each has a once-in-a-lifetime chance to showcase the celebration of the human spirit. And each creates a unique set of environmental, social and economic legacies that can change a community, a region, and a nation forever.”

But concerns that Rio 2016 will be an Olympic-sized traffic jam have changed the International Olympic Committee's plans to expand the games into more developing countries, The Wall Street Journal reported.

"Rio has been the biggest challenge we have ever faced," said Gerhard Heiberg, a committee member who headed the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway. "Maybe we will spend some more time thinking about going to the last continent. We need some assurance it will be a success."

The committee has stopped talking about "universality," speaking instead of standbys such as Paris or Los Angeles. Yet even in relatively stable nations, highly developed cities have withdrawn bids after counting the costs, the Monitor reported in 2015.

Recouping the cost of putting on the 2024 Olympic games, a committee in Boston found, they would need to host the games quite regularly – about every four years, to be precise. Boston withdrew its candidacy in July 2015.

But why, asks The Washington Post's Paul Glastris, should repeat hosting be such an impossible proposition?

The ancient Greeks held the Olympics in the same wooded sanctuary on the Peloponnese for a thousand years with no evident complaints in the extant literary record. We should do something similar for the modern Olympics: pick a city or country to be the permanent host — one each for the Summer and Winter Olympics.

Any number of places could do. But Greece is the obvious choice, at least for the Summer Olympics. It has an undeniable historical claim. It staged a well-run Olympics in 2004. The facilities it built wouldn’t be too costly to refurbish. And the extra tourism money that Greece would receive would help it pay off its debts.

On Friday, the Opening Ceremony will kick off the 2016 summer games – whose success, or lack thereof, could determine whether Rio 2016 adds fuel to arguments for giving the Olympics a reliable home. 

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