June 27, 2014
The Next Summer Olympics Are Headed To London?
Football fans — to Americans make that SOCCER fans — are likely glued to their sets watching the excitement unfold. To this reporter, I personally find everything about the FIFA World Cup this year fascinating, but not because of the matches. Truth be told, football/soccer isn’t really my game, but then again neither is American football. I’d much rather mow the lawn than watch the action on the pitch and/or field.
No, this year I’m glued to the news updates because it is almost akin to watching a train wreck. Protesters have staged mini-riots over the cost of the games, while it has shed a spotlight on the fact that the 2016 Summer Olympic Games are now just about two years away and host city Rio de Janeiro is woefully unprepared.
Last month, the city’s mayor even expressed concerns with his city’s preparations! If you’ve lost the mayor, you’ve pretty much lost the games. The situation has been deemed “critical” by Olympic organizers.
Last month, the British newspaper the Independent even reported, “Olympic officials have secretly asked if London would be in a position to take over hosting the 2016 games from Rio de Janeiro.”
Then there is the talk that Moscow could replace Rio as the 2016 Summer Olympics host city. The situation in Ukraine might derail that train before it even leaves the station, but one must wonder — couldn’t Sochi actually handle the task? It has the stadium, it has the hotels (those should be finished by now) and it is hard to think that Vladimir Putin couldn’t pull it off.
All this begs the question as to why would any city really want the Olympic Games? As National Geographic reported, cities fight tooth and nail to get the games, but most of the time it ends up being a money pit — “The Montreal Games in 1976 nearly bankrupted the city and left it with a spectacularly ugly stadium.”
The stadiums! As Brazil found out hosting the World Cup, which is in a single nation but not country (Japan and South Korea co-hosted the 2002 World Cup), means you need a lot of stadiums. Countries that have many cities with football/soccer teams don’t experience as much of a problem because the local stadiums work out well. The United States hosted the games in 2004 and the matches were played all over the country.
The Olympics is a bit different, as they require multiple venues in a single city — or region, as it is in many cases. Atlanta isn’t on the Atlantic Ocean, so the sailing events were held in Savannah, for example. The point remains that cities need stadiums and other venues.
Los Angeles handled it well in 1984 — arguably one of the most successful games — as it utilized existing stadiums and other venues. Contrast that with Beijing’s Bird Nest Stadium, which National Geographic reported cost $423 million to build and $11 million a year in upkeep.
London has reportedly done well with the games, which according to reports even accelerated progress of urban regeneration in the city’s East End. Rio, by contrast, is a city that has many parts that could use some regeneration, but the World Cup and the Olympics likely won’t do a thing in that regard.
As it stands, it is very unlikely that the games will in fact move back to London, but it really wouldn’t be such a bad thing if they did. The city has venues that are ready and paid for and London showed it can handle security.
No, the games will likely go on — or at least try to — in Rio. The sad part is that so many things can go wrong, and in the end, Rio won’t really be ready. It won’t regenerate the city and it could be the Olympic athletes that have to deal with subpar venues.
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