Grantland’s Bill Simmons once questioned the potential lifespan of the Olympics, since it sometimes collapses economies even though many people only appreciate its relevance for 17 days every two years. He’s suggested that the Games will someday disappear and the World Cup will take its place, maybe once America can adequately compete in soccer (so, roughly never).
But USOC CEO Scott Blackmun thinks the London Games are an excellent example of how the event can create social change and shape culture around the world with its ideals of “openness and inclusion,” and it doesn’t sound like he’s too worried about it disappearing. He told the USA Today that he sees a lot of room for growth over the next 30 years.
“[The Olympics are] a values-based movement,” Blackmun said. “If you look at what happened in Qatar, Brunei, and Saudi Arabia, where they had women competing for the first time, I think we’ve got tangible evidence coming out of these Games that the Olympic Games are making a difference not only in sport but in a broader context. As I look ahead, I think the Olympic Games are only going to increase in their relevance.”
London seems to have avoided a financial apocalypse, and we hope the Olympics won’t cripple Rio – though, ironically, it might be the infrastructure created by the 2014 World Cup that saves it – but for as much havoc as it can levy on the books, we think Blackmun is right.
We might need to be smarter about where they take place, which is to stay Istanbul in 2020 instead of Madrid, but the Olympics are an important event that has pushed the world in the right direction racially, socially, and culturally for 116 years. We need to make sure they survive, even if many people only appreciate its relevance for 17 days ever two years.