Monday, February 27, 2017

Six Rings to Bankrupt Them All

Of all the lousy things that have happened to Venezuela over the last couple of decades, like Hugo Chavez and frequent visits from Sean Penn, it seems they have dodged at least one bullet: Their neighbor Brazil hosted the 2016 Olympics instead of them. And writing in USA Today, Nancy Armour sketches just how quickly the glory of the XXXI Olympiad has become a dingy Scooby-Doo set.

Armour lines up the International Olympic Committee as one of the culprits, as a culture of corruption and entitlement fuel explosive expansion of estimated Olympic venue costs. The Cato Institute's David Boaz details some of the significant cost overruns of recent games, with the most fiscally responsible edition being (of all places) the 2004 Athens games that only cost 60 percent more than the original estimates. When Greece sets the standard for your economic spending over the last 20 years, then your model has some flaws.

The system is so screwed up that even a losing bid costs money for years afterwards. Chicago was one of the candidates for the 2016 games, with then-President Barack Obama flying to Denmark in 2009 for the final IOC vote as a show of support. The IOC showed itself a little smarter than the national Democratic Party and recognized that while Mr. Obama was pretty fabulous at getting people to support himself, he was not so great a help for someone else. Chicago went out in the first round of voting, much to the surprise of CNN, which had a nice fancy countdown graphic set up and preparation for a whole morning of voting coverage.

In order to fund that bid, Chicago did things like rent its parking meters to a group of private companies. For seventy-five years. In order to lose in the first round of Olympic voting, the city gave up its share of parking revenues until the 100th anniversary of the Games of the XXIII Olympiad in 2084. The city used public funds to buy a hospital complex as a site for the Olympic Village -- land which is now valued at about 15% of the cost Chicago taxpayers laid out for it. But at least that'll be paid off 60 years before the city gets its parking meters back.

Boaz notes Anne Applebaum's suggestion that if this trend continues, then the only kinds of places that will compete to host Olympics are those where voters get to make choices like which tank will run them over during human rights demonstrations. Notably, the two remaining candidates for the 2022 Winter Olympics are China and Kazakhstan. So the choice before the IOC is to have yet another Olympics in a brutally repressive authoritarian country (the same one it did in 2008) or have it in a slightly less repressive authoritarian country but run the risk of Sacha Baron Cohen showing up every time they turn around.

My money's on Beijing. I think that, for all its thick-headed corruption, the IOC is aware that everyone already thinks it's a joke and they don't want to give them any help laughing.

No comments: