The Rio Olympics are set to begin on August 5th.
For every olympic games there is a fight by cities and countries around the world to host it. The cities promise extensive municipal improvements along with construction of appropriate facilities for the various events. The 4 cities on the shortlist for 2016 were Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo. Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jordan all supported Chicago’s bid.
In the end, Rio de Janeiro was chosen and that’s where the games are set to take place.
Why Would Anyone WANT To Host The Olympics?
The olympics being hosted in your city and country is viewed as being a great honor, which it is, a chance to show off your locale to the world, which it is, and a stimulant to the local economy that brings in massive tourism spending, which it is not. Technically it does bring in tons of money and technically it does go to local restaurants and hotels, but the host pays FAR, FAR more to host the olympics than the economic benefit it provides.
The New York Times, in an article titled “Does Hosting the Olympics Actually Pay Off?” makes the excellent point that the increase in tourism spending supplants other tourism spending. For example, during the London games they suspended performances of “Sweeney Todd”.
If the goal is to help the local economy, it would be better to just give the money they would have spent on the olympics to those local merchants.
But What About The Infrastructure?
One argument is that stadiums are facilities built for the olympics which then remain for the local’s enjoyment after the game. I’ve seen the olympic facilities that remain in Montreal, Canada and Helsinki, Finland and they’re half abandoned derelicts. I actually stayed at the Helsinki olympic complex, there’s a youth hostel there now. Neither is in any way a useful addition to their city.
If there was the desire to have such amenities in the city, they would have already been built there. The idea that the olympics subsidizes useful construction for the locals has been disproven at virtually every game.
Rio 2016 Is Going To Be A Shitshow
Having Rio de Janeiro host the games was a terrible decision and I think they should have cancelled the 2016 games.
Zika fever is in full swing and Brazil has 91,387 registered cases. It seems absurd to send people from all over the world there to get infected and bring it back home with them. In the case of the athletes, they’re in prime child bearing years and sending them to Brazil to get infected right before they might have children seems insane.
Rio promised to clean up its polluted harbor and the plan is to hold multiple water events on it. It hasn’t been cleaned up and is literally a sewer, with waste from the large city being dumped into it. Reports seem to agree that athlete infection is very likely.
What To Do Instead
I’m not arguing to abandon the olympics entirely. I don’t have any interest, but if other people follow the games then power to them. Instead I think they should establish a single, permanent location for the games.
All the countries that compete can contribute to the construction and maintenance – using whatever distribution of costs seems fair to those involved. PERHAPS with a long term focus, building with an eye to maintenance and properly handling the tourism it might be possible for the games to be self-sufficient.
Over time, based on experiences at each games, the host location can plan for expansions and future improvements. Rather than trying to retrofit the facilities for other purposes, they will always be needed at the next games in 4 years time.
Settling on the location for the games might be the biggest conflict, given that there’s a fight to host each individual games – hosting the permanent site might be such a competition on steroids. What seems fair to me is that since Greece is where the olympics originated, that would be the natural place to locate them.
In the interest of full disclosure, the drawbacks of hosting the olympics and this idea came from my father – we talk about it ever 4 years. I agree with him 100%.
Are you looking forward to the olympics? Which events? Do you think it’s a good idea for cities to fight to be the host?