It’s all about the athletes, isn’t it?
Well, maybe it’s about the opportunity to acquire or upgrade facilities to train the athletes, which is what the games are about.
Or perhaps it is to put your country into the spotlight so that the world can see what great things you are doing for your athletes, in the new facilities, which is what the games are about.
Maybe it is to bring people from all over the world to visit your country while showcasing your corporate-sponsored and government-funded facilities, and hopefully buy a lot of t-shirts and stuffed mascots so that you can pay the bill when it finally comes due while being able to send more of your athletes—you are the host of course (is this the one perk?)—which is what the games are all about.
Is it worth the cost?
Tokyo spent $28Billion. Rio $13B. London $15B. Beijing $6.5B. Athens $3B. Sydney $5B. Atlanta $4B. Barcelona $9.5B. Do the host cities make their money back? I believe that Montreal is still paying off its “investment” from the 70s. Then there are the winter Olympics, averaging around $3B until Sochi came along and blew a whopping $22B followed by Pyeongchang with $13B.
The opening and closing ceremonies became a contest of who can put on the most elaborate spectacle with each city trying to up the game. Part of putting on the best show and competition is to attract corporate sponsorship—have to chip away at the debt, right?
Tokyo was dealt a losing hand when Covid delayed the games, and as a host city, was not legally able to cancel them, so are now on the hook to put on the event without the fanbase to help cover some of the costs. They did come up with a great slogan, though: Tokyo 2020NE.
At times, it doesn’t feel like it’s all about the athletes when you look at everything that happens in order to host the games. Some smart cities have withdrawn their bid when public support waned (how much did the bid cost? Less than what hosting would).
Will I watch? Of course. There are many sports that are enjoyable to watch that I only get to see every two years. There are people who train for years, and this will be their crowning glory—win or not, and in the end…
It should be about the athletes.
Leon Stevens is a blogger, composer, artist, and an author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures, Journeys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar and The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories.