If your city or country ever decides to enter into the bidding process for either Olympic iterations, summer or winter, or the World Cup drop a copy of this book on their doorstep and run. It’s like a grenade thrown right into the nest of assumptions that every civic leader ever has used to justify spending millions to bid and billions to actually host one of these boondoggles…er, international sporting spectacles.
Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup by Andrew Zimbalist is a thin tome at just 135 pages not including the reference pages. You can read it in a night and be frightened forever after if you hear the words Olympic organizing committee.
Here is the deal in a nutshell: Hosting one of these events is not going to help an economy develop and will, in all likelihood, divert funds from developments that could actually help move an economy forward for most people. However, nothing gets people excited quite like the big project and the Olympics or World Cup is the apogee of big projects.
It’s not just the economic arguments that are bunk, but the whole enterprise is corrupt. You can soothe yourself with stories about athletic excellence and national pride, but these games are just one long corrupt endeavor designed to line the pockets of the organizers. This includes the people responsible for doling out the games and the people who advocate for hosting the games.
I am holding out hope that the last thirty years of every increasing extravagance has finally ended as fewer and fewer cities line up to host these games. Even the BRICs, minus India which has not hosted such a spectacle, seem to have soured somewhat on the proposition after spending hundreds of billions to host the 2008 Sumer Olympics, 2014 World Cup, 2014 Winter Olympics, 2016 Summer Olympics, 2018 World Cup, and 2022 Winter Olympics.
It is strange times indeed when I find myself agreeing with old-line think tanks like the Brookings Institution, which was the publisher of this book. Granted, old-line political thought is considered fairly radical by anyone listening to Fox News in this day because of GOD, GUNS, GAYS…whatever. Policy ideas like not spending public dollars to finance private development is just good sense given the paucity of public funds available.
Note: I borrowed this book from the University of Iowa Library system and receive no compensation if you choose to buy this book via the link above.