The Conspiracy

2020 Vision for Jerusalem?

Teddy Kollek Stadium: Site of 2020 Opening Ceremony?

Teddy Kollek Stadium: Site of 2020 Opening Ceremony?

Last week, Udi Sommer wrote an op-ed for the Christian Science Monitor (normally one of my favorite news sites) with a somewhat radical proposal.  In his piece, he suggested that the International Olympic Committee award Jerusalem the 2020 Summer Olympics, albeit with one very important stipulation.

Sommer argues that this privilege – if one dare call hosting the Olympics a privilege – should be contingent upon an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.  In short, the international community led by the U.S. should not dangle this Olympic-sized carrot unless there’s real peace by 2013.

With all apologies to Sommer, who’s probably a very intelligent and well-meaning man, this kind of idiocy and short-sightedness is doomed to fail.  While there’s no doubt that mega-events such as the Olympics can provide a temporary boon to the host locales – public morale improves, tourists rush in, and outdated infrastructure gets revitalized – the drawbacks are manifold.

Now I’ll admit – albeit reluctantly – that this could be the extra incentive that does lead to peace in Israel.  What I won’t do, however, is support Sommer’s idea.  You see, I, along with most of those concerned, want a peace that will last longer than 6 years; in other words, I want a peace that will last longer than the interim period between a 2013 treaty and the immediate run-up to the 2020 Olympiad.

Put simply, a Jerusalem Olympics would be a catastrophe.  Here’s but a few reasons why:

  • In the last twenty years, over two million people have been displaced or forcibly removed from their homes as a result of the Olympics, most notably in Beijing before the 2008 Games.  On a related note, 20,000 residents of Cape Town’s Joe Slovo Informal Settlement are facing eviction due to another of the sporting world’s egregious money-grabs, South Africa’s upcoming World Cup.

    Former IOC President, the Late Juan Antonio Samaranch

    Former IOC President, The Late Juan Antonio Samaranch

  • Vast cost overruns are par for the course.  The Beijing Olympics, originally slated to cost $2 billion, ended up costing the Chinese a cool $20 billion.
  • As part of the Olympic bid contract, cities are forbidden from holding any anti-Olympic demonstrations. In fact, “nothing to detract from the allure of the Games may take place immediately before, during, or after the events.”  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out how far the Israeli police force could run with this little dissent-squashing clause.
  • The IOC, besides historically having downright evil leadership, is above the law. As a Swiss NGO, other governments have no control over the organization. So when, for example, the British Columbia courts ruled that the IOC had discriminated based on gender in the run-up to last year’s Winter games, they were unable to do anything about it.

So now, let us imagine together, the fruits of Udi Sommer’s grand idea.  It’s 2020, and Jerusalem is at peace (at least according to some already-dated government document); tens of thousands of illicit/informal homes in the area are destroyed, leaving countless people (read: Arabs) homeless; and any anti-government or anti-Olympic protest is put down quickly and efficiently, with those responsible (again, most likely Arabs) rounded up and imprisoned.  All this while taxpayers foot the bill on unnecessary sporting complexes, and greedy politicians take their piece of the very, very sizable pie (Holyland, anyone?).

Yes, Mr. Sommer, Jerusalem in 2020 will surely be something to behold, the Olympics a certain recipe for a true and lasting peace.  Just forgive me when I sit these games out.

Sam Melamed is a Masa participant, participating in Career Israel, one of Masa Israel‘s 160 programs.

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One Older Response to “2020 Vision for Jerusalem?”

  1. cat_rescuer
    May 6, 2010 at 9:31 pm #

    One evening I looked at a map of Israel and I realized that the combined colors of the flags of Israel and the Palestine Authority were just about the same as those of the Olympic rings.

    So – what if, someday, somehow, Jerusalem could host the Summer Olympics, with all of the surrounding nations hosting key elements of the Games?
    ï‚Ÿ What if the opening and closing ceremonies could be held in Jerusalem, with
    ï‚Ÿ Lebanon, long known as a tourist destination, taking charge of the hospitality?
    ï‚Ÿ The Palestinian Authority recognizing the tourism possibilities, and arranging extensive tours of Biblical sites within its areas?
    ï‚Ÿ Egypt hosting some of the water events?
    ï‚Ÿ Saudi Arabia leading the equestrian events, in honor of its namesake horse breed?
    ï‚Ÿ Imagine a spectacular marathon run from an archeological site in Jordan into Israel –

    Impossible! Preposterous! There’s a war going on, terrorists and dictators destroying everything they touch. The current proposals for peace are tired and obsolete – “land for peace” results in more bombs, ever closer to all parts of Israel; “ceasefires” are hudnas, opportunities for re-armament for terrorists; international peacekeeping forces are toothless, unable and/or unwilling to do anything more than watch war preparations with binoculars. We need something different.

    So – it would take perhaps 2 generations – 40-50 years – before such a Games could happen. But think of the consequences of even the preparation; we’ve seen it with each Games:
    ï‚Ÿ The host country upgrades all of its infrastructure – roads and all methods of transportation, housing, communications, utilities;
    ï‚Ÿ People worldwide watch, or better yet visit and participate in a spectacle that [generally] shows the best of human competition and cooperation.

    Think of some of the current problems of the Middle East, and how such a regional Games might help:
     Most Arab countries suffer from high unemployment rates, a dictatorial ruling class, high poverty rates, little or no middle class. They have high numbers of young males, many educated with college degrees and nothing to do. Idle hands are the Devil’s, the saying goes, and such people are ready prey for extreme, violent talk that blames “the other” and promises a quick fix for what appears to be a future of little hope.
     Building and upgrading a country’s infrastructure requires workers of all skills and levels, and many would need to be engineers, architects, construction workers, communications technicians, translators, electricians, plumbers, and many other professions that make up the middle classes throughout the world. The Arab host countries could create and/or enhance a middle class that would in turn help those nations for generations after the Games.

    Worldwide, the Jihadis offer no alternatives; they emphasize and demonstrate destruction. It’s no accident that terrorists have tried to blow up newly [re]built schools, clinics, hospitals, shops; they know nothing else. The Olympics are that something else. The pride and energy that such an overarching project would require could literally steamroll the Jihadist philosophy into oblivion.

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