Why India and Brazil Should Never Host The Olympics
Commonwealth Games in India To Be Cancelled? Brazil Could Be Next With The World Cup and Olympics.
Dengue fever, feces in beds, collapsing bridges, half-finished dangerous venues. Yep, India sure is prepared for the Commonwealth Games, the huge Olympic-level once every four year athletic gathering of the British Commonwealth. The USD 16 billion games are supposed to start in early October, with athletes arriving any day. But now some people want to call the whole games off, after a series of embarrassing revelations. From the New York Times:
Athletes are scheduled to start arriving in Delhi on Thursday, but that date may need to be pushed back, Mr. Currie said, which could ultimately result in the competition being canceled. “If the village is not ready, the athletes cannot arrive,” he said.
“There is a real mountain to climb” before the village can be completed, Mr. Currie said. It will be a “real challenge at this point to make it happen,” he said.
This is the trend in huge, budget-busting sporting events – giving them to developing countries. You had the World Cup in South Africa. India is (maybe) hosting the Commonwealth Games. Brazil is due up for both the World Cup in 2014 and the Summer Olympics in 2016.
This is a mistake, a grotesque misuse of resources in countries that, while growing powerful, are still wracked by the most desperate sort of poverty.
It is hard to justify any Olympic-level investment, whether it be in London or Brazil. American cities should not build their pro sports teams big new stadiums. Developed countries should not spend billions on the Olympics. And, yes, it smacks of first-world hypocrisy for me to even suggest that the developing countries shouldn’t be allowed to spend their money as they please.
But the big international organizations should know better. Let’s take India. For a long time, there was much whitewashing in the Indian press. It was all going to be fine, they said. Look how stylish the venues are, they said. But here is a fun fact: All the athletes are in grave danger of catching dengue fever. Why? Because the Indians essentially built the athletes’ quarters in a swamp, a perfect place for dengue fever.
And those projections of a tourism bump? Not happening, says the Financial Chronicle in India. The government projected 4 million visitors. They are look at 10,000 now.
I was in India for one day last spring. This means I know nothing deep about India, but it also means I have a good tourist perspective on a big sporting event in Delhi. And, let me tell you, India is poor. There may have been millions lifted out of poverty in recent decades, but there are millions upon millions of people locked in a poverty you cannot really imagine in the developed world.
Let’s put it this way: I expected Delhi to be like Istanbul or Bangkok, but it was nothing like Istanbul or Bangkok. It was poorer in an exponential way. We are talking people living in trash, camps on the sidewalks, kids drowning in open sewage kind of poor. About 10 million of the city’s 20 million people live in slum-like conditions.
The three years and 10 months between now and kickoff of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil will be an adventure. There’s really no other way to describe it. So the sooner you get to know the setting and characters, the better you’ll be able to follow the plot as it develops. And what a plot. This is part drama, part action with the occasional infusion of comedy, just for good measure. There’s really never been a show quite like it. There may never be again …
Brazil was awarded the 2014 World Cup in October 2007. In the three years since they’ve accomplished next to nothing, save for a small crackdown on gang violence. The country’s safety infrastructure is one of two core challenges for the government and the organizing committee in the run-up to the tournament. Most of these efforts will be concentrated in Rio de Janeiro, where 1.6 million of the city’s 6.1 million inhabitants live well below the poverty line and the murder rate is nearly 40 out of every 100,000 people.
South Africa is supposed to be the exception to all this. There were great worries about security and general readiness before this summer’s World Cup. But country came together for a glorious couple of weeks. Now they are over, people just realized that no tourists actually came and you got this:
Located some 10 km southwest of the city center, Soccer City stadium hosted all the key events of the World Cup including the opening ceremony and the final match between Spain and the Netherlands. But just two months later, the stadium looked old as if it had been obsolete for quite some time.
In the sunshine, the bright-colored stadium looked dull and dusty as a result of insufficient maintenance. When our car stopped at the only accessible entry, there was nobody there except several guards and a vendor selling shabby souvenirs.
Oh, and the tourists never came either. So now South Africa is a little like Athens was after the 2004 Summer Olympics. Great party, potentially big hangover. For while the Olympics didn’t bankrupt Greece, they were symptomatic of the rash spending that almost did bankrupt Greece and drag down the whole Eurozone. But, hey, Athens was hopping in August, 2004. I know. I was there. True, I wondered what the hell they were going to do with the boxing arena way our in some scruffy outer suburb.
The answer? Nothing.
In fact, the Olympics or World Cup are never a good investment, even in places like Atlanta or Los Angeles. University of Maryland Professor Dennis Coates wrote a series of op-eds recently about the US World Cup bid. This is from his Atlanta piece:
The bad news is that despite the U.S. Bid Committee’s argument that the tournament will be a major moneymaker for the U.S. economy, the facts don’t back up the claims.
In July I released a report, “World Cup Economics: What Americans Need to Know About a U.S. World Cup Bid,” which reviewed the economics of megaevents and found that among other aberrations, a rosy prediction of a $4 billion positive impact from the 1994 World Cup was far off target. Instead of a $4 billion gain, post-Cup analysis revealed up to a $9 billion loss across the country.
But I like the Olympics. And the World Cup. For all their hypocrisy, they provide the world with a dash of inspiration and entertainment. We can’t always be worried about development and poverty and people starving to death, right? Nah, we deserve to sit back and watch archery every once in a while …
So I would just rotate the games between, say, 4 set locations, maybe Los Angeles, Seoul, Paris. Sydney, maybe Athens now that they’ve built everything. You would make the most of the infrastructure costs, build tradition, cut out the corrupt politicking that determines sites and, more importantly, let us concentrate on the competition.
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