Big Games and Empty Promises

Host cities are often the biggest losers in sports mega-events

| July 19, 2007

The competition to host the Olympics can get as heated as the games themselves. Politicians often promise better roads, larger airports, and big tourism dollars to convince citizens to open their cities to the Olympic torch. In Chicago, one of the candidates to host the 2016 Summer Games, some residents don't believe the hype. Mischa Gaus of In These Times reports that community activists are skeptical of political promises of greater wealth and development given the Olympics' past effects on the poor in cities such as Atlanta and Barcelona. As public housing advocate James Pfluecke explains, the Olympics will 'drain every penny from every corner' of the city.

Even smaller-scale sporting events, like last spring's Cricket World Cup (CWC), can take a toll on host cities. When the West Indies were chosen to host the CWC, John Horne reports for NACLA Report on the Americas (not available online), organizers had hoped to reignite the dormant popularity of West Indian cricket, once known as 'calypso cricket.' Horne writes that a series of exclusionary corporate contracts with multinational companies including Pepsi-Cola, Red Stripe, and Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, undermined the games with locals by banning musical instruments, large bags of food, and nonsanctioned drinks at the events. Tickets to the events were priced so high that, Horne writes, 'it seemed a form of economic recolonization was taking place.' Instead of the promised influx of foreign capital, Horne expects that the West Indies will be left with sizable debt.

Despite such cautionary tales, cities continue to vie for the rights to host big-bang sporting events. Rio de Janeiro, for example, is currently hosting the Pan American Games through July 29. Luke McLeod-Roberts writes in another article for NACLA Report on the Americas that the Pan American Games are seen as a test of Rio's candidacy for the 2016 Olympics, and 'good security is viewed as crucial.' BBC News reports that 20,000 police officers have been deployed to combat the city's gangs. During one particularly bloody day of police drug raids, 19 people were killed, raising the concerns of human rights groups

Privately funded paramilitary groups called milícias are being deployed throughout the city, especially in its notorious slums, for the crackdown. According to McLeod-Roberts, many of these paramilitaries have a reputation for 'brutal use of force against alleged gang members and their friends and family.' Some of Rio's residents support the presence of the milícias as a necessary alternative to the ongoing war between police and gangs, but others, like Rio state governor Sérgio Cabral, have decried them as an unacceptable 'parallel state.' For their part, even residents who appreciate the increased security of the milícias wonder what will happen once the Pan American Games are over.

Go there>> Olympic Hustle

Go there, too >> Paramilitary Games

Pay Now Save $5!

Utne Summer 2016Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.

Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Utne Reader for only $40.00 (USA only).

Or Bill Me Later and pay just $45 for 4 issues of Utne Reader!

Facebook Instagram Twitter