Why Do Cities Keep Vying To Host The Olympics?

May 4, 2016
Originally published on May 4, 2016 11:58 am

On Thursday, it'll be three months till the Olympics begin. Usually, there'd be a panic by now that construction was way behind schedule, but, incredibly, only a couple of major projects remain incomplete in Rio.

No, rather the question remains how much can go haywire during the games to distract us from our enchanting presidential campaign.

Click the audio to hear Frank Deford's take on this issue.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Our sports commentator Frank Deford is something less than eager for the upcoming summer games.

FRANK DEFORD, BYLINE: Tomorrow it will be three months until the Olympics begin. Usually there'd be a panic by now that construction was way behind schedule. But incredibly, only a couple of major projects remain incompleted in Rio. No, rather the question remains, how much can go haywire during the games to distract us from our enchanting presidential campaign? Brazil, which just a few years ago looked economically like the next best thing to Warren Buffett, is now a financial shambles.

The president is facing impeachment, and the disgruntled poor people are not above rioting. Brazil borders 10 different countries. So not even Donald Trump can build enough walls to keep the prospective terrorists out. The mosquitoes, of course, are already in. Zika is such a threat that the United States Olympic Committee has acknowledged that it will understand if concerned athletes don't feel like flying down to Rio. Pollution is so dreadful that at one venue, the water was measured at 1.7 million times what is considered hazardous. There's also the fear that construction has gone so expeditiously because corners have been cut, safety sacrificed for speed. A new bike path crumbled down into the ocean, taking two lives. And alligators promenade on the Olympic golf course, which sadly was carved out of a natural preserve.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is why it's always wise to hold the Olympics in countries run by dictators so that the picayune little nuisances of 21st-century economics culture, health and environment can be dispatched with... Well, maybe not the alligators. Why do cities keep vying to host the Olympics? They invariably never live up to what the politicians and construction moguls promise. For instance, the Brazilian sports minister said recently that the games will reanimate the country and generate jobs. And pigs fly.

But here we have both Paris and Rome bidding for the 2024 games. Why? What can the Olympics do for Paris or Rome that the tourists, poets and lovers haven't celebrated for ages? Actually, Los Angeles is also bidding for 2024. And in point of fact, LA is, given its spacious geography and existing sports facilities, probably the best city in the free world to hold the games. Los Angeles is feeling its oats too because it finally got an NFL franchise back, which means a brand-new stadium for the Olympics. And it has golf courses galore without any alligators.

INSKEEP: Commentator Frank Deford joins us here the first Wednesday of every month. His latest book is called, "I'd Know That Voice Anywhere: My Favorite NPR Commentaries." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.