The overall cost of developing the necessary Olympics infrastructure consistently costs the host city between $50 million to $100 million. And there’s no compensation for an unsuccessful bid, Tokyo’s failed 2016 proposal cost them around $150 million.
With such a financial burden before the bid is even accepted, it’s not a surprise really that countries keep pulling out of proposed Olympic submissions. Public support has been a factor on more than one occasion in the form of Anti-Olympic movements. The NOlympia movement, is a prime example, when 52% of Hamburg residents voted against the 2024 Olympic bid, in fear of the country being plunged into economical degradation. Plus, there’s no way of foreseeing future fiscal circumstance; Rio did not predict their economic recession when they made a successful bid at the Summer 2016 Games.
The Anti-Olympic movements may sound unpatriotic, however, when a country’s finances could be spent on preservation and development, more focus should be placed on civic priorities. Chris Dempsey, one of the leaders of the No Boston Olympics campaign, says that, “The Olympics would have been a huge net cost on our city and our state, in that if our governor and mayor were focused on building a stadium and building a velodrome, they were going to be less focused on improving education and fixing roads.”
Once the bid has been won and the host city decided upon, the city’s general infrastructure needs to be developed for the transportation for athletes and spectators. Stadiums need to be constructed and operational costs such as the opening ceremony need to be authorised. The cost of this ranges from $5 billion to over $50 billion. This huge financial commitment ploughs countries into debt instantaneously. It took three decades for Canada to pay off the billions of dollars of debt as hosts of the 1976 Montreal Games. This has discouraged many countries making future bids, with LA being the only city to put a bid forward for the 1984 Games. However, by tactically sticking to a modest budget and using existing venues, they became the first hosts to make a profit
There are obviously some benefits to playing host too, both short and long term. Tourist spending will boost the local economy for the months surrounding the quadrennial sporting event. Longer-term, the Olympic legacy can help improve tourism, foreign trade and investment. There is also the creation of jobs across a number of the country’s industries. However, according to one study, only 10% of the 48,000 temporary jobs created during the 2012 London Olympics went to previously unemployed people.
Post-Olympics, the use of the infrastructure created for the event can be utilised to create revenue. Take a look at London, the Olympic Park has turned into a hub of attractions. The stadiums have been opened to the public, a tourist attraction in their own right. Other structures have been developed for commercial use: Office space, shops, galleries and housing. The park has also been maintained to provide tourists and residents with a piece of nature within the city. Unfortunately, this is not the case with most other previous host cities. The Greek stadia has become an apocalyptic wasteland, dust covered tracks and ghosts of legends past, the 2004 Olympics legacy diminishing.
In the Olympic charter, it says that “The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.”
However, it feels as though this concept has been crushed by the prosperous hands of the IOC who are encouraging wasteful spending and bribery. Not to mention their deceiving main motivation behind the sporting event, to augment prosperous businesses and aggrandize federations.
“The IOC only have power if cities show up to bid. Eventually it may come to a breaking point where the IOC has to make real reforms,” says Dempsey. A solution is therefore required, to prevent the dissolution of forgotten Olympic stadia and countries incurring huge investment costs. It has therefore been suggested that we find the Olympics a consistent host, situated in the same place every time. No more bidding, building or bribery.
Geographically, it would make sense for a city with a unique time zone that overlaps the working hours of most other countries across the world…. An island, with the infrastructure already in place…. A 2012 host maybe, that has already created a lasting legacy?...
Alternatively, you could look at it from a historical concept and take it back to its roots, Greece. This would be a one off infrastructure investment, with maintenance costs. A drop in the ocean compared to the monetary investments currently being made. However, this could be deemed unfair on the rest of the world as only one country would reap the benefits, therefore some kind of quid pro quo would need to be found to correct perceived unfairness. Financially, the Olympic events could be spread out so one country doesn’t incur all the costs. The tourism and economical benefits can be shared across continents, but would the atmosphere and essence of the Olympic Games be lost.
The ethos of the Olympic Games needs to be redirected back to its origins, by replacing money and business incentives with sport, which should once again be “At the service of the harmonious development of humankind.” There are solutions, now we wait until the IOC facilitate steps to alleviate the underlying problem…
Written by Hannah Richards, Content Executive