[Kajian Post] A Closer Look at The Olympic Games

Oleh:  Jalu Dibyo Sanwasi | Staff Divisi Kajian Kanopi 2012 | Ilmu Ekonomi 2011

The Olympics, commonly regarded as the biggest event within the sporting calendar, is currently being held in the proud city of London. Considering the 36 million people who turned on their televisions to watch the London Olympics opening ceremony on television, it is safe to saythat the Olympics is noticeably revered. Nevertheless, is the amount of veneration that the event always receives rightly justified?

Governments have often taken great interests in spending a large sum of public funds towards the Olympic games. After all, the conventional wisdom does believe that the quadrennial event is an excellent way to flow in money into the host country and boost economic growth. Unfortunately, on the other hand, numbers seem to think otherwise.

Many countries hosting the Olympics have embraced an increase in debt following the event. The 1976 Montreal Olympics was left with $2.7 billion of debt that was only successfully paid off in 2005. Similarly, the 1992 Barcelona Olympics increased public debt to around $6.1 billion. On a brighter note, although, the 2000 Sydney Olympics did break even, the Australian state auditor assessed the real long-term cost to be in the range of $2.2 billion.

Despitevivid doubts towards the financial benefits of the coveted event being itself an issue, a more serious problem is affiliated with the Olympics.In 2007, Centre for Housing Rights and Evictions, a UN funded organization, released a report that assessed the effects of the Olympic games from 1988 to 2008. The principal findings of the research reported several striking details regarding the effect of the Olympic games with the inhabitants, specifically the less fortunate, of the host city.

To sum up the report, the Olympic games have helped displaced many less fortunate citizens from their home. In 1998, when the Olympic Games was being held in Seoul, an estimated amount of 720,000 people, mostly the urban poor and other minorities, were forcibly displaced from their home in preparation for the Olympic Games. Preceding the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, 2000 public housing units were demolished and contributed to the total displacement of approximately 30,000 poor residents.Likewise, the 2000 Olympics disproportionally harmed the less fortunate. When Sydney hosted the 2000 Olympics, rents increased by an astounding 40%, quite an increase considering Melbourne, which won the second prize in terms of rent increase, only saw a 9.6% increase in rent. Unfortunately, the legacy seems to be persevering. The less fortunate citizens, 6000 to be precise, of Rio de Janeiro has already been forcibly evicted at gunpoint.

The largest issue of the Olympics is, however, the fact that billions of dollars public money is being spent to indirectly support both the issue of imprudent spending and gentrification.Public spending should pursue goals that appropriately benefit taxpayers. The Olympics, on the other hand, have, to some extent, fail to do so.If, countries still plan to host the Olympics Games despite the harm that it can potentially cause, they should do sowith a different approach. That is, similar to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, without the use of public money.

Nonetheless, the Olympics have provided benefits of its own. It has succeeded in creating intense emotions and euphoria within the lives of many individuals. Along with an increase in reputation, the host country also gets an extra page in the history books. Certainly, the citizens of the host country also receive a dose of pride when their nation is at the center of the global spotlight. However, do these intangible benefits justify the costs that the Olympic Games bring along? I suppose it depends on who you ask.

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