The Olympics. The greatest sporting show on the earth. For the host city, it’s a chance to be in the centre of the world’s spotlight, as the globe takes two weeks to stop and admire athletes at their peak competing in this historic event. However, there is an increasing sentiment that hosting the games isn’t worth the effort, the drama it can bring, or the money that is costs.
The average Olympic Games costs in the ball park of $5 billion, not including the money invested into the infrastructure surrounding the games itself. So why are countries willing to pay so much to begin with? The obvious increase in visitors to the city, which in turn boosts the local economy is an obvious one, but studies have shown that this can be a rather short-lived effect at best. Another is the political bragging rights it gives you as a nation, as well as the legacy and infrastructure that is created because of all of the investment.
Many Brits look back on the Golden Summer of 2012 with fond memories as London became the only city to host the Olympic games a grand total of three times. The gold medals flowed in for the UK, but many didn’t realise that the money was flowing out. Around $15 billion was spent: 76% over the budget set forth in 2005 when the bid was secured. This has become a common problem of the games; each one has to be bigger and better than the last and so the cost is rising and rising. The 2008 Beijing Olympics came in at an estimated cost of $44 billion, but even that hefty price tag was eclipsed by the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. The final tally topped $51 billion. These mounting costs certainly are beginning to outweigh the benefits that the games can bring.
With the increasing costs, fewer and fewer of the “developed nations” are taking an interest in hosting the games, giving “developing nations” a chance to make a successful bid. Rio 2016 is a perfect example of this, but this opens a whole new can of worms. The Rio games were surrounded by concerns of the ongoing Zika outbreak during the games, as well as inefficient sewage treatment and high crime rates within the city. There were also concerns about whether the infrastructure would even be in place to host all of the athletes. With all of these problems, many countries are seeing that they can gain global respect simply from doing well at the games, rather than hosting the games themselves. The USA have been doing this for some time now, and the UK and China are starting to catch on as well.
The ultimate outcome is that fewer and fewer cities are putting forward a bid. The 2020 bidding process consisted of a final three cities of Tokyo, Madrid and Istanbul. One can only imagine what an Olympics hosted in Madrid or Istanbul would be like, given their economic and political problems respectively. This decline in interest to host is even more evident with the Winter Olympics. Pyeongchang proved that if at first you don’t succeed, try again until there are no other options, hence the Winter Olympics will be headed to South Korea next year. The 2022 games are even more laughable, with only two real contenders: Beijing which isn’t exactly known for its snow, and Almaty in Kazakhstan, which is perhaps not the first city that comes to mind when considering winter sports.