The painful Greek Olympic legacy is doubly relevant this month. Just nine days after the Greek referendum, the first test event for the Rio 2016 Olympics, the Volleyball World League Finals, start in the Maracanãzinho arena, in the shadow of the Maracanã soccer stadium.
The Athens Games were so expensive, in part, because the Greeks made such a mess of their preparations. The IOC warned the organizers repeatedly about delays. The late rush to completion escalated the costs. Rio has even bigger problems. In April 2014, John Coates, an IOC vice president, called its preparations the “worst ever,” according to the BBC.
In May, Reuters reported that the Games would cost Brazil $13.2 billion and that only about 10 percent of 56 Olympic projects were finished.
Brazil is already struggling with the legacy of the 2014 soccer World Cup, which cost it an estimated $14 billion and left it with hugely expensive stadiums it does not need. If the jungle reclaims the Arena Amazonia in Manaus, Brazilians will not even have the ruins to contemplate.
Some pundits have called for “austerity Olympics,” the name given to the London Games of 1948. While that might capture the mood of the times, IOC members, like the Greek public, have shown a marked reluctance to vote for austerity.
Yet the IOC could solve the problem of where to stage its increasingly costly Games and provide a helping hand to Greece by putting the Games permanently in Athens. Anyone who attended the 2004 Games has happy memories of the event, hot and humid though they were. The Greeks were good hosts. The country has historical and sentimental appeal. Greece was where the ancient Olympics were born. Athens was where the modern Olympics was reborn. Athens has the facilities. They aren’t being used for anything else. They need work, but putting the Games permanently in one place will allow it to become profitable for the host as well as for the IOC.
And the IOC is one of the few international institutions that owes a debt to Greece.