Time to Limit Who Hosts World Cup and Olympics


It is time we are honest about the impact of the Olympics and the World Cup. They represent a world spectacle where the best athletes from every country can potentially showcase their dominance on a world stage. However, behind the scenes is a trail of disaster for the countries selected to host these events as dreams and promises of a financial boom are quickly replaced by the nightmares and realities of a disastrous infrastructure and economic impact.

The truth is only a handful of countries have any business hosting these tournaments.

Why do I say that? Well, the massive economical and infrastructure investment it takes for a country that does not already have the roads, stadiums, and facilities in place can be disastrous. Particularly for an event that requires billions of investment and lasts less than a few months.

Take Brazil, who hosted the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. Brazil's GDP fell by 30% after the World Cup, and the unemployment rate doubled in the three years following. Some of the stadiums they rushed to build in anticipation are now abandoned, used as bus parking lots, or rented out for special events such as birthday parties out of desperation to see any revenue.

Take the 2010 South Africa world cup. Many said that the economic return from the tourism boosts surrounding the world cup would make it well worth the billions invested. It turns out those predictions fell far short as South Africa spent an estimated 13 thousand for every tourist it attracted.

The 2008 Beijing Olympics cost over 52 billion, and the marque arena that cost $460 million to build and millions to maintain each year, the Beijing National Stadium, is now rarely used. However, unlike South Africa and Brazil, the Chinese economy is stable enough to incur losses like that and be just fine.

But what about the countries that are not in as stable of a situation? They take the same losses because of the ego of leaders who want to attach their names and careers to a successful bid rather than doing what is best for the country. Millions of Brazilian citizens protested hosting the World Cup and Olympics, yet both events took place, and now the country is still struggling to recover.

Fortunately, there have been some cases where protests have forced a country to pull a bid to host the Olympics. Hamburg, Germany; Rome, Italy; and Budapest, Hungary, have all pulled their bids to host after uproar and protests from the citizens of those cities.

These were protests initiated because those communities wanted nothing to do with the massive inflation, forced relocation of thousands, and monumental economic losses that usually accompany the Olympics.

These factors make it even more baffling that FIFA awarded Qatar the 2022 World Cup. While the country may have the financial wealth to swallow most of the record $220 billion it costs, they were far from having the infrastructure needed. It led to a rush to meet standards in the 12 years that followed the nomination. And when corrupt governments rush to get something done, they often cut corners.

Some estimates say that over 6,500 migrant workers have died building the stadiums. Many others have been jailed for protests, and some have just disappeared completely. FIFA essentially chose to give a rushed world cup bid to a country whose human rights standards already lagged behind most of the world.

Add that Qatar is banning alcohol at the stadium for religious reasons, which is commendable before considering the context. To ban alcohol 48 hours before the event starts, after promising you would allow it so you could win the hosting rights you chose to compete for twelve years ago, stinks of hypocrisy. But this is the same world cup bid won with bribery and a long list of other unethical behaviors that caused FIFA to turn a blind eye.

Very few countries have the economic standing and the infrastructure to host the Olympics or World Cup without committing massive human rights violations or throwing their citizens in a downward spiral. Yet politicians continue to submit bids to host these events. As the world becomes increasingly globalized, the Olympic committee and FIFA face a high degree of pressure to award the games to developing countries that have not previously hosted the games. However, past experiences show that compromising and awarding the events to a country and a city not ready can lead to disaster for the region's people and economy.

Even if it means that the same core of countries hosts the games on repeat, it is time we restrict who can and cannot host the events because right now, the Olympic and World Cup dream is a nightmare for the citizens who have to accommodate an event they should have never hosted.

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