Another City Dodges the Olympic Bullet
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.
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: