Chicago Dodged a Bullet

October 4th, 2009

olympics1Chicago is probably better off for having lost their bid to host the Summer Olympics in 2016, at least in economic terms.  That’s the case made by Stefan Szymanski in Myths About Landing the Olympics in The Washington Post.  Szymanski, a British professor who studies these sorts of things, notes that beginning with Los Angeles in 1984, no city has made a net profit from hosting the Olympics.  He goes on to list and discuss the five most common myths about hosting the Olympics.

The people of Chicago, according to polls, were about evenly divided on whether they wanted the Summer Olympics in their city.  The opponents may have had the better case.

Many critics have noted the corruption endemic in Chicago politics and the city’s high crime rates, believing that hosting the Olympics in that environment would make matters worse and damage the reputation of the entire country.  However, Rio de Janeiro, which won the competition, is far worse than Chicago in terms of corruption and crime.  We’ll see how it plays out down there, but at least we’ll be able to watch from a distance.

Here are the myths Szymanski lists.  Read the article for his full discussion of each.

1. The Olympics will pay for themselves.  Nope, they never do. …

2. Winning the Games means a gold rush of jobs for the host city.  The truth is that the local economy doesn’t get much of a boost while those shiny new athletic venues are being built. …

3. The Olympics will boost local tourism.  For most foreign visitors, attending the Olympics is a proposition that costs thousands of dollars. Demand is just not that great. …

4. Playing host to the Olympics changes the landscape of a city forever.  Maybe, but it’s not a legacy worth much. …

5. The Olympics inspire greater participation in sports.  … It is true that many Olympic athletes were inspired by watching the Games, but most of these people had athletic talent to begin with. For everyone else, the effect is more likely to go in the opposite direction — the Olympics can reduce participation in sports. …

And Szymanski’s conclusion:

Maybe it’s for the best, though, that the Games don’t actually inspire a generation of Olympic hopefuls and host-city boosters. As public debt continues to mount, the cost-effectiveness of hosting the Games will come under increasing scrutiny, and by 2020 the IOC might be struggling to find credible bidders.


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2 Responses to “Chicago Dodged a Bullet”



  1. doris |

    Here in Houston,the bid was attempted a few years ago. The end result,leaves hotels everywhere,abandoned or just empty. To get the olympics,there must be so many hotels per amount of people. Many hotels were quickly built for the count,then absolutely not needed and in terrible places,were forgotten. They look sad,all those new hotels and motels,just waiting for something that will not happen,or if it does, they will be old and insufficient by then.A note to that, all the hotels are being run by the foreigners that had no job,and are being subsidized by someone,because most are open and empty.


  2. Brad C DMD |

    You know what? Obama is a hypocrite. All of this anti-pollution initiatives and fuel standards, and then what does he do? Stump to have one of those most polluting events here in the US. Does anyone ever consider how much pollution is generated in 6 years of building a “temporary” Olympic village? Or how much pollution is caused flying in tens of thousands of athletes, trainers, media, family and friends? Anyone who champions cutting down on pollution and global warming, and then asks for the olympics to be held in his country, has NO! moral foot to stand on and should be ashamed of himself!


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