Olympics could have permanent home and more credibility in record chase

Victor TantiGeraldton Guardian
Leisel Jones models the space-age Speedo outfits the Australian swimmers wore to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Camera IconLeisel Jones models the space-age Speedo outfits the Australian swimmers wore to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Credit: Rick Rycroft/AP

The relentless pursuit of records is a problem at the Olympics.

Now records are made to be broken, but not to the point where rules are bent or conditions greatly altered to make them happen.

Sergey Bubka set a heap of pole vault world records and won a half-dozen World Championships.

But his long career was blighted by an inability to perform at the Olympics aside from one gold medal.

Sergey Bubka of the Ukraine at the World Track and Field Championships in Athens Sunday August 10, 1997.
Camera IconSergey Bubka of the Ukraine at the World Track and Field Championships in Athens Sunday August 10, 1997. Credit: DIMITRI MESSINIS/AP, DIMITRI MESSINIS

Swimming lost its way when swimsuit technology took hold.

For several years, the most asked question before a meet was which team had the fastest suit.

The suits were designed to slice through the water and trap air so more of the swimmer would float, thereby increasing speed.

The next step would have been to put competitors in boats. Anyway, world records tumbled and just about every major race was won by people wearing a brand called the LZR Racer. Finally, the madness stopped. Full-length suits were banned, but swimming’s credibility took a hit. Then there’s drug use, which is rife, but would it not be best if every record set by a person found to be a drug taker is annulled?

Another issue is choosing a venue. The bidding process has been tidied up, but for decades well-placed bribes were handy, if not essential.

Every Olympic city aimed to outdo previous hosts. A revamped stadium wouldn’t do — it had to be new, can’t just have a swimming pool, it needs a sci-fi-inspired roof.

On it went, with other infrastructure like new rail lines and roads, which, to be fair, were generally a lasting benefit.

But that chicken has come home to roost. The 2032 Olympics will almost certainly be held in Brisbane, because not one other city seriously wants them. History shows why. According to one report, the Montreal Games (1976) was seven times over budget.

The blowout for Barcelona was over 250 per cent, while the 2016 Games cost Brazilian taxpayers 350 per cent more than expected.

The Athens Games (2004) was a financial burden for Greece, but maybe Athens is the answer. Why not hold every Games (from 2036 onwards) there? After all, Greece is the Olympics’ spiritual home.

That would end bidding wars, and competing nations could pitch in funding to build or upgrade facilities so conditions would remain basically static.

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