John J. MacAloon
John J. MacAloon (Submitted photo,)

During the Olympics, fans from around the world travel to the site of the games ready to cheer their countrymen to victory. Whether the games are held in Beijing, London or Sochi, Russia, the influx of tourists is heavy and pumps millions of dollars into the local economy. Despite controversies — such as human and animal rights concerns at Sochi in February — the historic competition is generally viewed as a boon to the country selected to host it.

This perception is not entirely accurate, said John MacAloon, professor of social sciences at the University of Chicago, and he will challenge it during an event at McDaniel College later this week.

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MacAloon will be discussing the Olympic host city selection process during at the college on Thursday's Global Issues Colloquium, in which students will be encouraged to ask questions. He has spent the entirety of his career studying the relationship between sports and politics and said the International Olympic Committee is facing a growing problem: Fewer cities are willing to apply to be the host of the games.

For the 2022 Winter Olympics, just three cities have applied, and two of them are highly contentious, he said. This small list includes Almaty in Kazakhstan, which has a spotty human rights record; Oslo, Norway; and Beijing, which hosted the summer games in 2008 and has its own set of political and economic problems.

For the 2024 Summer Olympics, only two cities have applied so far: Istanbul and Doha, Qatar.

It has become increasingly difficult to convince cities that the Olympics are not too big, costly or politically complicated to make them worth the effort, MacAloon said.

"Suddenly the [International Olympic Committee] is facing a world where only the oil-rich nations and authoritarian states are willing to apply to host the Olympic games," MacAloon said.

He will also be discussing the difficulties the United States has run into in recent failed bids to host the event. The U.S. is the only country whose federal government will not offer direct funding of the games, he said.

"We still put billions into Salt Lake City [in 2002], but it was on security and transportation, not construction costs to build the site," MacAloon said. "The U.S. depends largely on corporate funds, ticket sales and merchandising for funding. Not surprisingly, the IOC has less and less confidence in the private model of funding for multibillion-dollar projects."

A few cities in the U.S. are considering applications to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington and Boston, MacAloon said, but he said he doesn't think they have a chance of being selected. He was involved in the failed bid to bring the games to Chicago in 2016, and until the IOC begins considering funding methods other than those directly from governments, he said, the U.S. shouldn't even bother applying.

MacAloon also said he has sent a list of reading material to the college that will prepare participants for the discussion. He said he hopes the material will enable the group to answer the question: How can the decline in applicants be resolved?

"This is the question I'm going to raise — what can be done in the future to remedy the situation," MacAloon said. "It's a very real crisis."

MacAloon is being brought to McDaniel as part of the school's Global Initiative program, which offers students special academic programming and the opportunity to study abroad, said Amy McNichols, associate dean of international and intercultural programs.

The keystone of the program is the Global Fellows, a group of students engaged in an interdisciplinary study of the world, she said. These students and others will engage in discussions with MacAloon about the complexities of the Olympics and the future of the event.

Global Initiative's model involves cultivating a peer group and developing intellectual friendships so students can really challenge one another, she said.

"[The Global Initiative program] goes beyond knowledge of world events," McNichols said. "We ask why things work the way they do."

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Junior Morgan Stanback, a California native, has helped organize the event and said she joined the fellows because she wanted to force herself become more globally minded.

"I really was curious how [the U.S.] interacts with other countries," Stanback said. "I've always been interested in politics and human rights. This is a great base to talk to people, and it's nice to have a bunch of people that come from different backgrounds all talk about the same issues."

She said the program has forced her to view issues from multiple perspectives that oftentimes conflict with the westernized perspective prevalent in the United States.

"I've had to take classes outside of my major, and it's given me a new cultural perspective," Stanback said. "I understand better where different people are coming from."

The Global Issues Colloquium is just one of many events planned by the Global Initiative program for the fall designed to expand students' perspective and cultivate a degree of understanding and open-mindedness, McNichols said.

"The program provides another option, another way of understanding the world," Stanback said.

Reach staff writer Wiley Hayes at 410-857-3315 or email him at wiley.hayes@carrollcountytimes.com.

If You Go:

What: Global Issues Colloquium with Olympics scholar John MacAloon

Where: The Decker Center Forum, McDaniel College, 2 College Hill, Westminster.

When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 11.

More Information: For a full list of events this fall or to find out more about the Global Initiative and the Global Fellows Programs, visit the school's website at http://www.mcdaniel.edu.

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