Major sporting events such as the Olympics and the World Cup are too expensive. The “World of Coke” is great, but few go out of their way to visit Atlanta because it once hosted the Olympics. And while more people do go to Beijing since the 2008 Olympics, many of its highly expensive sports facilities have gathered dust. As for Greece, it built some beautiful stadiums, rail lines and even updated the Athens airport. However, ask Greeks today about whether the billions in debt were worth it and you would find few would agree. And then their is poor Montreal, whose residents were paying down its debt for the 1976 Olympics into the 21st century!
In 2014, paying the astronomical costs of hosting sporting events are Brazil and Sochi (Russia). The new World Cup stadium in Brasilia alone cost nearly $1 billion – three times its projected cost. Overall, the costs topped $10 billion. Meanwhile, construction is behind, as well. This after the recent Sochi Olympics debacle – how can a developing country with critical needs for education and health care even consider paying $25 billion for an Olympics? When you count up all the rampant corruption this may actually double.
Why Host the Olympics If They Are So Expensive?
Of course, civic leaders would argue that they are using the games for long-term gain. Often times the deadlines associated with the event force cities to end political gridlock and approve needed infrastructure. While politically-masterful, much of the money is still spent on unnecessary stadiums, hotels, and even velodromes that will serve little purpose after the event. Another argument you might encounter is that this will turn our city into a vacation destination. Supposedly, these improvements would have some wider economic impact for decades to come. Yet, this rarely actually occurs.
The problem is the world has a short attention span. In Google Trends, I looked up searches for “World Cup” and “Olympics” over time. Interest shoots up during the games and then plummets. I tried this in French as well and found the same result. Bottom line: spectators stop caring about a city or country when their team leaves. Have you ever decided to visit a former Olympic or World Cup site because it once hosted games or even because it now had a nice airport?
Making Sporting Events Less Burdensome
It is time for the Beautiful Game to lower its costs. If European-centric organizations that run both tournaments want to give new regions an opportunity to host the Cup, they must change their requirements.
- Local organizers should follow the model of the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games, which hosted the Games almost entirely in existing facilities. It’s no big surprise then that Los Angeles actually made a profit from the Games – money that they then used to promote youth sports. Existing facilities are much cheaper.
- International sports organizations should directly subsidize developing world hosts.
- They can also provide a larger share of television rights to developing countries. That way stadiums wont replace school books on budgets.
Finally, time is of the essence: Rio de Janeiro must do a great deal more to get ready for the Olympics in just two more years!