Another City Dodges the Olympic Bullet


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Breaking news: Some politicians do understand budgets and respect their constituents wishes. Yesterday the Norwegian government voted against guaranteeing finances for the 2022 Winter Olympics, thereby ensuring the capital of Oslo would have to back out of the bidding process. Five other cities already jumped ship, leaving Beijing, China and Almaty, Kazakhstan the only two in the running.

Deadspin notes that "in a non-binding referendum in February, 55.9 percent of Norwegians said they didn't want the Games." The site also highlights some of the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) ridiculous, costly demands, like a cocktail party on the king's dime:

  • Cars and drivers for IOC members, with special dedicated highway lanes
  • Street lights synchronized to prioritize IOC traffic
  • Separate airport entrance for IOC members
  • Hotel mini-bars must have only Coca-Cola products
  • Samsung phones for all IOC members
  • All meeting rooms must be kept at exactly 68 degrees.
  • All furniture must have "Olympic appearance."
  • "IOC members will be received with a smile on arrival at hotel"

"The overall price tag was put at $51 billion, scaring off politicians and taxpayers and leaving the International Olympic Committee with a major image crisis," reports the Associated Press. Who could blame those Norwegians? The IOC, apparently. The committee shot back with this zinger: "Senior politicians in Norway appear not to have been properly briefed on the process and were left to take their decisions on the basis of half-truths and factual inaccuracies."

Seriously? Just look at Russia which this past winter hosted the most expensive games to date, or Greece which hosted the then-most expensive games 10 years ago. The Olympic stadiums are in ruins, the former country is on the brink of recession, and the latter still has one of the world's stinkiest debt problems. They aren't outliers and this ain't a new phenomenon.

Explains Yahoo:

Public expenditures on sports infrastructure and event operations necessarily entail reductions in other government services, an expansion of government borrowing, or an increase in taxation, all of which produce a drag on the local economy. At best public expenditures on sports-related construction or operation have zero net impact on the economy as the employment benefits of the project are matched by employment losses associated with higher taxes or spending cuts elsewhere in the system.

It's a recurring problem with big events that require big stadiums and promise big money, and America isn't immune. In the bankrupt city of Detroit, political leaders are still pushing for a taxpayer subsidized hockey stadium that simply cannot bring in the revenue the politicians promise.

Even when money isn't the primary issue, the process reeks of bad juju: Orlando only recently decided to drop an eminent domain case against a family-owned church that the city hoped to pave over for a Major League Soccer stadium.

In the National Football League (NFL), the teams of which are owned mostly by billionaires who are good at twisting the arms of legislators: eighty-seven percent of stadium capital financing comes out of taxpayer dollars, according to ESPN columnist Gregg Easterbrook. While the NFL promises Super Bowl host cities will make $500 to 600 million from all the tourism, sports economist Robert Baade figures "$50 to $60 million would be a generous appraisal."

No smart city should want an NFL team, explains Reason TV's Alexis Garcia. The same applies for the Olympics:

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  1. So, we’ve reached Peak Olympics as well as Peak NFL?

    1. I thought peak Olympics was some time during the bronze age.

  2. Remember when the President of the United States went to bat for a Chicago Olympic bid? That was when I knew he was an irredeemable moron.

    1. Did you believe him to be redeemable at some point?

      We should have cashed in.

      1. No Deposit, No Return.

  3. necessarily entail reductions in other government services, an expansion of government borrowing, or an increase in taxation, all of which produce a drag on the local economy

    Good thing this phenomenon doesn’t happen at the Federal level!

  4. … the former country is on the brink of recession

    For a second there, I thought you meant former as in “the country that used to exist,” and I wondered if I’d missed something in international politics. Which would totally be par for the course, but still.

  5. Any word from Frank the Fixer on this?

  6. The leading industrial nations cancel the IOC held copyrights and we can get competing organizations to bid on coordinating the Olympics. seems easy enough…

  7. It’s not just the Olympics, too

    John Oliver’s excitement for the World Cup is tempered by knowing information about FIFA, the organization that produces it. John details the problems with the upcoming tournament and the staggering allegations of corruption against FIFA.

    (trigger warning: progressive humor)

  8. OT: McArdle writes something good.…..for-costco

    1. Did she recant the adulation she heaped on Goolsbee?…..e-adviser/

      Austan Goolsbee suspected of illegally revealing Koch tax details to press

    2. That was pretty good. But she’s forgetting that if you successfully disprove a prog’s argument, they’ll just fall back on saying “It’s just not fair otherwise!” The perversion of efficiency-wage theory is a union-built slapdash Trojan horse for their real aim, which is forced equality for everyone, reality be damned.

  9. The whole football stadium thing is nuts anyway. I thought the idea that most of your money came from the stadium and not television died with Bill Wirtz. The stadiums don’t have to be that big anymore with the TV revenue. The NFL teams can go in with local college teams on the stadium and both get more use out of the thing.

  10. It seems sports are filled with corrupt people lining their pockets on the tax payers dime.I include the NCAA in this.I do enjoy watching the Browns[yeah I know] ,still,I just don’t have the love for the sport I had when I was young and dumb.

  11. Did you believe him to be redeemable at some point?

    In the beginning, I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    1. You naive fool!

      *wanders off waving worshipful 2007 Chicago Sun-Times articles about the Lightworker over head and yelling at the nearby streetlight*

  12. It’s amazing to me that these guys deliver a product that (supposedly) isn’t paid, so it costs them nothing. They get a sucker to pay for the plant and mosey off to the bank with the proceeds.
    I need to think more about this; there’s got to be another set of suckers willing to make me rich!

  13. No smart city should want an NFL team

    Uhh, don’t know if this is completely true. Look at say KC or Green Bay. Both of those town have built up an identity around their FB teams, that are probably a net benefit to the community. But a city should definitely be smart about going into a decision to host an NFL team.

    Reminds me of an old joke.

    Boss: I need you to go to Green Bay on business.

    Me: Fuck! The only thing in GB is football players and hookers.

    Boss: I’ll have you know my wife’s from GB.

    Me: Uhhh… What position she play?

  14. McArdle writes something good.

    Bullshit. Three paragraphs were all I could stomach. Maybe McCardle should go write for the Vassar school newspaper.

    1. He didn’t say she wrote it well.

    2. Principles, not principals, Brooks.

  15. Public expenditures on sports infrastructure and event operations necessarily entail reductions in other government services, an expansion of government borrowing, or an increase in taxation, all of which produce a drag on the local economy.


    You can’t afford *not* to spend that money.

  16. All meeting rooms must be kept at exactly 68 degrees.

    WTF? Is this really considered a comfortable temperature by most people? I swear every office building I go into feels like a meat locker.

    1. If you wear a suit it is.

    2. That’s the lobby. Every office I have worked in, some people the gender of which shall remain nameless always manage to dial it up to 75 or so.

  17. “Hotel mini-bars must have only Coca-Cola products”

    I can approve of this one!

    *scowls at a Diet Pepsi can*

    1. That’s what I thought too, I wouldn’t give Pepsi to war criminals. Also IIRC coke is a sponsor so I’m sure its in their contract with the IOC.

      1. Everyone knows that Moxie is the only brown soda worth drinking. Only Nazis and people who sodomize infants would drink cola.

      2. Joan Crawford will hit you with a wire hanger for that.

        Joan’s third (or fourth, I forget which) husband was a Pepsi executive who died suddenly, with the result being that Joan tried to get Pepsi product placement in several of her later movies. There’s a story (probably apocryphal) regarding the hatred Joan and Bette Davis had for each other working on What Ever Happened to Baby Jane. They were paired again to do Hush, Hush… Sweet Charlotte, but Bette was so irritated with Joan that after a day or two she brought… a Coca-Cola vending machine to the set. Joan eventually quit and was replaced with Olivia de Havilland.

        As for me, I don’t drink carbonated beverages.

  18. Oh, and Zenon gets another Gold Star for alt-text.

    1. The alt text reminds me of something I saw in Hong Kong. There was a really beautiful park I visited. Everything was well maintained and very nice. Except for this weird little amphitheater thing that was built to celebrate the Chinese Olympics which was all cracked and decayed.

  19. I really like the Olympics, especially the winter Olympics. It’s a damn shame that the IOC sucks so much.

    If I were in charge, I’d only have the games in places that already have the facilities.

    I like the idea someone had above about having competing Olympic organizing groups.

    1. Yes. There was a reason the Greeks had their games in the same place every time.

      A place like LA for a summer Olympics made sense – track and field in the Coliseum and/or the Rose Bowl, Basketball at the Forum or one of the colleges, etc… No need to go one a construction tear for a one-time event.

  20. I wish Beijing would drop out as well so the preening self-entitled twats of the IOC would be exiled to Almaty for the duration.

    No wonder they’re pissed at Norway.

  21. The Orlando case was a bit of an oddball. The “church” was really just an old building, though that didn’t make it less important to the owners I’m sure.

    They were originally offered something like 2-3 million for the land, and they counter offered for 35 million. The city upped their offer to 11 million, they refused, and the city started an eminent domain proceeding.

    No one really wanted that though, and the developer managed to redesign the site plan so that they didn’t need the property…so in the end the owners “won.” Though frankly they should have taken 11 million, its a tiny lot in a part of town that is about to become a soccer stadium.

  22. The basic pitch is: “let’s build the most expensive athletic club in the world and the only people to use it won’t pay dues and will only have access for a few weeks.”

    But it almost sounds like that might pay back with all the advertising revenues, except that the various advertising deals mostly accrue to IOC or individual athletes.

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