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The Sustainable Olympics

Nell Zink has a modest proposal for the next generation of global sport.

Jack Ryan

I oppose the Olympics on principle. I do not see what productive aim is served by individual athletic competition on a planet of seven billion people.

Then again, that population figure argues strongly against the relevance of my opinion. So sure, why not? Have two sets of Olympic Games every four years. Saturate us with tape of synchronized chess and inline swimming. Don’t sit around wondering what the concrete mafia will think of next, because you already know: acres of redundant stadiums, kayak chutes, velodromes, flimsy residential complexes, parking lots, highways, rail lines, airports, all rebuilt from scratch once every four years until the earth has been filled and subdued.

Many years ago, a coworker told me that her son sat glued to the Winter Olympics for days before revealing that he thought they were a public theme park. When you age out of Disney World, you move up to ski jumping and bobsleds. A chilling story. How could a six-year-old know the danger? Even high diving and pole vaulting can look like fun in the hands of competent experts!

Disney World is a birthright—I think of it as the American Mecca—but that doesn’t mean everyone has what it takes (money) to acquire the dish-eared black skullcap of the Hajji. The Olympics are more democratic. They move around. Sit still long enough, and you might find them in your backyard. “NIMBY!” you might scream, but lots of luck facing down the concrete mafia.

Under my plan for reform, the Olympics will no longer be assigned a fixed geographic location. Wherever—and more significantly, whenever—the events occur, they will be aggregated for a continuous video stream. Rather than attending the games, competitors will have the option of submitting their best performances from the past four years. (There aren’t that many events where the competitors even need to see each other, right?) The games will be expanded to include tragedy, dance, and music. Thank you.