The U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) announced Thursday that Boston—or rather, "a handful of select Boston interests"—had snagged America's nomination for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games.
Why would any city want to host the Olympics in the first place? The bids are generally driven by politicians, who are motivated by a combination of delusions of economic prosperity and selfish desires to have a feather in their caps for landing an Olympics.
Massachusetts is no stranger to crony spending, and now its capital city will spend millions campaigning for the right to spend billions on an event that countless studies have shown generates virtually zero boost for local economies.
While Boston's campaign centered on its frugality and private funding—the bid promises a budget of "only" $4.5 billion from private sources and $5 billion in public funding for infrastructure—this kind of rhetoric was thrown around by organizers of the Athens, Vancouver, and London Games too. Surprise: Those events wound up costing national and city governments billions more than predicted.
Olympics historically run 200 percent over budget. Recently, the 2012 London Games cost three times more than anticipated, after promising only $4 billion in expenses. And the price for February's 2014 Sochi games? A whopping $51 billion—more than the entire cost of every previous Winter Olympic Games combined. Boston doesn't exactly have a stellar history of saving money on major construction projects, as evidenced by the $14.6 billion boondoggle "Big Dig," which overran costs by 190 percent and finished nine years later than expected.
Economist Andrew Zimbalist, author of the book Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup, called Boston's budget estimates "farcical" and said, "More often that not, Olympics wind up as a public burden…I have no reason to believe that Boston will be an exception rather than the rule."
Along with the obvious costs like construction and security, Olympics also require a multitude of other expenses. (No word on whether or not Boston has agreed to pay for the International Olympic Committee (IOC)'s demands of a free cocktail party, Samsung phones, furniture with an "Olympic appearance," or to have IOC members "received with a smile on arrival at hotel.")
Here is how the protest group "No Boston Olympics" puts it:
A Boston Olympics would divert resources from education, healthcare, transportation, and open space—all to throw an extravagant party for the unelected, unaccountable members of the International Olympic Committee.
Boston will also compete for the right to burden its residents with large doses of eminent domain, heavy traffic, and a wide variety of civil liberties violations in what Reason's Jesse Walker calls "a security apparatus so tight it makes an airport look like a free country." (The USOC was reportedly impressed by Boston's ability to implement a police state shut-down in the wake of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.)
Meanwhile, the IOC is struggling to find a bidder for the 2022 Winter Olympics, with only two cities—Almaty, Kazakhstan, and Beijing, China, both run by repressive authoritarian governments—willing to step up for hosting contention.
Until the International Olympic Committee agrees to pay its own way—IOC took in over $8 billion in revenue in the most recent four-year Olympic cycle—the Games are a terrible corporate welfare scheme for any city.
Until then, let's wish Boston bad luck in the contest to host the 2024 Olympic Games.
The same reasoning applies to the hosting of a National Football League (NFL) team, too, with 87 percent of stadium financing coming straight from the pockets of taxpayers: