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On the whole Olympic kerfluffle
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jducoeur
If you are trying to come to your own opinion about whether Boston should host the Olympics, I commend to your attention this recent book review from The Economist.

Summary: yes, hosting something like the Olympics brings in a ton of money. But the IOC skims off an *astonishing* percentage of it, in the name of running the games -- none of which goes to the much-ballyhooed improvements to the hosting city. The end result is usually a pile of expensive rusting white elephants that are not only useless, they mostly wind up draining taxpaper money on an ongoing basis, for upkeep.

It's a bad deal, highly likely to do Boston much more harm than good. On the plus side, the organizers claim that they will drop the whole stupidity if they lose the support of the residents. So it's time for those of us who actually pay attention to this stuff to say No loudly and often, and to explain that this isn't just catastrophizing: there are lots of recent examples, and they all suggest that it's basically a scam.

(Kate suggested to me the other day that the *right* answer is to stop the Olympics wandering around the world, and instead build a permanent site in Greece, which is arguably where it belongs in the first place. I suspect the politics don't work, but it makes oodles of sense to me...)

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Greece can't support its existing infrastructure. :-) Much like the MBTA. :-)

I hope this whole ill-conceived idea falls flat on its face before the dollars get spent.

I'll vote no, for certain.

PS Now that I've read the article - good article, thanks for the link.

Greece can't support its existing infrastructure.

Oh, sure. But if all that money went to the upkeep of *one* site, instead of building a whole new site mostly from scratch every four years, it might actually be supportable. And by providing a steady stream of reasonably predictable investment, rather than the quick flyby each country now gets, it might even be good for the economy there.

I can't actually see the powers that be agreeing to such a thing, but I suspect it actually would make economic sense if well-managed. (Whether *that* is plausible or not, I won't opine on...)

I read wcvb for local news, and I don't recall any pro-olympics stories. Of course that could be confirmation bias....

The closest I've seen to a pro-Olympics story is the one that hypothesizes that hosting the Olympics might actually be the only way to get people to commit to improving the T.

really hope the Olympics don't come

The fact is it shouldn't take something as ridiculous as the Olympics coming to Boston to fix the T. I agree with Mark - we need to tell them no to the Olympics and we need to force them to fix the T.

I have been firmly in the Do Not Want category from day one. I have gone on record saying that hell had frozen over because I agreed with Dan Shaunessey about something.

I'm also in the Do Not Want column. Thinking about it, though, t occurred to me that may of the previous places which have hosted were significantly different than Boston. Here we're pretty tightly packed. *Existing* facilities would either need to be rebuilt or renovated, rather than building new ones out in blank space somewhere, because we don't have a lot of suitable blank space. As a result, it is possible that many of those improvements would actually be in a place where people would use them.

That said, I still don't think it is worth it.

Who would we need to say 'no' _to_ in order for it to do some good?

I've heard rumors of some sort of referendum to come, but I don't know if that's actually going to happen, or what its scope will be if so. (I will get *very* cranky if they only hold a referendum in Boston, and pretend this doesn't affect all the surrounding towns, especially given proposals like the stupid velodrome in Somerville.) That aside, I suspect that some folks will hear from pollsters, but mostly I think it's all about consciousness-raising.

The thing about an Olympic bid is that it hits all these memes of Civic Pride and such, and those are powerful forces around here. So the important part here is essentially memetic armor-plating: making sure that general public has the facts, and doesn't get all swept up in the rosy glow of "We're going to do something cool!" If someone still wants to do it, even knowing the history and the risks to the community, more power to them -- mostly, I see the problems here as ignorance and propaganda. And if the general public turns significantly against it, I think it's unlikely that the politicians would be dumb enough to not back off...

And I read this just this morning.
http://gawker.com/brazil-cant-clean-its-shit-up-in-time-for-the-olympics-1693447063

From what I've read, it's hell on the local economy. The IOC literally takes command of all billboards and rents them out to national brands like Coke or Pepsi, the billboard owner is NOT compensated nor is the billboard renter, the homeless are locked up so they don't appear on TV, it's all but martial law in the city while the games are on, etc.

Yeah, this is one of the major reasons why The Economist is quite frequently making the point that the Olympics are increasingly becoming the preserve of dictatorships and command economies. I can hardly *imagine* the protests that would occur if they tried to pull that crap around here. (One of the many reasons why I think the politicians in favor of it really haven't thought this through: I suspect it would prove to be a career-ender for some of the people in charge...)

I was living in Georgia when the Atlanta games happened, and several events (including the soccer finals) were in Athens, where I was. Between what I saw around me, and what I heard about from the Atlanta media, there's NO WAY IN HELL Boston should be trying to host the Olympics, nor should we want to. Among other things, do people really want to find out which businesses are willing to totally screw over their regular clientele for the sake of Olympic big bucks by jacking up their prices for the duration? Or which landlords would evict their tenants so they could try to rent the apartments/houses out for insanely high rates that they think would be more than they'd normally get in a year?

Note: neither of these scenarios works particularly well in terms of making the piles of dough that people think they'll get; in the case of businesses such as restaurants, etc., they may end up much worse off in the end. The people going to the games in Atlanta were so convinced that they were going to be price-gouged by the locals--which, well, they WERE--basically shuttled between their hotels and the events, refusing to go out and eating mostly fast food or room service. The upshot was that a number of places went under or came perilously close to it; either they lost a hell of a lot of money on perishables that they never used and extra staff they'd hired--because the locals weren't going out either, partly to avoid the Olympic crowds and partly because they didn't like/couldn't afford the gouging going on--or because the same locals refused to patronize them again after seeing what they'd been up to and how willing they were to screw their regular customers. All this while the IOC was pissed that the locals were trying to milk the games for everything possible, never mind that they were doing the exact same thing themselves...I like the Olympic ideal, but the games themselves leave a hell of a lot to be desired, although I do have to admit London put on a hell of a good show.

While I'd be happy to host the Olympics IFF it did not involve taxpayer money and included actual infrastructure improvements, that seems unlikely to happen.

I do recall one thing I heard on NPR a few years ago about the Olympics: It is, perhaps, the most consistent civil project with respect to its proposed budget, that any organization could undertake. It has _never_ been on budget, and often is off by at least half.

Greece has been on the edge of the financial cliff ever since they hosted it in 2004!

Add to it the fact that cities hosting the Olympics suddenly have the need for surveillance cameras every 20 feet, but somehow the cameras don't go away when the events are over....

I'm seriously considering that if Boston "wins" the Olympics, it may be time for me to move back to St. Paul for a couple years. This has the bonus effect that I'd like to live in the Twin Cities ever again before I die, but not permanently. But I'd have to be careful about the ramifications on my intended career and there could be licensure headaches.


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