The recent decision by the residents of Hamburg to vote ‘No’ in a referendum to host the Olympic Games is one which follows a growing trend, that of cities rejecting the games in favour of a more useful and honest approach to the spending of public funds. With just over half of the population (51.6%) voting against hosting the games, it could be argued that many did in fact want the games for the benefits that hosting entails, such as improved infrastructure, increased tourism and a national sporting legacy. Yet the proposed €11.6 billion to be spent was seen by many as wasteful in a time when Germany has been hit hard economically by the current refugee crisis, and equally vulnerable following the high profile attacks in Paris last month. Add to this is a growing suspicion of worldwide sporting organisations (FIFA for one) and numerous examples of the actually harmful economics of hosting the games and it becomes little wonder that so few nations remain willing to continue to throw their hat in with the farce that is the Olympic merry go round.
The main fear in hosting the games revolves around the misuse of public funds, a fear that is often justified, as the proposed spending of Olympic committees regularly exceed their predictions due to the costliness of hosting such an event. An example of this can be found rather worryingly close to home, as the ‘Olympic Legacy’ and foot bill of London 2012 continues to drag on into taxpayers pockets. Look no further than the recent scandals surrounding the transfer of the Olympic stadium into West Ham’s ownership, a transfer which has seen the majority of the costs being provided for by the government rather than that of the club. These ongoing costs are exactly what Hamburg sought to avoid, and quite rightly considering that the London Olympics was originally slated to cost just £2.9 billion and has ended up costing over £8.92 billion in public funds. And what of the renovated infrastructure of the East End? Yes it’s been given a flashy makeover, but it has also paved the way for the ongoing gentrification of London’s cheapest borough which is becoming a growing problem in pricing out local residents.
So why bring the Olympic Games to your city? It didn’t exactly do wonders for Greece in 2004, practically creating an economic meltdown due to misspending of funds, whilst many believe other 2024 candidate cities like Rome would sink Italy into an even deeper recession if they were to actually host. In fact, the economic disadvantages of hosting have become so profound that democratic nations have become increasingly wary, allowing oppressive regimes like Russia, China and Azerbaijan to host various games in attempts to improve their global image.The scandals surrounding Sochi 2012 and Beijing 2008 have been well documented, whilst the decision to grant the 2015 European games to a despotic nation of human rights abuses like Azerbaijan has been vehemently criticised. And then there’s the shambles that is the Qatar World Cup, where 1,200 workers have already died in its construction (that’s 62 per game) and the problem becomes not just about economics, but a moral question of ethics. If a city’s populace like Hamburg’s decides not to host the games then, it may miss out on a certain sporting grandeur, but what is that when compared to the questionable economic value of such an event and the dubious moral fibre of sporting organizations worldwide.
[Images: Yuri Kadobnov/AFP/Getty Images & Aleksandra Bakmaz/dpa/Corbis]