The Olympics will begin a week from Friday. Since I will be away for part of next week, I want to focus on “Olympic stuff” today. The latest estimate that I read is that the Chinese government has spent $42B preparing for these games including a few really big-ticket items such as the new airport terminal that cost $3B. In addition to the stadiums and sports venues in Beijing, a new subway line was part of the infrastructure enhancement in the city in addition to a huge media center and an Olympic Village that will become residential housing as soon as the Games are over.
Greece spent nowhere near this amount of money on the Athens Games and the Greek economy is only now beginning to eat through the massive debt it incurred. (Greece says it spent $15B but many folks say that does not account for any of the security costs or the costs to hire all the folks as temporary workers who actually provided the logistical support for the athletes and the attendees. Some estimates have had the Greek total expense in the $19-20B region. Whatever…) However, the Chinese economy is the second-largest economy in the world (GDP is in the neighborhood of $4T this year) and it seems as if this $42B spending spree will not cause major economic turmoil and upset. Whether or not the Olympics will pay for themselves – after you factor in the economic benefits provided by the infrastructure enhancements – is totally another story. I suspect that economic analysts can spin the numbers to come out with whatever answer they have been hired to come out with.
Stories of the spending for the London Games in 2012 are not nearly so rosy at the moment. The last account I read had the spending approaching $19B with a $6B contingency fund for overruns pretty much already earmarked. Moreover, London surely had plenty of infrastructure to begin with so the London cost accountings could be interesting to watch over the next four years.
NBC is ready to go with coverage that will be off the charts. Current plans call for 2,900 hours of coverage on about a dozen channels in the NBC ambit. If you do the math, that comes to more than 170 hours a day of Olympic coverage spread out over those channels; you will not be wanting for a way to see even the most minor of Olympic events. If you were to record all of the coverage – - obviously with about a dozen DVRs – - it would then take you a little over 120 days of non-stop watching to wade through your archive. To provide such coverage, NBC will send more than 2500 people to China to produce and cover the events.
Ad revenues for the games should top $1B; 30-second ads are going for an average of $750K apiece and as of late June, the estimate was that a little over 90% of the slots had been filled.
And so, the Games shall begin and once again they will be less and less about “stronger, higher and faster” and more and more about “cha-ching!” The athletes will only provide the means by which corporate sponsors and TV advertisers can maneuver to ring up sales and gain market shares. Like it or not, the athletes are merely cogs in the machinery of the Olympics…
Speaking of the athletes who will be competing, here is a prediction:
The winner of the diving competition could well be any random Portuguese soccer player. Their theatrics could really impress the judges.
I do not understand something about the gymnastics competition. Why do they call it women’s gymnastics? Despite the chronological age of any of the major competitors, it surely does not appear that many of them have even begun their march through puberty. I guess it doesn’t fit with the Olympic ideal or the Olympic motto to call it “Little Girl’s gymnastics”…
Here is a Quick Quiz:
Describe three of the five events in the Modern Pentathlon.
EXTRA CREDIT: Describe three of the five events in the Ancient Pentathlon.
EXTRA EXTRA CREDIT: Explain why anyone should care.
Here are some comments about the Olympics from columnists around the country that will give you a glimpse into various nooks and crannies of the Games:
“What can you say about the Bulgarian weightlifting team after it dropped out of the Olympics because 11 of 13 members tested positive for banned substances? When the Iron Curtain fell, it must have hit these dopes on the head.” Bob Molinaro Virginian-Pilot
“Nineteen South Florida-based athletes will be competing in Beijing. More than half qualified in this year’s new Olympic event, 100-meter road rage.” Greg Cote Miami Herald
“It shouldn’t be difficult to spot Hiroshi Hoketsu, Japan’s 67-year-old equestrian, at next month’s Olympic Games.
“Look for the horse with only a left blinker on.” Dwight Perry Seattle Times
Finally, here is one more comment relative to the Olympics from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times
“Mizuki Noguchi of Japan, the defending women’s Olympic marathon champion, will be back to defend her title with a new secret weapon — running shoes made from ground-up rice husks.
“Or, as they’re better known around the training table: Rice-A-Runni.”
But don‘t get me wrong, I love sports…