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5 Cities That Won't Be Hosting the 2024 Olympics, and Why That Makes Them Winners

Hosting the Olympics is a bad deal, and organizers are having a harder time finding willing rubes.

US Air ForceUS Air ForceThe International Olympics Committee (IOC) announced this week that the 2024 Summer Olympics would be awarded to either Paris or Los Angeles, the only two cities bidding for the games. The other city would be awarded the 2028 Summer Olympics.

It's a far cry from the 1990s, when the IOC had six cities to choose from for the 1996 Summer Olympics and five for the 2000 Summer Olympics. City residents, especially in democratic countries, are starting to figure out what a rip-off hosting the Olympics can be.

Every Olympics games since 1960 for which data is available has faced cost over-runs, with the Summer Olympics costing an average of 176 percent more than the original estimates. Additionally, as a 2015 paper in World Economics points out, "short-run costs for venue construction and operations invariably exceed Games-related revenues by billions of dollars and long-term gains are elusive." The IOC has also squeezed host cities out of other ways to make money off hosting the Olympics. In the 1990s, for example, the IOC took just a 4 percent cut of the revenue from the TV rights, but now it takes more than 70 percent.

It seems the best way for a city to win on the Olympics is to decline to bid. Here are five cities that will be better off for not hosting an Olympics in the next decade:

Boston

Boston's bid had the support of local and state government when the U.S. Olympics Committee (USOC) chose it as the American city that would bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics. The state legislature had set up a "feasibility commission," members of which were appointed by the state governor, state senate leaders, and the mayor of Boston. The commission concluded that hosting the Olympics was a "monumental" but "feasible" task that the region was better prepared to handle than other parts of the country.

In 2015, the organizers of the Boston bid released the salaries of its executives. The public thus learned that former Gov. Deval Patrick, who had been involved in the feasibility commission, would be paid $7,500 per day of travel on behalf of the bid, and that Boston 2024 would be spending at least $120,000 a month on consulting firms.

Public opinion had already been turning on the Olympics bid, with complaints that there had been no space for public input before the USOC selected Boston as the American bid city.

When the decision was announced in January 2015, polling found support in Boston for hosting the Olympics at 51 percent and opposition at 33 percent. By the end of March, support had plummeted to 33 percent. As Boston.com explains in a detailed timeline, this reflected not just the salary revelations but the heightened sensitivity to government incompetence in the wake of crippling winter snowstorms.

Eventually, Mayor Marty Walsh admitted he hadn't read the entire bid proposal before pitching it to the USOC. In July, two members of the city council threatened to issue subpoenas to get copies of two redacted chapters of Boston 2024's bid books. By the end of the month, Walsh had withdrawn his support for the bid, saying he would not sign the host city contract. The USOC in turn withdrew its support and backed Los Angeles instead.

The grassroots campaign No Boston Olympics was also crucial to the bid's failure. Its activists campaigned against the bid after it became official, and they declared victory when the bid was withdrawn.

"Boston is a world-class city," a statement from the group read, adopting a phrase frequently used by the bid's supporters. "We are a city with an important past and a bright future. We got that way by thinking big, but also thinking smart."

Hamburg

When deciding whether to back Berlin or Hamburg for the 2024 games, the German Olympics Sports Confederation surveyed residents in both cities. It found higher support in Hamburg, but by the time the decision was brought up for a referendum the city's residents had reconsidered. In the November 2015 vote, 51.6 percent of Hamburg voters rejected the Olympics bid.

MontanNito/flickrMontanNito/flickrHamburg estimated the cost of hosting the Olympics at $12.6 billion, with taxpayers expected to pay $8.3 billion.

"The result is a bitter pill for us to swallow, but a democratic decision must simply be accepted," Nikolas Hill, the head of the Hamburg bid, said after the referendum. "The attacks in Paris, the soccer crisis, the refugee situation, the doping scandals—they did not have anything to do with this but it has been irritating and disturbing people."

But such factors are relevant to an Olympics bid. The security theater demanded at mega-events like the Olympics, the corruption surrounding sports governance, and controversies like doping all make hosting the Olympics even less attractive.

A few months later, activists in Budapest would start their campaign for an Olympics referendum of their own.

Budapest

Political leaders in Hungary have been mulling an Olympics bid for Budapest for years, and the Hungarian Olympic Committee approved the official bid in 2015. By late 2016, Rome and Hamburg had already dropped out of the running, so Budapest was competing only with Paris and Los Angeles for the 2024 Olympics.

In January, youth activists under the Momentum Movement launched a grassroots campaign to force a referendum on whether Budapest's bid should move forward. They collected 10,000 signatures on the first day alone.

The bid was supported by the government of Viktor Orban, a strongman who has thumbed his nose at the EU while happily taking its money; the bid's opponents were concerned about corruption around the games, and more broadly about the misprioritization of government spending.

In about a month, the Momentum Movement gathered more than 260,000 signatures for an Olympics referendum, dooming Budapest's bid. The city withdrew its candidacy, with the IOC complaining the process had been "overtaken by local politics."

The Momentum Movement parlayed its victory on the Olympics issue to start a new youth-oriented political party aimed at challenging Orban's dominance in national politics.

Rome

Rome tried to bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics, but Prime Minister Mario Monti announced the day before the application deadline that he would not support the bid. The IOC requires written commitments from government officials, so that was that. Monti argued it was unwise to commit to a project of uncertain but high cost in the midst of a national fiscal crisis.

Supporters of a Rome bid tried again for 2024, but the idea didn't get as far as the prime minister's office this time. In June, Romans elected Virginia Raggi of the populist Five Star Movement to be mayor. Raggi believes it would be "irresponsible" for Rome to bid for the Olympics, saying there are more important issues, such as trash collection and corruption.

"In ancient times here, Roman emperors offered the thrill of bread and circuses to appease and divert a restless population," the BBC reported after the decision. "That tactic, it seems, no longer works. These days, Rome is a city which can barely pick up its own rubbish."

Guadalajara

Before Guadalajara, Mexico, hosted the Pan American Games in 2011, construction costs were estimated at $250 million. They ended up at over $750 million. The city was also expected to host the World Aquatics Championship this year, and in 2014 Mexico mulled an Olympics bid, reportedly focusing on Guadalajara and the infrastructure it would already have.

A study led by the president of the sports commission in the Chamber of Deputies—Felipe Muñoz, a former Olympic-winning swimmer—concluded that the idea wasn't feasible. The problem, Inside the Games reported, was "the lack of suitable economic or infrastructure conditions." The next year, the Mexican government withdrew Guadalajara from hosting duties for the 2017 World Aquatics Championships, saying it could not afford the expected $100 million price tag. Those games went to Budapest, where they start today.

Photo Credit: US Air Force

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  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    I'd say Go L.A. except I know the state would bail them out. And probably push for an ever faster High Speed Rail to nowhere.

  • Zeb||

    I think LA plans on using mostly existing facilities. Which makes it a good choice (if you are interested in not wasting tons of money). But You are probably right and they will find a way to flush billions of dollars down the toilet one way or another.

  • Jerryskids||

    The IOC doesn't have it in the contract that everything needs to be brand new and purpose-built? What kind of schlubs do you think you're dealing with here that they're going to use second-hand equipment? These are the sorts of people who are going to demand LA build an extra lane on the freeways just for the use of their motorcades.

  • Longtobefree||

    LA had the Olympics while I lived there in 1984. (I have since sobered up, and been CA free for over 30 years)
    When the Israeli team was on the freeway, they had all lanes blocked in front by two rows of SUVs, all lanes blocked in back by two rows of SUVs, one or two helicopters flying overhead, about 40 yards of open pavement between the team buses and the rolling roadblocks, and several cop cars and motorcycles wandering around the open space between the buses and the front and rear blockades.
    So they won't accept just a new lane for their use; they insist on the whole damn road.

    By the way, those Olympics lost zero dollars.
    From our good friend Wikipedia:
    as the only bidding city the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee was able to extract concessions from the IOC: namely, that the city would not be responsible for any cost overruns and that it could use area venues that were already in existence, particularly the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which was also the Olympic Stadium for the 1932 Summer Olympics. The Olympic Velodrome and the Olympic Swim Stadium, funded largely by the 7-Eleven and McDonald's corporations respectively, were the only two new venues constructed specifically for the L.A. Games. The resulting low construction costs, coupled with a heavy reliance on private corporate funding, allowed the Games to generate a profit of more than $200 million, making them by far the most financially successful in history.

  • Sevo||

    "By the way, those Olympics lost zero dollars."

    Peter Uberoth managed that show and you're right, was able to build practically zero new useless facilities, resulting in net gain.
    It is amazing that other cities continue to blow a wad on it, but if the voters are dumb enough to allow it, who am I to object?

  • STSA||

    Can you blame them? Or have you forgotten all those Israeli athletes butchered during the Munich Olympics? All because the Germans refused to let Israeli security protect their own?

  • Ride 'Em||

    And the IOC was upset that LA made money and became determined that wouldn't happen. They said that LA over commercialized it.

  • damikesc||

    They were REALLY pissed when Atlanta didn't lose their shirts over it either.

  • dpbisme||

    The IOC is a organization of Elites who live large on the worlds Taxpayers... BUT: people are getting wise...

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    Who watches that crap to begin with? Who cares what country did what in the triple jump? I remember the red scare of the 80s and really hoping and watching to see that the commies didn't win a medal, but now I'm couldn't care less.

  • IceTrey||

    It's also about individual performances. Humans like competition. Surely as a libertarian you know that.

  • GroundTruth||

    Huh? I thought that libertarians like to be left alone? I don't care if you can run faster, in fact, I don't even like to run.

  • jmlandry||

    If cities had the balls to stand up to MLB, NFL, Nascar... What a wonderful would it would be.

  • TangoDelta||

    I hope it's 2028, I'll be pretty close to retirement and if all goes as planned I'll be out of SoCal by then and be able to avoid the unique flavor of bullshit that it will bring.

  • GroundTruth||

    The word was out in Boston long before the backers finally gave in, it just took a while for them to realize they were dead. The Boston Massacre moment in this was when it became public that former governor "Coupe" Deval Patrick was getting $7.5K per day for having supported this while he was in office as a consultant. That. plus the realization that Boston area traffic which is normally abysmal from 5AM till 2AM would be even worse leading up to and during this clusterfrak were more than even the usually sheeplike Baystaters would stand for. That they would be on the hook for yet another couple of billion in overruns, waste and flat-out theft was only a minor matter.

    .... broken clock, etc.

  • Liberty =><= Equality||

    Viktor Orban, a strongman who has thumbed his nose at the EU

    Eddie Kray-Kray gets it wrong again. Definition of strongman:

    A strongman is a political leader who rules by force and runs an authoritarian regime or totalitarian regime.

    Whereas Orban was democratically elected by the Hungarian people. Reason has made this same "mistake" regarding Rodrigo Duterte. Not sure if they just don't know what the word means, or they're joining the MSM in trying to paint non-leftist leaders as somehow illegitimate.

  • Sevo||

    Hey, your robes are falling open:

    "Orbán's social conservatism, soft Euroscepticism and advocacy of what he calls an "illiberal state"[2] have attracted significant international attention. Politico states that his political philosophy "echoes the resentments of what were once the peasant and working classes" by promoting an "uncompromising defense of national sovereignty and a transparent distrust of Europe's ruling establishments"
    Wiki
    IOW's he's a right-wing populist favored by twits such as the poster

    And defending Duterte? What a slimy piece of shit you are.

  • Adrian_fra||

    Paris is almost bankrupt ...

  • XM||

    I think Reagan won the state of California a few months after the LA Olympics. Different times.

    Now LA is a world HQ for every imaginable grievance mongerers and SJW types who will flood the streets to increase their visibility during the Olympics. Oh, and let's not forget about the traffic.

    LA has the infrastructure to host the Olympics, but there's still a chance for a minor disaster. America, unlike Brazil or China, cannot simply tuck away or hide the underbelly of their society for 3,4 weeks to protect their image.

  • damikesc||

    I wonder how much of the mania for the "prestige" of holding the Olympics has led to the insanity of cities giving multi-millionaire owners free (or exceptionally cheap) sports venues paid for by tax payers. It's not like this has been a long-term thing, but it seems as the IOC exploded into one of the greatest machines for graft in human history, sports as a whole has started going down that rabbit hole.

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