From A to Zeus: Team BID Goes to Greece

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Where is the Olympic spirit said to thrive? What city prides itself on the most longstanding Olympic legacy? Where is Pierre de Coubertin’s heart located—literally and figuratively?

Olympia, Greece.

While small in size, this city in western Peloponnesus is of large significance as the site of the Ancient Olympic Games. The date of the first Games marked the start of a cultural and athletic phenomenon that has become increasingly large-scale over the past century. When Pierre de Coubertin took on the project of reviving the Olympics in 1896, he turned to Olympia for inspiration and symbolic tradition.

Maintaining a lens on Olympism and urbanism, a member of BID’s author team visited Olympia this summer for a workshop at the International Olympic Academy (IOA). As an interdisciplinary center aimed at studying and promoting Olympism, IOA was a fitting location for BID to consider the many nuances of the Olympics starting from the ages of Antiquity all of the way to Modernity. Over time, urban development and the concrete impacts of hosting the Games have risen in importance to the world’s cities as well as the Olympic Movement.

Through this IOA experience, Team BID had an opportunity to underscore how city planners can learn from past Games to use the bid process as a means of tactical urban development planning. In turn, a positive bidding strategy can play a strong role in maintaining the historic Olympic ideals of “building a better world.”

The origin of urbanism and Olympism can be traced back to Pierre de Coubertin’s vision of a “modern Olympia,” with the Games extending beyond a sporting and cultural event to nourish the city’s environment through venue planning and design.

Since it was so near and dear to his heart, Pierre de Coubertin arranged for Olympia to serve as the final resting place of his heart. Upon his death, this desire was fulfilled with the burial of his heart, located near what is now the IOA campus.

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Pierre de Coubertin: “In these Olympiads, the important thing is not winning but taking part…What counts in life is not the victory but the struggle; the essential thing is not to conquer but to fight well.”

This summer also marked ten years since Athens hosted the modern Olympics and Paralympics. This 10th anniversary presented great timing for BID to analyze both the lessons learned and significant successes experienced by Greece as a result of the 2004 Games. Results from these Games seem as mixed as the opinions related to them. Nonetheless, concrete developments—including a new airport, new ring roads, new tram, and new telecom system—are seen as having created lasting benefits.

During the summer of 2012, Team BID traveled to London for research and involvement in the Olympics and Paralympics. A year later in 2013, a representative of Team BID went to Los Angeles to formally contribute Bidding for Development  to LA84Foundation’s Olympic library.  Now in 2014, the IOA’s Olympic archives officially accepted a copy of the book. What landmark Olympics city should team BID go to next?

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