Games have proven poisoned chalice for host cities

Tue Mar 18, 2008 12:45pm EDT
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By John Mehaffey

LONDON (Reuters) - As the past decades have demonstrated, the euphoria and glamour associated with staging the Olympic Games can quickly dissipate through forces often beyond the host city's control.

Beijing's successful bid in Moscow seven years ago to host the 2008 Olympics won worldwide approval after the Chinese capital had narrowly lost the 2000 Games to Sydney.

However, China's goal of portraying an image of a united, peaceful and prosperous society is now being undermined daily through a government crackdown on anti-Chinese protests in Lhasa, capital of the mainly Buddhist Himalayan region of Tibet.

This month, athletes' concerns about pollution were highlighted when world record holder Haile Gebrselassie said he would not run the marathon in Beijing because of health concerns.

Munich in 1972 and Montreal four years later were host cities which found the Games could become a poisoned chalice.

Munich had planned to showcase the political, economic and social successes of post-war Germany in the same fashion that the 1964 Tokyo Games had illustrated Japan's emergence from the devastation of World War Two.

Instead, a Games designed to celebrate peace were the venue for the so-called "Munich massacre" which changed the face of sporting events forever.

Two Israelis were initially killed and nine taken hostage after eight Palestinian guerrillas easily infiltrated the flimsy security at the Olympic village.   Continued...