The IOC previously selected Paris as the site for the 2024 Summer Games and Los Angeles as the site for the 2028 Summer Games. The Games in 2020 will be in Tokyo and preparations for that event are well underway. Anyone who has read these rants for a while knows that I hold the IOC in very low regard; nevertheless, these last three decisions on venues are good ones. The reason they are good decisions is simple:
- All three cities reside in countries with solid/prospering economies and all three cities already have many of the necessary venues and infrastructure in place and in functional condition.
Some recent analysis of the aftermath of the 2016 Games in Rio point to the importance of putting these events in cities that are established and with sound economic underpinnings. Sportspromedia.com has a lengthy analysis of the Rio Games and it is very ugly. I recommend that you read this analysis in its entirety because it lays bare what happens when euphoric idealism (the status that existed when Rio was selected as the host for the 2016 Games) meets the real world. Let me offer just a few of the lowlights:
- Brazil’s economy was solid in 2009; the future looked bright; the political situation was stable by Latin American standards; there was plenty of time to make the Rio Games a showcase for the country.
- Following on the heels of the FIFA World Cup tournament in 2014, the Rio Games existed in a time of economic collapse and political upheaval in the country. Lots – and I mean LOTS – of the money appropriated to ready the city for the Games was wasted or fraudulently diverted.
- Costs for the 2016 Games is estimated at $13.1B. Problem is that Brazil does not have that kind of money in reserve in 2016/17. Compounding the problem, the Brazilians only budgeted around $9B for these endeavors back when they actually had money to spend.
- Many of the venues are “white elephants” – much like the huge soccer stadium built in rural Brazil for the World Cup that is now a bus parking lot. The venue that housed the 2016 Opening and Closing Ceremonies has been vandalized with many of its seats ripped out and stolen. Not surprisingly, it is unused these days.
- The Athletes Village is described as “void of life” and the golf course constructed for the Games charges $180 for a round of golf. In a country deep in a major recession, it does not get a lot patronage.
I am not so Pollyannaish as to believe that corruption and fraud do not occur in cities like London, Paris, Tokyo or Los Angeles. However, here are a couple of comments from the Sportspromedia.com report that probably would not be written about the preparations for games in one of those cities:
“… the malfeasance in Brazil’s political system has long been cancerous and its scale staggering, with every governor elected in Rio since 1998 either facing corruption charges or serving a sentence. He adds that the lucrative building contracts and ensuing construction boom brought about by the arrival of sport’s two biggest events only spawned new opportunities for corruption, with deals between politicians and large construction firms for venues and other infrastructure inflated and founded on sizeable tax exemptions.”
“If the financial and political consequences were dire, the social ramifications have been profound. It is estimated that as many as 100,000 people were evicted from Rio’s favelas to make way for large-scale construction projects and new real estate developments tied to the Games, exacerbating the deep distrust for elected officials that already existed among the city’s poorest people.”
“Most troubling of all is the fact that wasted public money has contributed to shortfalls in funding for vital services such as policing, schooling and healthcare. Protests from unpaid civil servants against the corruption, crony politicians and overspending on the Olympics in general were a feature of the months and years leading up to the Games; since they concluded, crime has spiraled to the highest levels in a decade, with street violence and stray bullets having become a daily reality. Just last week, thousands of armed forces were deployed to Rio’s streets as part of federal efforts to increase security and preserve public order.”
The IOC – probably intending to be ever so politically correct – celebrates the fact that it presents to countries the opportunity to be part of the “Olympic Movement” and to “play with the big boys”. The problem is that when countries overreach, the economic and social consequences are disastrous for the citizenry. It is not just Rio; look at the aftermath of the 2004 Games in Athens. The Greek economy was wobbly before the Games; it went into a freefall such that Greece was almost kicked out of the EU after the Games.
What would make sense would be for the IOC to take a position that would create some enemies. They should come up with a list of a half-dozen countries that will host the Summer Games on a rotating basis. There would be no need for “bidding”; there would be no mystery as to where the Games will he held when. And those half-dozen countries need to be in robust economies. Let me list some – perhaps most – of the contenders to be on the “List of The Half Dozen”:
- Great Britain
- United States
Here is what is “wrong” with my list of ten countries that should be trimmed to six. There are no “representative countries” from Africa or Latin America. And because of the potential for dire consequences – social and economic – to smaller economies, there ought not to be any. That last statement represents another collision between “idealism” and “the real world”.
The IOC will continue to do its business as it has in the past because the people at the top of the IOC and at the top of the various federations that govern the international sports involved in the Games are all in comfy situations. Their isolation protects them from the suffering that can befall people in countries where the economy collapses under the added burden of Olympic expenditures that were beyond the means of the economy from Day One. The IOC will not be able to slurp at the public troughs in Paris and LA to the same extent that they can and did in years gone by. Probably by the time they come to consider the venue for 2032, they will go looking for another site to exploit. Emerging economies beware…
Finally, all is not gloom in the world of the “Olympic Movement” – something that I have previously likened to a bowel movement. Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian Pilot had this item in a column recently. It shows that the IOC is looking to the future for the Paris Games in 2024 and is not slavishly tied to the threadbare motto of “Faster, Higher, Stronger”:
“C’est la vie: Another sign of the coming Apocalypse comes from organizers of the 2024 Paris Olympics who are considering the inclusion of eSports – video gaming – as a competitive event.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………