To Host or Not to Host: Olympics 2026

The Olympic Games can be seen as a fantastic opportunity to display many great talents and compete in some friendly competition. On the other side, they can be seen as one of the largest economic burdens a country can endure. The Games are supposed to be an incredible display of the world’s best athletes, yet they can come at a tremendous cost to the host country and its people.

Governments take huge risks bidding billions of dollars, that they may or may not have, on new stadiums, facilities, and ambitious plans to revitalize the country, with the hope that, on a global stage, they will be able to prove themselves as world powers, both economically and athletically. Governments also hope that the Games will draw in new tourists and attention to the area, bringing with it an economic boost.

Often times, these plans fail and leave citizens heartbroken with many tales of broken promises and economic ruin. The Games also leave countries vulnerable to an Olympic Committee with plenty of prior corruption allegations. Countries and citizens alike are often left to wonder 'is it worth it to host the Games?'

Broken Promises of the Past

Unlike many other stadiums, Barcelona's Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys still holds events after is 1992 Games

A glimpse into Olympics past paints a sad picture of the burden cities undergo to put their faith in the Games to turn their statuses around. A year following Rio 2016, stadiums lay abandoned and forlorn with the ghosts of chanting and victories past. The sprawling Olympic village now casts an eerily quiet shadow over the economic heart of Rio de Janeiro. Any and all hope for an economic revival has been left in the past.

Many of the costly initiatives to improve the Guanabara Bay and build new stadiums left Brazil with crippling debt while undergoing one of the largest corruption scandals of the century. Athletes and countries feared their attendance would find them returning home with the Zika virus. Many promises made to Brazilian citizens of using the Olympic stadiums for community centres lie closed to the public or vandalized beyond repair.

Rio was supposed to elevate Brazil to an up-and-coming athletic world power, yet their athletes live in slums that are about to be demolished for gentrification projects that Brazil cannot afford but hopes will bring in wealthier tenants. Somehow, Brazil walked away from this catastrophe a laughing stock of the global community, but far too often this story gets repeated by many host countries as lavish, and costly, Olympic centres have no use following the games.

PyeongChang in 2018 tells a similar story; massive debts, broken promises and grandiose stadiums left abandoned and useless. Montreal in 1976 took three decades to pay back their $1.5 billion debt.

An Uncertain Future

With all of the talks of broken hearts, how are bidding host cities supposed to keep up the fight? Frankly, cities are meant to keep fighting but at what cost? Cities like Calgary and Stockholm are dropping like flies from the bidding wars of the “Games that no one wants to host,” as the 2026 Winter Games are so lovingly called.

Even after the release of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s Agenda 2020 calling for a sustainable development of currently existing structures and hoping for a less corrupt bidding war for the Games, cities like Calgary can see that the financial burden is still far too high. The IOC still allows Games to be hosted by cities with the largest plans and promises and citizens who know that these promises will now never be fulfilled.

Today, a plane flying over Los Angeles can see the site of the 2028 Summer Olympics. These were awarded to LA after bidding with Tokyo for the 2020 Games and the IOC no longer wanting to run into the issue of cities dropping bids for 2028 that would be voted on in two years’ time.

Increasingly, cities who have hosted the Games before will be recycling their old venues to rehost games, much like Beijing 2022. The IOC has since made this possible with the Agenda 2020.

Much of Beijing’s existing structures will be given new life using renewable energy and continue its plans from Summer 2008 to foster regeneration of the surrounding district which was actually a successful and promising story to come out the Olympics in recent history.

Unlike Beijing, Tokyo 2020 has to build all new stadiums and has been continually readjusting their budget and raising their total estimation of the Games. Unfortunately, Tokyo 2020 is on its own and must bare its financial burdens entirely on its own while Paris 2024 and on will fall under the new Agenda 2020 of the IOC assisting with the rising costs of constantly one-upping the last host.

Japanese taxpayers can find themselves footing up to 80% of the final costs of the games, no wonder citizens are out crying city bids to host future games.

Beijing 2022 was also a last-minute decision by the IOC to decide between who it saw as less than ideal candidates after Oslo, Norway decided the burdens were too big to bare.

New Promises

Candidate city's, Beijing 2022, presentation. Courtesy of Olympic.org

Through all of the darkness, the Olympic Games and the IOC can still have some hope for the future. The Olympics are a way to forget about all of the hate, disparity, and terrible things in the world for a few weeks and focus on great nationalism and pride.

PyeongChang 2018 had many firsts in the Olympics. It broke many records. There were significant strides made towards female participation with over 40% of the participating athletes being women. The games also signified a sense of unity between the Korean Peninsula for the first time. There was a joint Korean women’s hockey team and athletes of both the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and South Korea marched under one, unified flag.

That is the goal of the Games, isn’t it? Sport is meant to bridge the gap between nations through one common ground.

In recent years, this goal has been overshadowed by corruption and broken promises leading citizens to wonder if the Olympics are really worth the hype and planning that goes into less than a months’ worth of events and then years’ worth of clean up, not to mention the costly upkeep for unused venues.

Still yet, the promises of new Games find cities levelling older, poorer neighbourhoods to build luxurious Olympic villages and newer stadiums. This happens year after year as the slums surrounding big cities get demolished to make way for the Games. Those who pay the biggest price for the Games are those who lose everything with no say in whether they want to play into this lofty dream.

Far too often citizens are pushed aside as government officials decide the fate of the city, whether it may be democratic or not, the people are not the ones choosing. The IOC and the governments try hard to brush the dark sides of these cities under the rug. Keep the poor away from those paying hefty amounts of money to see the world’s elite athletes compete.

The desolate and dilapidated buildings once brought a sense of pride to world leaders and now for far too many, they bring shame to the citizens who begrudgingly paid and watched as these giant stadiums erupted from the grounds before their eyes, where their homes once stood. All of this loss and unhappiness for a months’ worth of publicity and advertising as suddenly millions of people flood Olympic centres and boost the bankrupt economies. All of this still leads to pain.

So, is it worth it to host the Olympics? If you can afford it.

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