I don’t know exactly what tipping point we reached last week, but it appears that the entire planet came to a mass realization that mega-events like the World Cup and the Olympics, far from being massive revenue generators for host cities, are gigantic money pits that any public official should run screaming from as fast as possible. Witness, all within the past seven days:
- Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter withdrew his city’s bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics, calling it “a tremendous, costly endeavor,” while a top aide to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he decided bidding on the Summer Games “doesn’t make sense.”
- Almost every formerly interested city has now pulled out of the bidding for the 2022 Winter Olympics, with Krakow joining Stockholm, Munich, and St. Moritz-Davos in deciding hosting the event would be too rich for their blood. The only bids left standing now are Oslo (where an upcoming referendum on hosting the Games is likely to go down to defeat), Lviv (which is in Ukraine, which has its own troubles), Beijing, and Almaty, Kazakhstan. “This is urgent,” said Norwegian IOC member Gerhard Heiberg. “We need to sit down and discuss what is going on. We are at a crossroads here.”
- The Japan Sports Council announced that it was trimming the budget of its planned $3 billion stadium for the 2020 Summer Olympics by almost half, but a prominent local architect still decried the plans as “a sin” and “a crime” for being out of scale with its surroundings.
- After the UK’s Sunday Times revealed that former Qatari FIFA vice president Mohamed bin Hammam paid more than $5 million in bribes to have the 2022 World Cup awarded to his broiling-hot-in-the-summer-when-the-World-Cup-is-played nation, FIFA vice president Jim Boyce announced that he would support a re-vote on a new host for that year’s soccer tournament.
- It was announced that Itaquerao Stadium in São Paulo, which is supposed to host the 2014 World Cup opener in ten days, will only be able to open at 62% capacity for its final warm-up match, with the fire department having refused to issue a safety permit for one entire seating area.
No, it doesn’t mean that the World Cup and Olympics are now defunct, and will be replaced by one of those sporting events that involves everyone batting a giant ball into the air. But suddenly lots and lots of people are saying aloud that these mega-events tend toward being terrible catastrophes for the locales tabbed to host them, which isn’t a new concept, but isn’t usually discussed quite so widely. Though, of course, a few months ago people were actually interested in Russian human rights abuses against lesbians and gays, until they actually started playing sports and there was curling to watch, so maybe this is just the usual “the games haven’t started, we’re bored and have nothing to report on” run-up that will be completely forgotten later on.