What are the Olympic Games?
The Olympic Games is an international sporting competition that occurs every four years during the Summer and Winter; the seasonal games alternate every two years. Over two hundred nations participate in the mega-event and partake in a variety of seasonal sports. Apart from the vigorous training that the athletes undergo to prepare for the Olympics, the host country must meticulously plan for the mega-event and supply governing security. As discussed in Ying Yu, Francisco Klauser, and Gerald Chan’s reading, Governing Security at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, such security measures are enforced to protect Olympic athletes as well as the audience. Although the intention of hosting the Olympic Games is to uplift national pride and international unification via friendly sports competitions, there are a variety of financial factors that take place in regards to organizing a mega event like the Olympics. With such financial stress arises opposition. This brings up the question, does nationalism and unification outweigh the issue of financial stress?
Is the intention of such mega event to gain a better reputation? To attract tourists? Will there be any economic profit? Such rhetorical questions will be the basis of the arguments outlined in this article. By hosting the Olympic Games, the host city experiences social conflicts for numerous factors such as infrastructure challenges, housing, and financial burdens that falls upon the citizens of the city. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is a private, non-governmental organization whose that headquarters are based in Lausanne, Switzerland. The committee is responsible for organizing the modern Olympic Games and Youth Olympic Games. The IOC are directly involved in the United Nation’s (UN) Agenda and are active participants in the UN General Assembly, where the IOC have the authority to make executive decisions in promoting sports and their events. This also means that the IOC makes the decision of where the next Olympic Games will be hosted.
Fear and Security
The large expenditure that goes into hosting mega-event causes many individuals of the public to fear that their city may be entering a financial crisis rather than improving the economy. Apart from financial concerns, there may be a potential terrorist threat as mega-events are located at hotspots that consists of a large, vulnerable crowd. By hosting sports mega-events, high security is required in order to control and subdue any potential risks such as theft, gang affiliated crimes, acts of terrorism, and political activists who may attempt to protest against the hosting of a mega event. Such mega-events are an open opportunity to challenge humankind as the Olympic Games are a famous event that is celebrated all around the world.
According to Yu, Klauser, and Chan, and displayed in the image above, the press covered China’s extensive security to warn organizations that may try to undermine the preparatory works of the 2008 Beijing Olympics by creating and enforcing regulations and legal guidelines (2009, p. 4). Such a high profile event is an irresistible target for those who desire a high number of attention from the population to voice their political opinion through the act of peaceful protest or violence, as well as pick-pocketers, who may attempt to steal from tourists. Increased theft has become a major concern in hosting the Olympic Games because tourists are deemed as easy targets and are completely vulnerable and are unaware of their surroundings in such unfamiliar environments. Since there are a large population of tourists in host cities, the security budget when hosting the Olympic Games are also increased in order to control the level of thefts in the area.
During the 2016 Rio Olympics, a group of protesters went to to the streets to voice their opinions regarding the government’s expenditure of tax payer money in order to host the Olympic games. The protesters claimed that the government was wasting money on hosting the games, rather than investing such money into programs or infrastructures that may be beneficial to the city’s citizens. The protesters argued that the government lacks to provide improved healthcare services, education systems, and additional organizations designed to serve the people of the country. It is evident that government officials decided to host the mega-event despite resistance from its citizens. The government chose to use tax payer money to host the Olympics over caring for its citizens.
Infrastructure Challenges and Housing
Building new infrastructure in a city means destroying established urban areas, resulting in the displacement and dispersement of local populations and communities. Some of the challenges in building new infrastructure is that the host must develop a large sporting stadium. The area around the stadium must be well-accommodated with tourist institutions and transportation networks to accommodate for the number of tourists that are to attend the games.
As mention before, there is a large inconvenience for citizens of the host city: forced relocation. The image above is from Beijing’s 2008 Olympic Games, where the government forcibly evicted 1.25 million people from their homes with minimal compensation. It is unfair that people are forced out of their homes in order for the government to develop temporary arenas and stadiums that are used only for two weeks and are immediately disposed of. Such occurrence shows the lack of concern that the government has for their people. The IOC must reconsider their decision of having Beijing host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games after the publishing of such occurrences that took place in Beijing.
“Potential benefits for businesses and the general public in host-cities may be overshadowed by the negative consequences of giving global players privileged inroads into local markets. The side effects of new investments lead, for example, to gentrification, causing massive increases in the cost of living in certain areas” – (Woźniak, 2013, p. 35)
The cost of housing in the hosted city tends to increase as the games gain reputation. After the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, housing became less affordable as many homes for sale began to reach the peak of a million dollars on average. This is because foreigners invest into homes in Vancouver, knowing that there will be high demand; however, such actions force citizens who originate from the host city to migrate to a more affordable location.
Politicians believe that hosting such mega-events is beneficial, regardless of the possibility of impending debt, for they believe that happiness is more important. However, in reality, it brings opposing emotions to the public. Cities are required to pay billions of dollars to host the Olympic Games, but is it worth the investment? When a city experiences financial burden, there it may negatively impact the living conditions for its citizens. According to the Business Insider, Rio calculated budget for the 2016 Olympics to be approximately $3 billion USD; in actuality, the cost os hosting the Olympics summed up to be a whopping $13 billion USD. Even with the increase of tourists in the hosting city of the Olympic Games, is the event lucrative enough to compensate for city’s financial loss?
There are no investors that pay cities to host the Olympics, so the mega-event is to be paid through taxes. Since the Olympics cost billions of dollars, taxes in the host country are increased to offset the impending debt. Additionally, the host must account for the construction of the arenas and stadiums, as well as the maintenance. Therefore, the Olympic Games is a financial risk for any country.
During this year’s Winter Olympic Games, that was hosted by South Korea, the country built a $109 million USD stadium which was used only four times: twice in February for the opening and closing ceremonies for the Olympics, and twice in March for the opening and closing ceremonies for the Paralympics. After such mega-events, South Korea announced that they would tear down the stadium, making such expensive infrastructures futile. Spending a large sum of money to create a temporary infrastructure questions whether hosting the Olympics is worth it.
Is it really worth hosting the Olympic Games? Is it worth hosting any mega-event at all? Sports mega-events are designed to appeal to audiences around the world, and unifies nations by supporting athletes that represent their nation’s flag; however, hosting the Olympic Games contain negative consequences that outweigh all the positive outcomes. Hosting the Olympic Games is expensive and leads to high financial debt, and all of these consequences fall upon the citizens of the hosting country. Furthermore, the government of the hosting cities ignore their people for they are blinded by the promotion of the country’s reputation.
Public opinion is essential when it comes to hosting sports mega-events because there is financial risk. The government use of tax payer money to subsidize for the Olympics rather than its citizens is wasteful. Since the Olympic Games are a continuous event, there are requirements and expectations that each country must meet in order to apply to be a host for the Olympic Games. The IOC should analyze any weaknesses and weigh the benefits and consequences of hosting the Olympic Games in countries that may not be able to handle the capacity of such mega-event. The IOC should listen to the people of the hosting countries and take such opinion into consideration before permitting certain countries to host the Olympic Games. Citizens are seldom consulted about the plans of hosting the mega-events, and when they are consulted, it is only an opportunity for the government to declare their plans to the public (Hiller & Wanner, 2011,p. 886). Such example represents the neglectful nature of host countries and their disregard of their citizens. The listening and adjusting to public opinion is key for the Olympic Games to continue with a decreased number of social issues.
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