The Dark Side Of Hosting The Olympics

It sounds like the ultimate honor and a tourism board’s dream come true, which is why there’s always a hot competition to be named the host city every time the Olympics roll around again. Per History Daily, the rush to be named a host city dates back to the early 1900s. When the Olympic Games were renewed for the first time since 383 CE in their original home in Athens, Greece in 1896, just 13 European and North American countries participated, and as with the original ancient games, only male athletes competed. They were a “smash success,” and Paris, France jumped at the chance to host the 1900 games. Hosting the games “soon became both an international honor and a moneymaker for the cities that won the right from the newly formed International Olympic Committee.”

Today, the moneymaking aspect of hosting the games is mostly nonexistent. As reported by Investopedia, Los Angeles, California, which hosted the Summer games in 1932 and 1984, is the only city to turn a profit from the Games, “mostly because the required infrastructure already existed.” This includes the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which was built for the 1932 games and will be used once again when Los Angeles hosts the Olympics again in 2028. Income from the games usually doesn’t come close to the money spent preparing for the games. For instance, London brought in $5.2 billion against $18 billion spent on the 2012 Olympics; Beijing brought in $3.6 billion and spent over $40 billion for the Olympics in 2008.

Crime, debt, and higher taxes?

In 2017, the New York Post reported on the aftermath in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil after that city hosted the 2016 Olympics. Despite the city “pulling off” its hosting duties by “keeping crime at bay and fending off dire forecasts of corruption, environmental degradation, and cost overruns,” the outcomes were less than ideal. The organizers of the Rio Olympics owed creditors the equivalent of $40 million, the Maracana stadium built specifically for the Games was vandalized and had over $1 million in unpaid electrical bills, and ownership of four of the new arenas passed to the Brazilian government when no private-sector candidates came forward to take over management. The harm was far-reaching and affected many, including teachers, hospital workers, and pensioners, who went unpaid by the state for months. Crime soared in all categories, from robbery to murder. Essentially, hosting the Olympics put so much pressure on the city that as soon as the Games were over, everything fell apart. 

Rio is not an outlier in terms of debt resulting from hosting the Olympics. Per Investopedia, the stadium built for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia costs $30 million per year just for maintenance. The debts incurred by Montreal, Canada from hosting the 1976 Olympics weren’t paid off until 2006. Sochi, Russia’s debts from the 2014 Olympics will cost Russian taxpayers $1 billion annually for years to come. It all certainly makes one sit up and pay attention to groups like NOlympicsLA, who continue protesting the upcoming 2028 Olympics to be hosted in Los Angeles.

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