The Olympics, a place where athletes compete with each other for the “World’s best” title; people around the world gather in front of uncountable platforms to watch the live broadcasts; corporations invest large amount of resources and hope it generates bigger revenues. The Olympics is undoubtedly one of the most entertaining international mega-events. With the reputation and the potential capital invested by corporations all around the world, the Olympic Games attracts cities to put forward bids for being the host. The fact that no less than 5 cities around the world bid for hosting the Olympic Games since 1992 proves its popularity and its fierce competition. However, is the Olympics worth fighting for? In other words, is the Olympics as beneficial to a city/country as people and governments think? We will be looking into the arguments of both sides.
We will begin with talking about the overestimated economic benefit of the Olympic Games to the hosting city and also to its country. Then, we will be looking into a social perspective like human rights and social discontent. After that, we will focus on the negative impact on the international prestige and reputation of the host. At this point, after providing some of the major negative impacts of hosting the Olympic Games, I will provide the other side’s argument, that is introducing the positive impacts of hosting the Olympic Games. First of all, the potential economic benefit is one of the major ones. Second of all, it is the proof of a country’s capability in hosting such mega event, which will directly boost a country’s political status and reputation domestically and internationally. Third of all, it unites the hosting city/country and enhances the citizens’ sense of belonging. Last but not least, we will look into the problem of what makes all this possible in conclusion.
3 reasons to not host the Olympics
One obvious incentive that draws cities to constantly fight for being the host of the Olympic Games is the potential economic benefits. The Olympic Games brings numerous sources of money. Tourism, merchandises, broadcasting fee, admission fee, just to name a few. It is very tempting as it is a good chance to boost local economy in multiple ways. However, there is a price to pay for it and sometimes the cost exceeds the return.
In the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, the Greek government spent over $11 billion on hosting the event. It also was the most expensive Olympic Games at that point. It was meant to create a special experience for the world and out-stand the past ones. However, the price was too high. In less than a month after the Olympic Games ended, “Greece warned the euro area that its public debt and deficit figures would be worse than expected.” It was obvious that the Olympic Games did not bring as much financial boost to the Greek economy as they Greek government expected. In 2005, in Greek government announced that “the 2004 deficit came in at 6.1 percent of gross domestic product.” It was more than double the euro-zone limit. The Olympic Games not only did not save Greece from financial struggles, it caused even bigger problem for Greece. To better understand how bad financially Greece was, according to Nick Malkoutzis’s research “debt reached 110.6 percent of gross domestic product, the highest in the European Union. Greece became the first EU country to be placed under fiscal monitoring by the European Commission, in 2005.” In this case, failing to gain enough financial benefits not only damage the Greek economy, it also damaged Greece’s international prestige. In the following year, Greece had never get out of debt issues and economy continued to struggle have proved the Olympic Games does not necessarily bring financial benefit.
In the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the Chinese government had been reportedly violating human rights and causing social discontent. While many Chinese citizens were excited and proud of China hosting its first Olympic Games, many people who lived in Beijing had different opinion. “Some 1.5 million residents of Beijing will be displaced by the time it hosts the 2008 Olympics, many of them evicted against their will.” As the host of the Olympic Games, many infrastructures needed to be built and they must not be too far from the city. Infrastructures require a lot of space and when the city is out of it, residents are forced to be moved somewhere else. This however is considered as violating ones’ human right as they have full human right to live wherever they want as long as they pay for the price. (Glynn,2008) Nonetheless, the Chinese government chose building stadiums over their right to live at that place. This decision had drawn attention around the world.
Also, most of the inhabitants were “forced to relocate far from their communities and workplaces, with inadequate transportation networks adding significantly to their cost of living.” This would later cause disunity among them and in the city.
Same problem happened in Rio de Janeiro and the Brazilian government approached it even more extreme, as the police force tried suppress displaced residents. Their approach of displacing residents was considered even more unreasonable and caused even more social discontent, as the Brazilian government decided to have the slums in Rio de Janeiro moved further out from the city centre. (Darnell,2012) By moving slums away from the city centre and all the beautiful, new stadiums, tourists and athletes would only see the glittering part of Rio de Janeiro. While the rotten part was displaced, global attention was drawn upon the issues of social inequality and poverty. A lot of local citizens did not support the event as they feel like many more problems waited to be solved, and hosting the Olympic Games should not be a priority. Large scale protests against the Brazilian government hosting the Olympic Games showed how society disliked to the mega-event and the mega-disturbance brought along with it.
The third reason that attracted cities to fight for hosting the Olympic Games is the chance to gain prestige and reputation domestically and globally, it however is a two-edged sword. When the internet and the media discover scandals or negative news, it spreads them in seconds, especially when it comes to mega-events like the Olympic Games where people look to participate in different ways. As most of the attending athletes are celebrities at the same time, they often comment on social media about the Olympic village since it is a big part of their whole trip. Thus, the Olympic village is seen as a big part of branding the Olympics and building an image for the country. (Muñoz,2006) For example, during the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Australian Basketball player Andrew Bogut tweeted himself making a shower curtain. The negative news on the Olympic village came one after another. The USA basketball players chose to live aboard a cruise ship instead of living in the Olympic village due to the poor quality of the village. The negative news would only do bad to Rio de Janeiro’s reputation since people around the world know about how poorly constructed the Olympic village was and it did not even have shower curtains.
At this point, seems like hosting the Olympic Games is the worst idea ever. Nevertheless, lets not forget the potential of the Olympic Games. As mentioned before, the Olympic Games is a two-edged sword. There are numerous potential positive impacts for the host of the Olympic Games.
3 reasons to host the Olympics
Economically, the Olympic Games might has the most potential to provide positive return among all mega-events. First of all, it involves most of the countries in the world. The Olympic Games has been known for its global involvement in terms of countries participating. It also implies that corporations from all around the world would look to participate in order to generate profits for themselves. This would bring a huge capital flow to the hosting country by accelerating consumerism and capitalist production, and boost their economy. (Compton, 2016, p.59) It will also attract more foreign investments as the hosting country gets more global exposure. Second of all, it covers a huge variety of sports, that will draw most of the sports fans attention. With the attention from sports fans all around the world, the hosting country would also gain short term financial benefits from admission fees, tourism, merchandises just to name a few. (Zimbalist,2015) Third of all, it would create a lot of jobs due to foreign investments, local construction projects and so on. This is a long term economic benefit which can continue to boost the economy and reduce unemployment rate. (Owen,2005) In 2012 London Olympics, it is estimated that 8000 full time jobs were created which led to an economic boost of $2 billion. It also helped the British government to ease pressure from the aftershock of the financial crisis in 2008.
Successfully hosting the Olympic Games would definitely be a good way of introducing a country to the world, which can help to boost a country’s political status internationally and reputation domestically. In other words, hosting the Olympics can be used as branding or rebranding a country. (Herstein&Berger, 2013, p.54) For example, China which had long been a controversial country regarding human rights and political structure. Hosting the Olympic Games helped to gain global acceptance as well as other country’s respect. In other words, hosting the Olympic Games consolidates or even enhances the hosting country’s political status. Domestically, as most people would support their own country during the Olympics, it will indirectly make them more patriotic. Also, the hosting city would also gain greater reputation domestically as the city’s government proves their capability in hosting such mega-event as well as coordinating other related parts. Different cities in the same country often fight for the chance to host big event, as it helps them to bargain with the federal government in resources. For instance, Los Angeles and Boston both went for the bid on hosting the 2024 Olympics.
Finally, the third major positive impact of hosting the Olympic Games is it unites the hosting city as well as the hosting country, it will also enhance its citizens’ sense of belonging. Using the 2008 Beijing Olympic as an example. I attended the event the closing ceremony and a soccer match between Argentina and Costa Rica. During the closing ceremony, most of the attendants were Chinese and I could totally feel that they were very proud of their country successfully hosting the Olympics. Although there are often opinions that criticize the hosting country, a lot of the opinions remain positive. Another example would be the 2012 London Olympics. It consolidated London as one of the most influential cities in the world. It also helped to introduce other cities like Manchester to the world, making Manchester no longer known only for the soccer club Manchester United or David Beckham. Also, there were many positive feedback regarding the Olympics on social media, especially for the closing ceremony. After all, most of the “participants” around the world participated through social media and live broadcasts. (Pederson, 2014, p.1)
Witnessing some of the failing cases like the 2004 Athens Olympics and 2016 Rio Olympics, have forced countries to think twice before placing the bid. It also encourages the IOC to seek for more efficient and effective ways in celebrating the biggest sport event. I believe one of the ways would be having the cities which have been equipped for the mega-event to host it. For example, Los Angeles, Madrid, London. Due to the active sports participation of those cities, they already have some of the world’s best stadiums. This would highly reduce costs for infrastructures. Also, involving more private corporations can also help on easing the cost. Finally, bringing countries that are geographically close together and co-hosting might also help. This idea can be further expanded to each continent hosting one Olympic Games by rotation, but the main idea remains the same that is having countries together and share the cost.
Hosting the Olympic Games is basically gambling, where a country would pour a huge amount of resources into it and hope that it works out. Though many participants turned out losing a lot in the game, as long as the reward is high enough, this gambling would not stop. Participant are fully aware of the risk they are taking, but they all believe they are going to be the next winner. All these gambling (or investment to beautify it), are actions driven by capitalism. In addition, capitalism motivates people to work for profits, money, entertainment, consumerism and so on. And all those above contributed in making the Olympic Games possible. But like Wayne Gretzky said “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Let us see whether Tokyo can take away the next jackpot.
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