David Owen

As international sport has grown longer in the tooth, it has become fairly commonplace for cities – and now countries – to aspire to host events they first staged a century ago.

Athens tried and – to the surprise of many – failed to win the 1996 Olympics and Paralympics, losing out to Atlanta after four other rivals had been eliminated one by one. The Greek capital did, however, return and win the right to stage the 2004 Games.

Paris will, of course, be staging the 2024 event 100 years after it was last entrusted with Summer Games hosting duties.

Los Angeles 2028 will come 96 years after the biggest sports mega-event first went to California, while London 2012 took place 104 years after the Olympics first visited the UK capital.

Now, with time ticking relentlessly on, this "centenary club" is extending to other events.

Uruguay on their way to victory at the inaugural football World Cup in 1930 ©Getty Images
Uruguay on their way to victory at the inaugural football World Cup in 1930 ©Getty Images

The year 1930 brought both the first FIFA World Cup and the first Commonwealth Games (or British Empire Games as it was).

As things stand, it looks like Uruguay and Hamilton, the respective inaugural hosts, might be involved in staging the 2030 editions of these events.

Uruguay may bid in partnership with other South American countries to co-host what has grown into a 48-team tournament, although competition may be fierce.

The Canadian city of Hamilton, meanwhile, was described last month as a "real contender" to stage the 2030 Commonwealth Games after a visit by Commonwealth Games Federation officials.

In this overall context, it was with great interest that I read this week about International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach's latest comments regarding a possible future German Olympic bid.

According to my insidethegames colleague Dan Palmer’s report, Bach was "confident" a future bid from his home country could get off the ground, despite recent referendum defeats.

The IOC President was reported to have told Deutschlandfunk that there was less scepticism surrounding entering a future race, with talks said to be continuing about Germany potentially being a candidate for the 2032 or 2036 Summer Games.

I am not generally a fan of the choice of event locations being made on the strength of history alone.

Of course, such milestone anniversaries can be a legitimate part of a bidder’s pitch; but host selection, when event owners have the luxury of a choice, should be focused more on future benefits than commemorating history.

As former French skiing star Jean-Claude Killy observed some years ago, while counselling Paris against pinning its hopes of being awarded the 2024 Games on it being the centenary of 1924, "a romantic IOC no longer exists".

Atlanta landed the 1996 Olympics, much to the chagrin of Athens ©Getty Images
Atlanta landed the 1996 Olympics, much to the chagrin of Athens ©Getty Images

Indeed, if any bid might realistically have expected to win on the strength of history alone, it was Athens 1996.

As Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, the successful Athens 2004 bid leader and, later, Organising Committee head, wrote in her book, My Greek Drama: "The Greek Olympic campaign to host the 1996 Games had essentially demanded the Games as the nation's birthright, an inevitable dictate of history."

She added: "In disagreeing, the IOC demonstrated its limited interest in old legacies."

If a German bid for the Summer Games of 2036 were indeed to emerge, it would of course mark the centenary of the first time the event was staged in the country, Berlin 1936.

There is, needless to say, no earthly reason why we should want to commemorate those Games – unless for the way in which Hitler and his Nazi propaganda machine were partly upstaged by a 22-year-old sharecropper's son called Jesse Owens.

I can, though, see considerable appeal in the notion of how a Berlin 2036 Olympics – and, crucially, Paralympics – might enable a reunified Germany, a humane and tolerant society like few others, to demonstrate, should it so wish, that it can get this great celebration of human diversity and capability right.

The historical echoes of such an event ought also to give cause for the IOC to reflect on how even the best-intentioned bodies can sometimes take grotesquely awful decisions without strong governance and constant vigilance.

Those 1936 Games, after all, did not put the IOC off: in June 1939, as I discovered to my out-and-out astonishment quite recently, it decided to award the 1940 Winter Olympics to Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

That decision was taken all of 84 days before the German invasion of Poland.

In the event, those Games, like those of 1944, never took place.

Personally, I think the referendum hurdle remains a formidable obstacle to another Olympics in Germany, at least for now.

But I will be watching developments with keen interest.