Saturday, August 1, 2015

Olympic news

Readers of this blog may be aware of the fact that I am not a great supporter of highly expensive, seriously corrupt international sporting events. In fact, the woes of FIFA made me laugh before muttering that I was shocked, shocked. When will similar woes reach the other appalling organization, the IOC?

While we wait for that we can watch the whole Olympic farce descending into ever more preposterous depths. It is now accepted by almost everyone that the only countries that can hold those terrible Games in future without any trouble are highly oppressive regimes who do not mind using any method to achieve their aims.

Oh, I hear you cry, what of the London Games of 2012? Well, yes, they did not involve much more than putting young soldiers on the streets of London who immediately showed up our slovenly, overweight, rarely polite police force but did no harm to anyone. (And some good to young ladies, I imagine.)

My own memory of those weeks is an almost completely empty city with endless groups of people in preposterous pink and purple outfits who were so bored that they pounced on every passer by, hoping that they were in need of direction. On the whole, I knew London far better than they did.

Stores were also empty, which was very pleasant for the few customers who did go there but I hate to think how much money the likes of John Lewis lost while they kept their flagship on Oxford Street open well beyond usual hours with no visible custom.

We shall go on paying for those Games for years to come not least for the upkeep of the Olympic Village and the stadium, because, among other things we, the taxpayers will be paying for the West Ham move.

Other cities are far more sensible. Boston has just pulled out of the 2024 Olympic bid:
The city was forced to cancel the effort in response to opposition to what The Nation called the “debt, displacement, and militarization of public space” that the Olympics brings to every host city. Basically, the taxpayers and citizens of Boston weren’t in the mood to foot the bill for an enormous party for the richest and most powerful plutocrats of Boston and the United States.
Nor is this the first time. We all recall Oslo pulling out of the 2022 Winter Olympic bid and the news is that the IOC chose Beijing over Almaty for that event. Apparently, there is a minor technical problem still to be solved and that is a certain lack of snow but, hey, if Russia could do it in Sochi, why not China in Beijing?

Not a week goes by without an article or ten to remind Londoners about the glorious Olympics and chivy us to revive the spirit and remember the inheritance. Curiously, those articles do not mention the huge bill Londoners and, indeed, other taxpayers in that country are still facing.

Here is a reminder in the article on Mises Daily about some of the costs other Olympic cities have had to endure:
Meanwhile, the taxpayers in much of the developed world have gotten wise to the high costs and few benefits of hosting the Olympics. Many have seen these photos from the UK’s Guardian which show the state of the Athens 2004 Olympic venues in 2014. The billions of taxpayer dollars spent on facilities have all evaporated, and all that’s left is rusting stadiums and mud-filled Olympic-sized swimming pools.

The Greeks were told back then that hosting the Olympics would be their ticket to a new era of first-world prestige and economic success. Needless to say, such a rosy future failed to materialize. Even less time has passed since the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, but as these photos show, Beijing’s abandoned venues will have plenty in common with those of Athens in a few years.

And while Brazil looks forward to its own 2016 bid, the Brazilians already are getting a preview of what will become of all those Olympic venues. The World Cup stadiums, built just last year, are already massive white elephants, as Business Insider recently showed. One massive stadium functions as a parking lot for buses. Several more simply decay in the humid Brazilian air.
Who benefits in the long run? Step forward, among others, Lord Coe, who is still competing for positions on international sporting bodies. Nor must we forget Dame Tessa Jowell who has not done badly out of her role and is, at present, the favourite to become Labour's Mayoral candidate.


  1. Hooray! Hooray! And so say all of us! (or at least me) .

    I have never thought the Olympics anything other than a crashingly expensive bore and a platform for the self-importance of corrupt politicians - a sort of bigger and more expensive Millennium Dome with the added irritant of frequent appearances in the news programmes by athletes of remarkably restricted vocabulary ("brilliant!" "fantastic!" "amazing"), all of whom have been "following their dream" in one way or another, doing remarkably boring things very intensively and apparently, for the most part, being stunted mentally as a result - and doing it all at great expense of taxpayers' money from something called "Sport England" or whatever in all the years between the astronomically expensive games.

    Bah! Humbug!

    1. As part of the Olympic "dream" funding was removed from small local sports clubs, which are of greater use to the population at large, particularly the juvenile section. But no, we had to have the Pharaonic dream of our rulers instead.

  2. You may remember Helen that we worked on this together over a decade ago and were the only people in the public eye to state categorically that the budget would not be around a billion but 10 billion or more - and we were derided as 'extremist' by Labour, Tory and LibDems for giving this figure (which three years later the Government admitted was almost spot on).

    Interesting again, given that control of the event was supposed to have been with 'the devolved body' for London in City Hall, the London Assembly was denied any information about it (supposed to be the body that held the Mayor and London government to account eh?) and almost anything of any vague importance was kept within the government's remit. Even the Mayor was denied much involvement.

    The facts that we gave about previous Games as loss making (now proved absolutely) were derided as untrue, the issues around decrepit stadia (Greek venues were already falling into ruin in 2005!) were ignored however much we made them clear with photos and facts. The reality is that in all the whipped up hysteria, very few in the media or public life wanted to listen to facts.

    1. We also said that predictions of an incredible number of tourists was completely wrong, basing our comments on past experience. Well, guess what.....

    2. Indeed so, and what was so absurd about all of this was the fact at the very time we were saying it (and all others saying 'rubbish'), Athens was just reporting the fact that the 2004 Olympics had actually apparently seen their tourist figures drop to an all-time low. And all quite logical and reported in regard to previous Olympic Games.

      You have only to listen to people talk about these events to see why. For every person who is breathlessly talking about going to the Olympics, there are two regular visitors to the host city who are saying "we'll give it a miss, rip-off prices, nowhere to stay...". Friends and family who regularly visited London told me this in the run up to 2012.

      The curious thing is, though, that however many stats prove the point, people just do not want to believe them.