Entire world wakes up, realizes World Cup and Olympics are stupid

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:

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.

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31 comments on “Entire world wakes up, realizes World Cup and Olympics are stupid

  1. I have to wonder what cities achieve by hosting the Olympics. Did London really need to encourage peope to visit in the summer? And Rio? Last timeI checked, they were doing a decent job of attracting tourists. And who are the peope who travel to Olympic games to watch sports that they don’t watch the other three years, eleven months and one week? If it isn’t an olympic games, I never hear people talking about track & field, or competitive swimming. Winter games are even more baffling. Cross country skiiing with shooting? Make it paintball and we might be more psyched for it.

    Okay, I get the people now know about Sochi, Russia, but will many people be anxious to visit considering all the unrest in the area? If governments want to concentrate their resources to an area of their country, know yourselves out. But billions of dollars spent on athletic facilities might also make for attractive universities.

  2. It is possible to have these events without them becoming massive black-holes of public resources (regulating the bidding process and placing a preference for existing facilities come to mind). Of course that would involve a culture change at the IOC and FIFA away from the orgy of graft and outright piracy that seems to be their raisson d’etre these days.

  3. Countries don’t think the World Cup is stupid (not yet anyway). Do people hate FIFA? Yep. Are they totally corrupt? Yep. But if they re-did the bidding for 2022, all of the original bidders would probably go right back in. And, unlike Qatar, many of those bidders (e.g. the US), don’t have to build 12 brand new stadia in their country. We’ve already given up our public funds to build all the venues.

    Seriously though, for the US, hosting a World Cup would be pretty easy. We’ve got the infrastructure. It would actually be economic activity because of all of the international travelers coming here to dump money into our hotels and restaurants. And before you hypothesize they mightn’t come… the 1994 World Cup is still the best attended on (on total numbers) ever. That’s even having been staged when the field was only 24 teams. So there have been more games in every World Cup since, but they none has outdrawn the one here.

    I’ll agree that the World Cup can be a be a bit of a ‘catastrophe for the locals’ but that’s mostly because the last couple have been put in places where the countries had about a million better uses for all the money they spent. The US in 94, France in 98, Germany in 06 were all great events.

    But by staging the event in countries that don’t need to build anything, FIFA officials can’t get kickbacks for handing out construction contracts to their buddies. So that’s less appealing to the graftocracy running (and ruining) the game.

    The World Cup is still awesome. It’s FIFA that is the problem.

  4. I think tourism in London was down during the Olympics year because impact people who would just go to London avoided it to avoid the Olympics.

    I think the last city that had a major positive boost in tourism during and post-Olympics was Barcelona, but they were unique in that they were re-introducing the city to the world post-Franco. Most of the time it’s a net loss or a wash for well known cities like Los Angeles or London.

  5. @Michael

    Yeah, it’s not *too* bad if the stadia already exist.

    Thought I think at this point the US (and England) have become a more useful tool to FIFA as a stick to get these other places to do what they want, like LA is to the NFL or Seattle to the NBA. “If you don’t do (x), we’ll just move it to the US!”, etc.

  6. If the US doesn’t host an Olympics soon, I wondr if interest will wane enough that the IOC will start losing sponsorship money?

  7. “Entire world wakes up, realizes paying $billions to host World Cup and Olympics is stupid” would be a more accurate title for this post. Both events still garner enormous amounts of interest when they’re held. As Michael points out, the US could host the World Cup at the drop of a hat. Same goes for several European countries. Get a little creative with the size of a host region for the Olympics and there are numerous places that could hold them with minimal construction, too. I can’t see how a worldwide change of heart would damage either event. Less post-event regret due to costs could actually be a good thing. FIFA and IOC still get their TV money and that’s what’s really important.

  8. @Prost: For awhile now I’ve been surprised that the primary corporate sponsors (most in the US) haven’t pressed this issue. Live events get the best ratings. They’ll be happier with Brazil’s longitudinal location.

  9. Keith: Fair enough on the headline. There’s nothing wrong with the World Cup and the Olympics except for the entire way that they’re financed and organized.

  10. I read this story and thought, “Wow sanity?” Then I read the Clippers post. good feeling gone

  11. My thought is that they should establish about 6 “permanent” Olympic sites, and then, that’s it, that’s where the Olympics will always be held. And at the same time, these sites can be used nearly year-round, as various federations (my favorite sports are bike racing and basketball, so I’ll go with those) use these sites for their annual world championships.

    If you do that, then these things might make sense.

    I wonder if a tipping point might have been Sochi, which, in my mind, was such an outstanding example of corruption that it made everyone who saw the books blush. Why don’t they just have the next Winter Olympics in Puerto Vallarta, for God’s sake?

    By the way, this is ridiculous, but there was talk of Sacramento hosting a Winter Olympics. People used that possibility as one of the excuses to go bankrupt building an NBA arena. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

  12. Minor note: There will be no bond referendum in Sacramento.


    There were 2 changes to our Charter that enabled the arena, regarding the placing of digital signs. I’m not 100% sure you can change the Charter through a resolution, and saying this was a resolution is how they’re avoiding a bond referendum. So maybe they can’t kill the bond sale, but they can sure cripple the deal… Maybe.

  13. Next up is the olympics/world cup push back to every 5 or 6 or 7 or 8 years instead of every 4.

  14. I am still waiting for someone to explain what “human right” Russia was taking away.

  15. I think one problem for the summer Olympics is they’ve got to many events. Trying to cram three times as many events as the winter Olympics into the same time frame is bad for television and host cities have to build lots of venues for sports that become white elephants because no country has fans for every Olympic sport. They should separate the big three summer Olympic sports into their own Olympics that each event could headline. Track could headline the spring Olympics, swimming the summer, and gymnastics the fall. Then host cities wouldn’t have to build as many venues. Summer could be aquatics, archery, canoeing, cycling, sailing, beach volleyball, rowing. Spring could be archery, badminton, fencing, judo, field hockey, tennis, shooting, taekwando. Fall could be boxing, equestrian, handball, rugby, golf table tennis, volleyball, weightlifting, and wrestling. Leave basketball in the summer. Move the u-23 football to fall, and maybe we could get baseball to spring. So hockey and figure skating headline winter. Baseball and track headline spring, basketball and swimming headline summer, and football (soccer) and gymnastics headline fall. This way host cities don’t have to build venues for every sport I just listed, and we can actually watch most of these on tv without having to be a hermit for two weeks every four summers, holed up with five tv’s. Keep the same for year cycle for each but have one per year. For example, 2014 was winter, 2015 could be spring, 2016 is summer, and 2017 is fall. Rinse repeat, and we’d always be fifteen months from the next Olympics instead of two and a half years.

  16. Here’s the thing: Imagine if somewhere like the US or the UK hosted the Olympics and World Cup all the time. Would anyone really have a problem with that? Those areas get scores of tourists from around the world every year. Let’s say if Beijing, Australia, New York, or more realistically, Texas or the Midwest, and London hosted the summer games and World Cup on a rotating basis, it would be far more sensible than giving it to Timbuktu and expecting them to build new stadiums to host the events. It’s just grossly inefficient and disgusting greed.

  17. As I recall, studies of ticket distribution for many of the “main” events for London 2012 showed that more than 50% of the tickets available were comps for dignitaries and associated security personnel… in many cases significantly more than 50%.

    At last year’s Champions league final, nearly 60% of the tickets were reserved for UEFA dignitaries and sponsors, security personnel ’embedded’ (IE: masquerading as fans) and the like. I believe around 17k tickets were reserved for each of the competing teams (both German). Funny world.

    Even permanent locations for these idiotic events would be a waste of money IMO. Increasingly, taxpayers have to pay for them but cannot possibly hope to attend. Perhaps the public is beginning to overwhelmingly realize what a scandal mega events are. Perhaps it is not a ‘crossroads’, Herr Heiberg… perhaps the jig is up.

    Then again, perhaps it’s just more Muslim hate masquerading as World Cup anger. Let’s face it, every host nation since at least the mid 1970s has been accused (and in some cases proven conclusively) to have employed bribes to win major events. No nation is innocent in this regard. So what we are really complaining about is that Qatar outbribed us (whoever “us” is). Why is a world cup in Qatar based on bribes ‘wrong’, when a WC 2006 in England (who demonstrably paid for votes) or WC 2018 in Russia is not? How about those Beijing Olympics… do we really believe that China was awarded that boondoggle on the basis of “fairness”? Check out Andrew Jennings writings on former FIFA bod and Concacaf official Chuck Blazer (an American) if you think corruption is just something other nations do.

  18. … err, make that Germany 2006…. fact checking, fact checking… who needs it… I was thinking Olympics and world cup and…. nevermind…

  19. Um, on that second bullet point:

    The only bids left standing now are Oslo (where an upcoming referendum on hosting the Games is likely to go down to defeat), “This is urgent,” said Norwegian IOC member Gerhard Heiberg.

    Presumably “…Lviv, Almaty, and Beijing.” was supposed to go between “defeat” and “urgent”?

  20. Allium,

    You can pretty much bet that the IOC is at a tipping point where the USOC will be able to dictate the terms of the Hosting contract for both 2022 and 2024. Russia did spend $51 billion and most of it was on Olympic related infrastructure improvements as well as the stadiums and arenas used to host the games.

    With that said, the IOC is going to be in serious trouble. The organization will have to give the 2020 games to Beijing while Athens hosts the 2016 games in September 2016. It will take a total miracle to stage the 2014 World Cup with the stadiums not ready for the event. Brazil is a textbook example of the dangers of socialism and I don’t need Rush Limbaugh to state that fact.

  21. Allium: Jeez, yes, something must have eaten it in the editing. Will fix now, thanks.

  22. @Jessy S., what in the world? Socialism is to blame for what is going on in Brazil? You don’t even have your facts straight about where that money went in Russia either. There was ridiculous corruption going on.

  23. @ Roger C, One man’s Timbuktu is another man’s Dallas Texas (that other man being someone from Timbuktu). These events should tentatively open up new boundries. However, expectations and expenses need to be scaled down and existing infrustructure and futures uses for new facilities need to be at the forefront of thinking.

    The World Cup should make use of existing stadiums for group games, this would actually improve the event because, more and more, every World Cup is starting to look the same.

    @Jessie S, Brazil- Socialism? Hardly. Oligarchy. What Brazil, and much of Latin America could use is Estate Taxes and Property taxes.

  24. @Tom, I highly disagree, Dallas is not the boonies. Dallas can handle an Olympics very easily, or Texas, in general. Qatar may be wealthy, but it’s very sketchy and disorganized, just like Rio. There really is no benefit or point to giving these games to foreign countries that bribe the most, unless it’s somewhere like China that can manage it properly.

  25. When the voting for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, happened, the need for large amounts of stadium and infrastructure construction was seen as a feature, not a bug. By voting for Qatar 2022 a lot of big commercial construction firms stand to make billions in profits – including a fair number of back pocket deals.

    Missing that undercurrent, the U.S. bid started out with a preliminary list of 70 existing stadiums (12 years before the scheduled event) of a minimum of 60,000 seats that would meet FIFA requirements. The U.S. was basically trying to point out that a World Cup would be almost construction free and that all revenues would flow to FIFA and the LOC – missing out how that was really the tip of the iceberg and that the FIFA ExCo members would get theirs regardless of how profitable the tournament was, nor how high the attendance.

    The Centennial Copa America, to be held in the U.S. in 2016 featuring all 10 South American sides and six CONCACAF (North and Central America and the Caribbean) will be interesting. We should expect U.S. Soccer to pull out all the operational stops and probably use a lot of brand new shiny NFL stadiums – selling them all out in the process – as a rebuttal to yet another two years of growing concern over Qatar 2022 and the fact that a summer tournament would be untenable for athletes and spectators, but moving the tournament out of June/July would create horrible repercussions on the game globally for years before and after the tournament.

    Just like the U.S. was able to put together a relocated Women’s World in 2003 in less than six months (SARS outbreak in Asia forced relocation from China), expect the U.S. to position itself as a “go to” backup host for every future World Cup.

  26. With NBC/Concast cozying up to the IOC for US rights to 2032, seems like ‘da boidie – who benefits from expanded Games programs – may have to subsidize cities looking to bid instead of feathering the IOC Lausanne nest.

    Maybe, just maybe N. American politicians will come to their senses and see that subsidies for local pro sports businesses are an equally bad deal. Blowing off an Olympic bid is easy, but to get the same reason about big time sports into the heads of the local sheep is much harder.
    To use a line from Monty Python “…trouble is that sheep are very dim and once they get an idear in their heads there’s no shiftin’ it…”
    baah, baah, baah…

  27. A country whose population was characterized by a high level of sanity would refuse to participate in the Olympics. Unfortunately, sanity is a rare commodity in today’s world, which is one reason why our species is on a path leading to extinction.

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