Jerusalem Olympics

People in the Middle East are used to conflict and violence. Thus, simply imagining peace there hasn't worked. It's time for a new way of thinking, a more attractive goal. Imagine instead a prosperous, dynamic Middle East. Imagine peoples and countries that creatively and cooperatively take advantage of their natural and spiritual resources. A new focus on prosperity as the ultimate goal will yield peace along the way. Holding the Olympic Games in Jerusalem in 2024 will be the best first step.

Let's take this first step together as partners. There are two easy ways to push this idea along: (1) Send the link to this page to as many of your friends and associates that you think may be interested; and (2) Even better, let us know how we can work together to bring the Olympics to Jerusalem.

The Argument for the 2024 Olympic Games in Jerusalem

The nearly complete destruction of the continental European economies by World War II seriously endangered the stability of Europe's social and political institutions. Europe's leaders knew that to rebuild from the ruins, it was essential to form new kinds of international institutions to ensure prosperity, stability, and peace in the region. The first of these institutions was the European Coal and Steel Community, established in 1952 to integrate the coal and steel industries of France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. Almost three score years later, based on the success of this first small experiment in economic interdependence, we now see the European Union with 27 member nations and 3 candidate countries set to join during the next few years. The economies have burgeoned, but more important, peace has persisted.  Indeed, peace is the reason a trillion dollars is now put into preserving the EU now, as the global economy reboots after the fall of 2008-09.

Might such an approach work in the war-torn Middle East? Let's consider the possibilities and potential of a Middle Eastern Union. The crux of the problem is Jerusalem. The holy Old City is a matter of faith to so many. For Christians it is sacred because of its associations with Christ. For Jews it has served as the center for their people—not only in a national way but, more important, in a religious sense. For Muslims only Mecca and Medina are more important spiritual places. And the fighting over the real estate that represents its spiritual events appears perpetual.

Jerusalem can be a primary part of the solution. But we must look beyond the rockets, bombs, and petty property disputes of the day. We must imagine safe, prosperous, and peaceful place. Imagine an international shrine. Israel would have its grand capital to the west, in the New City, and the Palestinians to the east a bit.

Religious tourism would feed the economies in both countries, as well as the surrounding area. Imagine the possibilities! In 2000, before the most recent insanity of violence, tourism brought in $3.2 billion in revenues for Israel. Compare that with Disneyland in Orange County, California. That park's yearly 10 million visitors spend about $100 each on tickets, food, and souvenirs. Add in the transportation, hotel, and restaurant revenues appreciated in the neighborhood, and that's more than a couple of billion dollars a year coming to the Anaheim environs.

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher (built over the tomb of Jesus) would draw Christians. The Wailing Wall is the most holy place for Jews. Muslims would flock to the Dome of the Rock (Mohammed was carried by the angel Gabriel for a visit to Heaven after praying at the Rock). The most enlightened tourists would visit all three. Disney might consult on the queuing problems. Staying open 24/7 would expand capacity by allowing jet-lagged pilgrims access to the more popular places. And outside the Old City are Bethlehem, Hebron, Nazareth, Jericho, the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea, and the Red Sea, to name only the more obvious attractions. We're talking $10 billion to $20 billion in annual revenues if things are done right—that's about 10 to 15 percent of the current GDP of Israel. Indeed, the potential gate is the 3.5 billion Christians, Muslims, and Jews around the world!

To the east, a new Hijaz Railway is being talked about everywhere. The Ottoman Turks envisioned connecting Istanbul to Medina, and Haifa to Baghdad, even Tehran—all for the sake of religious tourism. Indeed, the line’s original purpose was taking pilgrims to Medina from Damascus; that was before Lawrence of Arabia severed it for carrying arms and troops during World War I. Involved executives reckon the two-day trip from Tehran to Amman would cost under $100, and the Shiite Muslims of Iran will flock to their holy sights in the area. Why not run the line all the way to east Jerusalem?

How about Jerusalem as the site for the 2024 Olympic games? That’s another $50 billion in revenues (the Chinese spent $43 billion for the Beijing Games) . And ignoring the dollars for a moment, please consider the sentiments associated with “the 2024 Jerusalem Games” juxtaposed with the disaster of Munich in 1972. And ignoring the dollars for another moment, imagine the spiritual splendor for so many millions visiting the sources of their faith, treading some of the original paths of David, Jesus, and Mohammed.

This little fantasy presumes a peaceful political division of Israel and Palestine along the lines reaffirmed in the Oslo Accords. It presumes a dropping of all commercial boycotts in the region. It presumes that Palestinians won't have to risk being shot while "hopping the fence" to work in Israel. It presumes that companies like Nestlé will be able to integrate the operations of their complementary plants in the area. It presumes that the United States and other countries will send to the region legions of tourists rather than boatloads of weapons. It presumes an open, international, and, most important, a whole Old City of Jerusalem. And it presumes free trade and travel among all nations in the region allowing all to prosper in new ways.

Finally, as Pulitzer Prize winner Jared Diamond points out, the Middle East, historically referred to as the Fertile Crescent, was the cradle of civilization. It became so long ago because of innovation and trade in the region. One can only imagine what free trade in the area would produce now.

[excerpted, in large part, from page 275 of International Marketing (12-15th editions) by Philip R. Cateora, Mary C. Gilly, and John L. Graham, McGraw-Hill, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013]

New Ideas about the Jerusalem Olympics - November 13, 2010

A couple of nights ago I found myself at a chic little beach restaurant in Tel Aviv having a nice dinner and conversation with three impressive young peacebuilders – Mica Shibata, Daniel Wehrenfennig, and Isaac Yerushalmi. Among the many topics we discussed was a favorite of mine – the Jerusalem Olympics. The mix of Mediterranean sea breezes and their unjaded minds yielded some wonderful new ideas: Not only spread the Olympic events at venues around Israel and Palestine (such as beach volleyball at Gaza or rowing on the Sea of Galilee), but also perhaps include events in close by Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. Or use “bricks from the security walls” around the country to build the main stadium in Jerusalem. Why stop with the Olympics? The new tourism infrastructure for the Games would also nicely support a World Cup competition, perhaps with preliminary games across the region as well. Indeed, why not a new Disneyland near Gaza to serve Middle Eastern kids? The climate would be just right. Please let us know what you think. Indeed, if you like the idea of the Olympics in Jerusalem please pass along the link to your friends and associates (

See the longer argument in PDF format.

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