Holding world-class events is considered the best way for a country to demonstrate its ‘soft power’, but what is behind that glory? With the advent of Winter Olympics 2014, this article investigates the impacts brought by holding major sport events.
South Africa – World Cup 2010
World Cup was first held in Africa in 2010. For the first time, a major sport event was held in Africa, the continent often considered as poor and undeveloped. Now, South Africa has proven the impression incorrect and attracts tourist around the world and the World Cup opened the door for tourism. Historically, South Africa was racially divided and hosting World Cup eased the tensions between different races and created a sense of unity.
One of the observe major benefits is its improvement of infrastructure, most notably the construction of The Gautrain, Africa’s first world-class, providing a modern rapid rail and bus service for a province regarded as the economic heartland of South Africa. According to figures, 1.3 Billion USD was spent on improvement of transportation systems including maintenance and redevelopment of roads, rails and airports. This of course led to creation of employment and more importantly, these construction projects provided better training for workers who can then apply the skills in the future.
London, The United Kingdom – Summer Olympics 2012
Research shows that London Olympics has boosted 9.9 billion in trade and investment. According to the report conducted by the UK Trade and Investment Department, the 2012 Olympics resulted in the following:
(i) £2.5bn “additional inward investment”, 58% of which was outside London
(ii) £5.9bn additional sales following Olympic-related promotions by the Foreign Office and UKTI
(iii) £1.5bn high value overseas contracts – such as helping to design venues in other host-nations
Most of the stadiums and sport arenas were built by British company which led to opportunity of employment and betterment in infrastructure. Despite skepticism on whether the economic figures were accurate, the government did, after all, review urban regeneration and transportation systems. Under the influence of Olympics Game, more people are inspired to do sports. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations observed an increasing volunteering figures following the Game. Residents generally felt that the living environment has improved.
Yet, is hosting major events always as beneficial as it seems?
Sochi, Russia – Winter Olympics 2014
2014 Winter Olympics is starting on the 7th February in Sochi, Russia. Under Vladimir Putin’s command, Russia spent almost 51 Billion USD in construction of new sport arenas and public network. The opposition party claims that the process has been ridden with corruption between the contractors. According to Sochi.FBK.info, at least ten sport stadiums are 10% over-priced than the ordinary cost which implies that government officials and private constructor took advantage of Winter Olympics and made profit from it. Anatoly Pakhomov, mayor of Sochi, said earlier in an interview that homosexuality is not allowed in Caucasus area. He stressed the importance of respecting Russian Law that homosexuality should be discouraged and prohibited as the discrimination continues.
This Olympics project is an attempt to demonstrate the successful and blooming economy of Russia and to turn the southern part of Russia, in particular cities around the Black Sea, into new winter tourist attractions. Inside the Olympic Park, there are modern constructions and beautiful surroundings. Free transportation is provided with brand new railway for outdoor sport competitions. Young volunteers possess fluent English helping spectators and participants everywhere inside the Park.
It is another world outside the Olympics Area. In Sochi’s city centre, roads are still rough and muddy. There is hardly any English signposts and power cuts happen a lot due to massive consumption of electricity by the constructor. The government provided free 3-day courses in English but citizens did not find it useful. Ordinary people living nearby had to put up with waste and pollution brought by the construction project. Houses located nearby sports venues are demolished and arrangements for these residents are still uncertain. It appears that the harm has already outweighed the benefits before Winter Olympics actually begin.
“It’s a parallel universe that locals to a great extent have no access to,” said Olga Beskova, editor of the local website Sochinskiye Novosti, or Sochi News. “It has very little to do with how Sochi lives every day. So far, city streets are all dug up, residents have a lot of problems, and it’s hard to see a happy ending after all of this construction.” (Quoted from Associated Press)
If hosting such events is not generally conducive to the public but merely a display of power, it obviously cannot be the right thing that a government should do.