By: David A. Smith
This week’s (somewhat less) plausible apology
For last week’s shoddy blogging
That same AHI contract who consumed the week before also consumed the week just completed. But now, finally, I should have a normal week and service will resume J.
– Your obedient blogger
As we’ve see in the previous parts of this seemingly endless post, like many another temptress, the Olympic mystique has lured many a ruler, president, governor, or mayor to promise impetuously, and spend beyond the promise of a transformative experience:
Given the above results, for a city and nation to decide to stage the Olympic Games is to decide to take on one of the most costly and financially most risky type of megaproject that exists, something that many cities and nations have learned to their peril.
World War II defenses or Sarajevo bobsled run?
Sources used in this post
Put in its simplest terms, it is completely nuts to load up a thirty-year obligation for a thirty-day spectacle – and even ordinary folks are figuring out the high isn’t worth the hangover (Investors Business Times, August 5, 2016; gloomy maroon font):
A July opinion poll found that 63% of Brazilians already think that hosting the Olympics will cause more harm than good for Brazil.
It only cost ten billion
The Lords of Olympus are gradually realizing this, because reality is forcing them to:
It is argued that the conventional way of managing megaprojects has reached a ‘tension point’ where tradition is challenged and reform is emerging.
Although Professor Flyvbjerg is careful to avoid saying so directly, lest he be accused of opinion-mongering, what he means is They’ve become so expensive they’re country-breakers and even autocrats are figuring this out.
That last word should actually be spelled Idear, how it’s pronounced
So bloated is the golden goose the IOC is actually in danger of killing it.
Fortunately (I suppose), unlike FIFA, which as far as I can tell is rotten to the core, some parts of the International Olympic Committee appear to be, if not aghast, then at least a little embarrassed by what has been done in their name. [Not so embarrassed as to reform their bidding procedures – Ed.] So they offer something of a lessons-learned kit for prospective bidders:
The Olympic Games Knowledge Management Program appears to be successful in reducing cost risk for the Games. The difference in cost overrun before (166%) and after (51%) the program began is statistically significant.
While it’s always nice to hear that savings are being made, it’s still the coldest of comfort when you realize that post-kit Olympics are still running horribly over budget, but this time only 50% over!
We now have the problem relatively under control!
Throwing a blowout bash is a very human thing to do. Throughout the world, weddings are usually the most universal form of flamboyant extravaganza:
Investing in memories to fuse two people into a couple
And in the developing and poorer parts of the world, coming in second are funerals:
Funeral in Nairobi
When they involve close family, such displays have genuine meaning – and they’re usually done with the family’s own money, not other people’s, and with equity, not debt.
In case you were in any doubt
AHI blog posts on the Olympics
August 13, 2012: Maius, melius, devitius?; The cost to London of the 2012 Olympics
March 18, 2014: Zeno’s public-consultation paradox; 2 parts of Brazil scouring favelas to create the Olympic venue
June 1, 2015: Mega-boon or mega-boondoggle; 6 parts on Boston’s ‘winning’ the USOC’s designation to bid for the 2024 summer games
August 10, 2015: The highbrows’ sports carnival; 4 parts on the collapse of Boston 2024.
One way to celebrate reaching seventy
Now we can see the Olympics as the conspicuous-consumption event-trophy that enables an egocentric government or its grandiose leader to celebrate himself and his country, so the winners are either aspirational governments wanting to show they’ve arrived (Greece, Brazil, South Africa and Qatar for the World Cup) or kleptocrats of formerly-rich countries (Russia for Sochi and for the 2018 World Cup).
At best it’s cargo-cult economics; at worst it’s dictator’s propaganda.
Celebrating the ubermensch
For the glory of der Fuhrer
But Jesse Owens disrupted the narrative
If the Olympics were a rich-nation’s peccadillo, as museums are theme parks for the upper crust, and funded as such, then I would have no beef with them at all.
But they’re not. They take money and political capital away from things that matter, and usually in nations that haven’t got the money to spare.
Much though I regret saying so, humanity would be better off if the Olympics vanished tomorrow.
Send the Olympics there