The Pros and Cons of Hosting the Olympics
by Sophie Cloherty on Friday, February 21st, 2014
The Olympic Games bring together people from all over the world in ways no other competition can. To be chosen as the host country of the games has always been, and continues to be, a prestigious honor for which national representatives compete up to seven years in advance. But do the Olympics benefit the country itself?
Politicians argue that the Olympics offer a city’s “rebirth,” with increased innovation and communal growth. The Olympics seem to be a time for a country to rebrand itself globally; however, a closer look at how the Olympics have evolved suggests that the financial and societal burdens could overshadow any possible positive outcomes.
In the summer of 2008, China spent an estimated $42 billion on the Beijing Games, the 2nd largest amount in history spent solely on the Olympics. According to the Wall Street Journal, these costs mainly included infrastructure projects and improvements to China’s facilities, while other portions of the money were spent on small visual improvements, such as flower arrangements and electronic enhancements.
The Wall Street Journal also argues that the outrageous spending “is worth it politically, but not economically.” For example, China experienced an influx of revenue in the years leading to the Olympics, yet 30% of the country’s population was still living under the international poverty line, and an estimated 30 million people did not have daily access to food. Think about all the good $42 billion could do, if it were put towards rural area food programs or job creation.
One might argue that the supposed increase in tourism would help make up for the spending, but tourism levels barely rose more than 2% in China. In addition, the facility improvements that China prided itself on are close to useless. The arena that housed the opening ceremonies, the Bird’s Nest, has no clear long-term purpose or benefit. The roof is exposed, leaving the building unusable during China’s harsh winters and humid summers.
This year, Sochi has won the title of most extravagant Olympics, Winter or Summer. The country’s final cost figure comes close to $50 billion in US currency, over 20% larger than China’s investment. What began as a gathering of talent, competition, and opportunity for unity has evolved into an excessive waste of resources.
I believe wholeheartedly in the existence of the Olympics. The games give unique talent important access to a rare international stage. However, the cost is too great for cities to handle, and smaller countries that might deserve the opportunity to host are not able to match the excessive efforts of massive nations like China.
The Olympics are about competition. The sense of pride one feels when one’s countryman gets to stand on the top of the podium reminds everyone of how far they have come as a nation — but it should not come at such a great cost. Scaling back might even allow everyone to enjoy the event more. A host country can focus its efforts on other concerns instead of on a short-lived celebration. There are ways to maintain the same atmosphere of friendly international competition with moderation.
The outcomes do often depend on the host city itself. The current Winter Olympics in Sochi are quite controversial, as the threat of terrorist attacks has diminished tourism and international investment. For every country, allowing oneself to be cast into a bright global spotlight is a game of high risk. Expectations from all around the world skyrocket, and, although carefully planned, no one can predict the future.
If the Olympics are to survive and continue to unite nations, the expectations surrounding the host cities must be significantly reduced. Above all, attention should be focused on the athletic competition rather than on a host nation’s own elaborate decoration.
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