Hosting a major sporting event such as the Olympics or FIFA World Cup can be extremely exciting for host countries. These events attract the world’s attention and the host city gets immense media coverage. According to the governments of hosting cities, there are numerous benefits that make it well worth the cost. Hosting creates a “feel-good factor” in local communities. The Olympics and the World Cup boost national pride and national unity. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) strongly promotes the fact that hosting the Olympics will stimulate regeneration. Both the Olympics and World Cup provide the host country with the opportunity to make a strong political statement to the rest of the world.
Being involved in sports all my life, I was always one who believed that hosting sporting events, whether it be on the national or global stage, was a great idea. As the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver grew nearer, I began to hear reason why hosting the Olympics was bad for Canada. At the time, I did not buy into these arguments and assumed that this was just an attempt by certain media outlets to draw attention to themselves. However, after reading Dave Zirin’s book Game Over, my opinion has changed.
Some people in Brazil will tell you that hosting the World Cup in 2014 and hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics is a great investment by the country. However, these people tend to be employed by the IOC or are high profiled political figures in Brazil. The reality for many Brazilians is that this is devastating news. In an attempt to clean up the city and make Brazil look beautiful to the rest of the world, many poor people have been forced out of their homes. Their homes have been torn down and are being replaced by more expensive real estate that is unaffordable, forcing many families to the streets. The same happened in preparation of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Thousands of people were forced out of their homes and placed into tiny shakes as the South African Government did everything they could to hide the countries rampant poverty problem and make themselves look more like a united nation. Even in Vancouver, there were problems that involved money. The estimated economic impact of the 2010 Olympics was $1 billion. However, with the Olympic Village exceeding its budget by $100 million and an increase in security that cost the city $175 million, it was clear that the final cost of the Olympics would easily surpass its financial value. This forced taxpayers to overcome the deficit.
Dave Zirin provides us with the inconvenient truth that comes with hosting the Olympics or World Cup. I still want to believe that such sporting events are a good thing for society. Perhaps this is because I am not exposed to some of the harsher realities that come with hosting these events like people in developing countries are. Moses Mabhida Stadium in South Africa cost $6 billion to build, yet 48% of South Africans live on less than $42 per month. So the question is, have these events become too expensive to be worth the national pride and identity that they deliver?
Zirin, Dave. (2013). Game Over. New York: The New Press