Olympic sprawl

In a Sunday editorial on Feb. 16, the Reno Gazette-Journal called for another Winter Olympics in our area.

Like its news coverage of the prospect of another Olympics (“Stop the journalism boosterism,” RN&R, August 16, 2012), the editorial screens out any disquieting information that might lead readers to question the wisdom of dropping an Olympics into the Sierra.

Go to the editorial on the RG-J website and search in the editorial for the word tax. “No matches found,” it will tell you.

Search for environment. “No matches found.”

Search for traffic congestion. “No matches found.”

Search for quality of life. “No matches found.”

Ah, but you will find this sentence, which somehow found its way into the editorial: “There’s no place in the U.S. that deserves the chance to host the Games again.” How that notion found its way into an editorial that is otherwise rich in chamber-of-commerce verbiage, clashing with the editorial’s sentiment, we’ll never know.

The fact is, our area needs an official body that will honestly assess the notion of another Olympics. It should be created at the state level—if the games go bad, the whole region will end up paying the bill—and it should be filled with clear-eyed members who are not in business to lure another Olympics but to scrutinize the claims of both sides and decide whether it’s a good idea or a bad idea and then report to the public. It would also be good if our elected state officials, too, would start acting more like protectors of the state instead of hand puppets for the business community.

Olympics are a mixed bag. Sometimes they go well, as in the case of the Utah games. Sometimes, they go badly, as in the case of the Montreal games, which took that city three decades to pay off.

What the Gazette-Journal and the Reno Tahoe Winter Games Coalition seem to blithely ignore is that it’s not 1960. In that year, our area hosted the Winter Olympics. But that was then. Today’s Olympics are not 1960-sized. They’re massive. Critics of the idea, who cannot seem to get respectful coverage from the Gazette-Journal or a respectful hearing from government, believe another Winter Olympics would be akin to an atom bomb in the Sierra. What, for example, would the Olympic village alone do to the environment? In Sydney in 2000, an entire town—Newington—was constructed. Supporters of another local Olympics like to point out that this time, the games would not be confined to Squaw Valley. Events would be spread all over a multi-county region. Their point is that many businesses would benefit from the games. Our point is that such sprawl could do enormous damage to the environment.

In 1972, when Denver was selected for the 1976 Winter Olympics, the people of Colorado defied the business community and voted overwhelmingly to prohibit the use of any public funds for the purpose, killing the Denver games. The Squaw Valley Olympics were used as a bad example in that campaign, opponents saying the 1960 games cost 13 times what was originally estimated. In a 1980s effort to bring the games back to our area, the supporters were honest enough to say they would need a sales tax hike. These days, the Gazette-Journal, the Coalition and government aren’t mentioning taxes. Ask yourself why. And then demand better journalism from the Gazette-Journal and better representation from our governments.