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Move Them to Switzerland


By Antony J. Blinken

AS THE SMOG of international political idiocy descends upon the Los Angeles Olympics, cries have arisen that it's time to extinguish. Baron de Coubertin's torch once and for all. Such arguments strike an increasingly responsive chord, indeed, the last Games to be left unscathed by the non-athletic tug of war between rival states took place in 1968. Since then, we've seen the massacre of 11 Israelis in Munich, the African boycott of Montreal, the U.S. no-show in Moscow, and now, the big nyet from Chernenko and Co. Nor do prospects for the future look good. The 1988 Games were awarded to South Korea, thereby presenting Big Brother to the North with an ideal opportunity to wreak havoc upon its estranged friends to the South. And of course, Soviet-South Korean relations being what they are, the Russians could easily decide to stay home again.

Thus, even if the Olympic movement survives this year's debacle, the all-to-likely disruption of the 1988 Games will probably make permanent the pattern of instability and insure that no nation will risk hosting the Olympics thereafter. According to this line of thinking, it would make sense to consign the Games to history's dustbin right now and forego the future trauma.

Alas, we forget one small detail the Olympics are worth saving. As the memory of assassinations and boycotts slowly fades, the stars of the Bob Beamons, Mark Spitzes, Alberto Jauntorenas and Nadia Comanecis continue to shine brightly. The beauty and drama of athletic competition reaches its pinnacle at Olympic time: what a tragedy it would be to give up all the moments yet to come.

But the vicious circle of political one-upsmanship and ideological posturing must be broken if the Olympics are to survive. What is to be done? Well, for starters, we must move the Games to a permanent location in a relatively neutral country. History and sentiment tell us that Greece would be an ideal home for the Olympics; the knowledge that the Turks and Cyprus are right next door dictates otherwise.

The International Olympic Committee does not meet in Athens, but in Lausanne, Switzerland. Why not let the Olympics become a Swiss event?

Bringing the flame to Zurich and Geneva makes more than just political sense. The economic burden of the Games can be tremendous, Host city Montreal, for example, lost a bundle in 1976 and almost did not complete construction of its stadium in time for the opening ceremonies. Although local business thrives during an Olympiad, the host's tax coffers are rapidly depleted. If the site of the Games were made permanent, the initial expenditure would be offset by a lack of building requirements for all subsequent Olympiads. The initial construction costs themselves might be spread out, and assumed by the various participating nations.

Similarly, any profits resulting from ticket, television and commercial sales could then be funneled into a permanent improvement fund for the athletic facilities and the Olympic village instead of going to the host city. Thus, state-of-the-art arenas and accommodations would be assured for the Games at minimal cost.

GRANTED, DE COUBERTIN'S vision saw the Games bestowing the glow of friendly competition among athletes upon a different country every four years. And, after a few decades, viewers around the globe will no doubt become more familiar with the intricacies of Swiss banking than is necessary. But given the current mess and assuming a desire to save the Games, setting up shop near the Alps may prove to be a decent compromise solution. Besides, in the end, the location of the Olympics is irrelevant. If we'd just leave them alone, the athletes could create enough of a spectacle to make everyone content.

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