Olympic Ideals, and the Ideal Olympics

Spiridon Louis, the Greek shepherd boy who won the marathon race at the 1896 Athens Olympics, leads the Greek team into stadium at Berlin in 1936.

Spiridon Louis, the Greek shepherd boy who won the marathon race at the 1896 Athens Olympics.

Full disclosure: I still get goosebumps when I read the old stories of Spiridon Louis (1896 marathon winner, shown here at the Berlin games), Jim Thorpe, Ray Ewry, Johnny Weissmuller, and all the rest. I cherish the photos that I have of my grandfather officiating in Los Angeles in 1932, and posing aboard the S.S. Manhattan in 1936 with Johnny Kelley the Elder and Jesse Owens.

I loved the idealism of Baron de Coubertin and I think the Olympic ideal is cool. A part of me would love to see Boston as host city for the 2024 Summer Games, as some of our civic leaders have proposed.

But only a part of me. I know that the Olympic Ideal is all fluff and chiffon for those who organize, televise, and perform in the games.. “The name of the game is bucks,” as my radio professor Dan Viamonte kept reminding us.

My city, or any city, should not have to mortgage its future and put up those bucks to build a gigantic new athletic stadium. My city should not have to erect tens of thousands of new, luxury housing units that will be used for two weeks and then abandoned. No bucks from us for the privilege of hosting the Games. Rather, we think it will be a privilege for athletes from around the world to compete for their countries here, in the Cradle of Liberty.

So, International Olympic Committee, here’s what we’ll do. You can have your games in and around Boston. They will take place in August. We will arrange for our august (small “a”) institutions of higher learning to delay their openings for a few weeks. We’ll have them all pitch in and host the athletes from one or more countries.

The Japanese can stay at Showa Institute. The Israelis can live at Brandeis. The Irish will be housed at Boston College. Athletes from Communist countries can stay anywhere they want in Cambridge. And so on. Each national team can pay market rent for its housing arrangements. There’s plenty to be found, but no freebies. If you play, you pay.

Harvard Stadium

Harvard Stadium

We’ve got all the venues. We’ll have swimming at Harvard, sailing at Marblehead, equestrian at Myopia, all the other events at existing stadia and arenas.

Of course, the marathon will be from Hopkinton to Boston, the setting for the world’s premier road race. The opening and closing ceremonies will be at Harvard Stadium. What better atmosphere for them than America’s version of the Roman Coliseum?

TV money foots all the bills. Not a penny from taxpayers. We’ll work as volunteers during the games, and we’ll put up with the traffic and inconvenience. We’ll be glad to have you. But you’ve got to show us that you appreciate our hospitality.

Yes, Citius, Altius, Fortius. “Swifter, Higher, Stronger.”

sealBut Sicut Patribus, Sit Deus Nobis as well. “God be with us as He was with Our Fathers.’

That’s tradition. That’s a Boston Olympic ideal. Keep that in mind and let the games begin.

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