Well it’s nearly Olympics time again and, as usual, the hype goes into overdrive. As usual it strikes me as a MASSIVE WASTE OF MONEY, particularly when most of the world is still suffering the effects of the financial crises.
The typical argument is that hosting an Olympics, while massively expensive and disruptive, drives long-term economic benefits so it’s a worthwhile exercise. Of course, you’ll see very little analysis of this argument in the media, because it wouldn’t be in their interests to actually ask hard questions about this particular topic. Why not? Because they benefit from the whole charade.
Even papers such as The Guardian are claiming that London will derive an economic benefit from hosting the Games. But how much of this is media hype to justify yet-another waste of public funds and how much of it stands up to a Cost/Benefit analysis?
Obviously many large corporations benefit from having an open faucet from the public Treasury, for example:
- Construction companies get big dose of public funds;
- Media companies get a bump in their advertising from an increase in viewership / circulation (hence their reluctance to criticise the whole affair);
- and Tourism-related businesses, hospitality, etc, get a short-term bump.
Politicians from the host country get to hobnob with the sporting elite and various political, entertainment and corporate elite who visit (for example, even I got to attend a private dinner with Rupert Murdoch and Bill Gates when they visited Sydney for the 2000 Olympics).
Now of course some of this translates into trickle down economics, with more employment opportunities for a few years for some people. But we can look at countries that have hosted the Olympics in past years and ask whether or not they have benefited economically or if it has been run at a loss and the funds could have been better spent on public infrastructure, education, and healthcare.
According to this report from Monash University, the Sydney Olympics Games actually cost the Australian public $2.1 billion.
According to Time.com, the Greek Olympics blew out big time:
It cost Greece about $11 billion, at least double what the Greek government had initially budgeted — and that doesn’t include the money the country has spent trying to maintain its rarely used Olympic facilities over the past eight years. It was forced — mainly by the U.S. and the U.K. — to spend $1.2 billion on security alone because of fears over terrorism, and in the months leading up to the opening ceremonies, Athens had to rush its schedule just to get construction projects completed on time.
For years, studies have shown that holding the Olympics often has severe negative economic effects on host cities, despite the temporary burst of tourism and global attention.
In 2005, Andrew Zimbalist, Robert Woods Professor of Economics at Smith College, wrote in Sports Business Daily:
Montreal’s 1976 Olympics left the city with $2.7 billion of debt that it is still paying off. The financing of the Moscow Olympics in 1980 is opaque.
The Los Angeles Games in 1984 left the organizing committee (LAOC) with a modest surplus of $335 million, but the LAOC got 67 percent of the TV money and spent little on infrastructure or new facilities. The physical legacy of the 1984 Games is close to nil.
The Barcelona Organizing Committee in 1992 broke even, but the public debt incurred rose to $6.1 billion.
Similarly, the Atlanta Organizing Committee in 1996 broke even, but the bottom line there is not encouraging. An econometric study using monthly data found that there was insignificant change in retail sales, hotel occupancy and airport traffic during the Games. The only variable that increased was hotel rates — and most of this money went to headquarters of chain hotels located in other cities.
In his paper “A Cost-Benefit Analysis of an Olympic Games”, Darren McHugh concludes that the “bottom line will be negative by hundreds of millions of dollars” (he analysed the Calgary and the Vancouver Games).
In their paper “Should Cities Go for the Gold? The Long-Term Impacts of Hosting the Olympics“, Stephen B. Billings and James Scott Holladay conclude:
Insignificant impacts for measures of population, real GDP per capita and openness is consistent with the theory that host cities bid away potential benefits in an effort to win the right to host the Games.
I think the whole exercise is about corporations having yet another excuse to legally stick their snouts into the public trough and inhale deeply. Instead of politicians spending those billions of dollars on education or healthcare, it goes into the pockets of the elite.
And don’t give me any nonsense about the actual sporting competition. That could be accomplished for a LOT less money and fuss, quietly, over the course of four years, in places with existing infrastructure (as many sporting events already do).
The whole exercise is another corporate capitalist scam, bleeding the 99% dry for the benefit of the 1%.
A few weeks ago I had director Matt Norman on the show. We talked about political protests at the Olympics (with reference to his Uncle Peter Norman’s protest at the 1968 Olympics). There was some debate afterward in the comments section about whether or not the Australian Government has gagged our athletes. It turns out they don’t have to – the IOC has done the dirty work for them.
Jason Slater told us how it works:
# Jason Slater Says:
Just so you are all aware, Matt Norman made a great point in an interview iâ€™ve just heard.. The athletes are being gagged by the AOC as they have signed what he called a section 51 which states â€œAthletes may speak about Political issues but if they do so will not be entitled to any financial gain through winnings from Gold, Silver or Bronze medalsâ€. They are also entitled to speak their mind but not AT the Olympics and not AT the Olympic Village. They are also NOT allowed to wear any type of free tibet t-shirt or carry any banner which has any political affiliation. The facts are very clear. To protest in China you will never be a part of the Olympic team again and your views of civil and human rights issues will not be tolerated unless you do or say something about it outside the country.
I found this site which contains the clause in question. Basically any athlete that does speak out or even wear a badge signifying a political protest can be kicked out by the IOC. What an appalling state of affairs. The Olympics brings athletes from the world together but then gags them. Pretty fucking lame for an event which is supposed to be about peace and harmony.
Somebody on Twitter called me a jerk the other day for saying the Olympics was all about money. He said “Realize we have one place in the world -right now- with everyone together.”
Oh bullshit. Ever heard of the United Nations? The whole world gets together ALL THE TIME to discuss solutions to real problems, not running around in circles and jumping up in the air. Get the hell over it people. It’s a carnival, it’s not the second coming of Jebus.
The media loves it because it’s just another chance to them to increase their advertising revenues, as if people watching the Olympics really care more about buying tampons than they do on regular days.
So the media turn up their hype-o-meters, ranting and raving about the Olympics like it’s a cure for cancer or Britney Spears turned out to be the Messiah. And you pack of salivating Pavlovian dogs run slobbering up to your TV or your paper gobbling it all up like Homer Simpson chasing a donut. It’s obscene and sickening. WAKE THE FUCK UP PEOPLE. It’s just a bunch of steroid-laden children seeing who’s got the biggest dick.
What I hate the most (not that I’m watching, but I’m recalling a distant time when I did watch 5 or 10 minutes of it) are the television commentators who call bullshit like “HE’S TAKEN THE GOLD FOR AUSTRALIA!!!”
No. Noooo, he hasn’t. He’s taken the gold for HIMSELF. HE is the one that gets the sporting goods sponsorship. HE is the one who is going to turn his sporting career into another lame television gig once he’s over the hill. HE is the one who is going to use his profile to charge $10,000 an appearance for corporate speaking fees. He’s not doing it for Australia. He’s doing it for himself.
Meanwhile…. Russia invades Georgia on the opening day of the Olympics and hopes that no-one notices.
Meanwhile…. Thailand’s ex-Prime Minister has escaped, once again, back to London instead of facing corruption charges in his own country. And the Brits let him in.
Meanwhile… the US-backed Philippines “liberate” more villages.
Meanwhile… China spends $40 Billion on hosting the Olympics and $100 million on the opening ceremony alone while 130 million Chinese live below the poverty line.
And how much press coverage of the opening ceremony did you see that even SUGGESTED it is a total waste of money? Any at all? Or were they all jerking off about it? I didn’t watch it, so I don’t know, but I can take a guess.
On today’s show I’m joined by Sophie Peer, China Campaign Co-ordinator for Amnesty International, Fi Bendall from the Bendall Group, and Ben Barren, social media baron, to discuss the online campaign Amnesty have run over the last 3 weeks to raise awareness of China’s human rights record. The campaign asked Australian bloggers to unite and support their Chinese counterparts who have been banned, blocked, denied and imprisoned by the Chinese government for using the Internet to express their right to freedom of speech. The destination site for the campaign was UNCENSOR.com.au. The other site they recommend on the show is Stilgherrian’s blog.
Subscribe now to the TPN update email (fill in the below box) to get a weekly list of all of the new episodes on TPN in one easy-to-read format!
Enter your email address:
The G’Day World theme music:
“Secrets of Life” (mp3)
from “End of Days”
(Dark Star Records)
More On This Album
Podcast: Play in new window | Download
Podcast (channel2): Play in new window | Download