Economist: Don’t expect windfall from World Cup

Nice piece from ABC News on Friday of the dubious benefits of hosting the World Cup, on which South Africa is spending $1.7 billion for new stadiums. A large part of the article consists of quotes from sports economist Rob Baade, who notes that his studies of such “mega-events” show they’re not worth all they’re cracked up to be in economic terms:

Before the Summer Olympics in 2004, the excitement among business owners in Athens, Greece was palpable, Baade recalled. After the Games? Not so much.

“They all told me they wouldn’t do it again,” he said, “because the infrastructure that is so critical to creating something in the way of an economic legacy was really disruptive to the normal flow of economic activity, so much so that some business owners said their revenues were down by 80 to 90 percent as a games…When you disrupt commercial activity, you’ve got to consider that as a cost.”

“When you put all those things together, that’s a pretty lengthy list,” he cautioned. “We really found that mega-events do not provide the kind of boost that apologists for the games argue will occur as a consequence. Things don’t materialize as a lot of people hope and think.”

Not to be dissuaded, sports consultant Lee-Anne Bac of Grant Thornton played the “intangibles” card, saying the real benefit would be that the World Cup “really starts to put South Africa on the map.” But as I’m sure Baade would be quick to point out, there is such a thing as bad publicity.

Number crunchers: World Cup, NFL stadiums not all they’re cracked up to be

It’s about time somebody used superpowered statistical analysis for something other than crazy-ass attacks on attempts to reduce carbon emissions. And so, welcome the new book Soccernomics, which according to AP says that building stadiums for soccer’s World Cup, as South Africa has been doing amid protests, is unlikely to ever pay back its public costs:

There’ll be no economic bonanza, according to Stefan Szymanski, and if experience matches the last World Cup in Germany, spending by visitors will be much less than the South African government shelled out preparing for the tournament.

“The next World Cup will not be an airplane dropping dollars on South Africa,” authors Stefan Szymanski and Simon Kuper write in their new book “Soccernomics.” …

“The problem for South Africa is that they have to spend quite a lot to build stadiums,” Szymanski said in a telephone interview from London. “Germany could afford this, and it had stadiums anyway. But South Africa is a nation that can ill afford to fritter away a few billion on white elephants.”

Meanwhile, the University of Minnesota blog Smart Politics has analyzed the records of NFL teams before and after getting new stadiums to see if Vikings owner Zygi Wilf is right when he argues that a new stadium is necessary for his team to be successful on the field. Their verdict:

Overall, these 22 NFL teams compiled a .462 winning percentage (747 wins, 869 losses, 22 ties) across the five respective years before their new stadiums were built.

In the five seasons after the new stadiums opened, these teams notched a slightly better record, but only four games over .500. With 829 wins, 825 losses and 17 ties, the first five years brought these 22 franchises a collective winning percentage of just .501 in the first five years in their new respective facilities.

Hey, that reminds me of something…

Schoolchildren protest relocation for stadium

Protesters angry that two schools were displaced for a new stadium — and that a new school they were promised in return has not appeared — have blockaded the stadium construction site, forcing work to stop. Why haven’t you heard about this? Probably because it’s happening in Mpumalanga Province, South Africa, the site of one of the stadiums being built for the 2010 World Cup. The Sowetan newspaper reports that police fired rubber bullets into a crowd of students, some as young as six years old, who were protesting at the site.

A local government official promised the schools would be built in the next couple of years, saying: “Their problems will soon be over and we request them to concentrate on learning rather than strikes.” I can’t be the only one who sees the irony here.