Perhaps the best feel good story of the Rio Olympic Games is the refugee team. Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), told the world, "These refugees have no home, no team, no flag, no national anthem. We will offer them a home in the Olympic Village together with all the athletes of the world."
After screening dozens of refugee athletes, the IOC found a team of ten and $2 million to train them. This gesture is ironically symbolic because refugees and the Olympics are migrants in need of permanent homes.
Consider the Olympics where bids, and too often bribes, are made to host the made-for-TV spectacle. Promised as economic generators, the migrant Olympics instead leave a trail of multibillion dollar debt.
No Summer or Winter Games have come under budget in my lifetime and the costs keep rising. Recent Olympics have been among the most expensive ever - it cost $15 billion to summer in London, $22 billion for a winter trip to Sochi. Now comes Rio.
Given the economic damage inflicted on host cities and the way the Olympics are used to fortify the political power of oppressive governments, the refugee team is a shallow publicity stunt designed to obscure the fact that the IOC is driven by greed and graft.
1. If the IOC truly wants to make the world better through sport, it should build permanent Olympics homes. According to the IOC, "Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example, social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles." If the IOC truly had the "will and mind" to live its charter and Olympism philosophy in "blending sport with culture and education," it would build permanent Olympic homes, ending political corruption and economic devastation associated with migrating games.
In 2009, Rio de Janeiro was selected as the first South American Olympic host city. Brazil's economy was booming and the nation won hosting rights to both the FIFA World Cup and Summer Olympics. Many believed the hype that Brazil was an economic superpower in the making.
Yet a few corrupt and incompetent government regimes later, the Rio Games are now being held during the worst economic recession Brazilians have suffered in 80 years. I doubt Brazilians living in Rio's favelas - the drug-war ravaged slums - believe the Olympics are worth the cost. They won't be at the Games because they cannot afford safe housing, healthy food and clean water, let alone tickets to the Olympics.
Prior to the opening ceremonies, Rio's Governor declared a state of emergency begging for funding for essential services city services. Athletes, sponsors, politicians and the IOC may win the migrating Olympics, but host cities do not.
2. If the IOC truly cares about refugees, it should reward nations bearing the brunt of the crisis as permanent Olympic homes. Despite rhetoric that the refugee crisis is a shared burden, most nations get off easy donating cash and granting asylum to a token number of refuges. Meanwhile, countries on the frontlines of the crisis bear the brunt. Greece has had over a million refugees land on their shores alone.
The IOC should make Greece, the birthplace of the Olympics, the permanent home for Summer Games. Both France and Italy have served on the frontlines of the crisis too. The Alps would be a viable permanent home for the Winter Olympics - Chamonix in the French Alps hosted the inaugural Winter Olympics in 1924.
3. If the IOC seeks to end economic devastation, it should create refugee housing and jobs. The IOC could build permanent Olympic homes featuring long-term housing and reusable event venues utilizing refugee talent and labor. Tens of thousands of skilled professionals and laborers lost everything when displaced by war and persecution in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa and would welcome the jobs.
During Olympic off years, refugees could live in the empty village housing until resettled. Or perhaps the IOC turns the campuses into a university founded on Olympism, sport and culture.
Finding the right permanent homes for refugees or Olympic venues will not be easy, but it's what the IOC does best by bringing the world together and empowering incredible feats. Let the Games begin.