All the Worst Reasons You Don’t Want the Olympics Coming to America
Imagine for a moment that you found out the Olympic games were going to be hosted in your city. Would you be excited? Annoyed? Indifferent?
Most people think that hosting the Olympics is a huge honor, and for the most part, they’re absolutely right. But there are several considerations that few citizens take into account when they think about the prospect of hosting the Olympics or any other large-scale event. When it comes to making a list of pros and cons for potentially becoming an Olympics host city, the negatives may outweigh the benefits.
Here are some of the reasons why South Korea might regret agreeing to host the 2018 Winter Olympics after all.
1. The cost of hosting mega-events is mind-boggling
Saying “Hosting the Olympics is expensive” is kind of like saying, “Water is wet.” The estimated cost to host cities has skyrocketed in the past twenty years. The 2000 Olympic games in Sydney had an estimated cost of $4.7 billion — no small amount by any stretch. In 2008, Beijing spent a staggering $42 billion.
It can be hard to pinpoint the total cost of hosting, however. Cities such as Beijing, London, and Rio built in “legacy” planning when they made their Olympic strategies, essentially ensuring that the investment would pay off after the Olympic crowds left town. Spending more up front wasn’t entirely necessary, but it helped to justify the costs over time.
Some examples of legacy planning include better transportation systems, job creation, economic stimulation, and urban renewal and regeneration. But even that’s not enough to make an Olympic bid qualify as a sound investment. The 2004 Olympics in Greece left the country with 7 billion euros worth of debt, which many attribute as a major cause of the country’s eventual economic crisis.
2. It’s difficult to complete reconfigure urban space
Think about the city you live in. Even if it’s grown over time, planning efforts have probably been gradual over many years. Hosting the Olympics or some other large-scale event would ramp up that timeline significantly.
For one thing, cities need to cater to the parameters set forth by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The entire city will need to be changed into a recreational environment that’s set up for retail, sports, leisure, and lodging. It’s a costly and confusing undertaking that takes an enormous amount of planning.
Hosting the Summer Olympics requires a city to provide space for 300 events spanning 30 sports in 17 days, lodging for 11,000 athletes and 5,000 coaches, 42,000 hotel rooms for Olympic officials and corporate sponsors, a staff of 300,000 contractors and volunteers, a 20-acre broadcast center with enough electricity to light up 10,000 homes, and a force comprised of 20,000 military, police, and other security personnel.
3. What happens after the event leaves town?
Inevitably, the crowds will leave after the event comes to an end. And it leaves cities with a very big question: Now what?
Take the example of Cape Town’s massive $600 million, 55,000 seat Green Point Stadium that was built in anticipation of the 2010 World Cup. Since that time, an additional $32 million has been sunk into upkeep costs, funds which would have been better spent on more important local issues such as providing sanitation and housing for the poor residents of the city.
Brazil’s $550 million World Cup Stadium? That’s a really, really expensive parking lot now. It’s all just proof that spending all that money on new stadiums and other infrastructure usually won’t pay off in the end.
4. Hosting the Olympics could result in human rights violations
Here’s something you may not have considered: building new infrastructure in cities could affect the poor and homeless of the community.
Before the 2008 Beijing games, an estimated 1.5 million people were forcibly removed from their homes and were given very little compensation. Entire neighborhoods were demolished to make way for new mega-buildings made especially for Olympic events.
Displacement is only one potential human rights violation that happens during mega-events like the Olympics. There were LGBT rights concerns during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics as well as casualties on the construction sites of the Qatar 2022 World Cup. While the Olympics stand as a symbol of world peace and unity, the reality behind the scenes is often the opposite of that.
5. There can be huge security concerns
Imagine half a million strangers descending upon your town. That’s essentially what you’re signing up for when you make a bid to host the Olympics.
Besides the obvious threat of terrorist attacks at any large-scale event, there are also other security concerns that stem from being the host city. Muggings, murder, and other criminal activities increase surrounding large events. Even with tens of thousands of additional security personnel and security fencing (just another part of the huge cost to the city), there is no way to completely curtail crime during the Olympics.
6. Hosting the Olympics is basically a crapshoot
It’s unlikely for the Olympics to be profitable for a city — but it is possible. The trouble is that the decision to host is a huge gamble.
The city of Boston wasn’t willing to take that risk. When they won the right to bid on the 2024 Summer Olympics instead of Los Angeles, protestors were so fervently against it that Boston’s mayor decided they didn’t even want the bid a few months later. The city of Los Angeles, who did manage to host profitable Olympic events in 1932 and 1984, made their bid despite the risk.
7. Most cities don’t even want to host the Olympics anymore
Some cities see hosting the Olympics as a way to boost tourism and gain international prestige. But most are starting to realize that hosting is actually just a billion dollar headache.
That’s why the IOC is having a hard time finding cities who are willing to host the Olympics at all. When Beijing was chosen for 2022 Winter Games, the only other option was Almaty, Kazakhstan. The other potential bidders including Oslo, Krakow, Stockholm, St. Moritz, and Lviv, Ukraine had all previously backed out. Even though the 2024 Summer Games were awarded to Paris over Los Angeles, L.A. will get to host the 2028 games because literally no one else wants to.
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