London may be better, not bigger

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 31, 2008 – After the enormity that was the Games of the XXIX Olympiad in Beijing, a clear call for sanity is being sounded in London, host of the next Olympic Games, in 2012.

“The International Olympic Committee themselves,” said London 2012 chair Sebastian Coe in an interview with BBC Sport, “recognize that this is the last edition of a Games which is going to look and feel like this.”

And London is putting its money where its mouth is.

The government’s Olympic Games Minister, Tessa Jowell, told the Evening Standard newspaper that “We have commissioned KPMG to do a report on the equestrian, shooting and basketball venues, looking at whether the Olympic experience and the legacy they will provide represents value for money. When you take the costs for these venues, it seems like a lot of money to a lot of people. It is a sort of testing-to-destruction to see whether the spending can be justified.”

The idea that Olympic sites should actually be worth building is a stunning return to sanity, voiced just days after the Closing Ceremony of the Beijing Games. If the IOC actually believes in its stated value of “sustainability,” it must be against construction wherever possible and in favor of temporary facilities for the Games unless a permanent facility will have long-term use for sport and/or for the community.

To be candid, the inside talk in equestrian circles is that the sport may not even be renewed for 2012 (although that’s unlikely), shooting is something which is generally discouraged in urban settings and London already has places to play basketball, although they are being used for other sports for 2012. Why do these sites have to be built out of bricks and mortar instead of canvas and rented bleachers?

If London will follow Jowell’s concept and push it to the limit, building as little as possible, it may not have the biggest Games of the 21st Century, but it will have the smartest.

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