The Inconvenient Truth of Hosting Global Sporting Events

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

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One Response to The Inconvenient Truth of Hosting Global Sporting Events

  1. rm09gu says:

    I agree with your comment completely, hosting mega-events is publicized as a great honor and opportunity for host nations. Whilst this may be true in most regards, research suggests that the after math of these events is often negative especially when hosted by a developing nation. South Africa for example (as mention in your blog) spent a fortune on one stadium alone. The sad truth is after the conclusion of the world cup that stadium has become obsolete, there are hardly any events to fill the stadium and tax payers still have to pay to maintain it. Many are even calling for the stadium to be converted into a prison, or housing. Why should a nation spend so much money on a stadium that has no use after the games?
    There is also the idea of relocating a mass amount of people to clear up the area, develop it and hide from the world the poor of the country. The problem is these people (usually poor) get put in what some call ‘concentration style housing’. Where they no longer have running water and often share amenities with several families. This is a human rights issue that the world seems to ignore. FIFA has been the recipient of lots of bad publicity over the course of the last two World Cups in regards to the exploitation of human rights issues and the miss-use of developing nations resources. Perhaps this is why Qatar – an oil rich country, with an unlimited amount of disposable funds was elected to host the next World Cup.

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