Peter Corrigan: The ideal home

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The Independent Online

"Welcome home" read the posters greeting those arriving in Athens for the 28th Olympiad. They are words no other country in the world is entitled to use.

"Welcome home" read the posters greeting those arriving in Athens for the 28th Olympiad. They are words no other country in the world is entitled to use.

The International Olympic Committee might regard their headquarters in Switzerland as home, but they are only there so they can be close to their money. Greece is the true and unchallengeable home of the Olympic Games, and that is where they should reside permanently. Rumblings to that effect have been heard from Athens over the past few days, and no one can blame them.

Had these Games been the flop that so many rushed to predict, I doubt if the suggestion would have been made. But to a nation justly emboldened by the success they have made of the event it is an obvious reaction. There's nothing new in the notion. I have been banging on about it for many years.

I caught the bug from the late Chris Brasher when we were colleagues on The Observer. He was an Olympian. I wasn't; anything but. But I know a good idea when it's bellowed in my ear, and I have been promoting it at every opportunity.

One of the more notable chances to give it an airing was when the IOC were sel-ecting the host city for the 1996 Games. Considering it was precisely 100 years since the modern Olympics were born in Athens, you might have thought that Greece would be the automatic choice.

Not at all. For reasons never properly explained, they gave them to Atlanta, and they turned into one of the big flopperoos of all time. Whether the Greeks would have made as good a job of it then as they have now is debatable. It depends whether Gianna Angelopoulous would have hit her peak then, for she is the one who galvanised her country's efforts. Without her it would not have been possible.

I was in Lausanne when she won the bidding battle in 1998, and paid several visits to Athens during its transformation from a polluted, traffic-jammed city into the most delightful of venues.

It was touch and go - it always is - but the IOC intend to continue condemning city after city to years of turmoil, anguish and anxiety while undergoing the drastic changes and updates necessary to stage the Games well. And all the time under the whip of the IOC supervisors, to whom a comparison with the Pharoahs' foremen during the building of the pyramids is not unjust. You wouldn't wish it on your worst enemy. So why don't they consider settling the Games in one place? Ancient Olympia, where the shot-put competition was held in the first week, would make an appropriate permanent venue and act as a sporting academy for the youth of the world in between Olympiads.

Meanwhile, we are stuck with Beijing for 2008, and many great cities are demeaning themselves in grovelling for the honour of staging the 2012 event. I don't disparage London's effort but, for reasons I shall go into again, I'd prefer them not to be involved.

Maybe it would help the IOC's deliberations if they visited Princess Diana's memorial fountain. Then they could happily give the 2012 Games to Paris. And, while they're at it, they could ask if Paris will take the fountain as well.

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