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6) HOSTING MAJOR SPORTING EVENTS CREATES MORE PROBLEMS THAN BENEFITS. Do You Agree?
Today, we see a world driven by a fanatic enthusiasm for sports. Whether it is the football fields or the cricket pitch, or even the spectator stands, we find that passion and love for the game is overwhelming. The craze around sports makes sporting events international extravaganzas and we find nations across the globe bidding to host them. This leads us to believe that sporting events bring about huge benefits to a nation, however we ignore the underlying countless problems which inevitably accompany the hosting rights. This essay will examine why hosting a sporting event, despite its claimed advantages, is largely a problem to the host country.
It is claimed, mostly by non-economists, that hosting sporting events result in the economic growth of the nation. Nations hosting major sporting events receive funds from international organisations like the International Olympic Committee, which are channelled into the renovation of the country in order to prepare it adequately for the approaching event. New projects inject money into the economy, thus stimulating it. Also with the international interest in the event, host countries may become tourist attractions, thus boosting hospitality and tourism industries. This is supposed to generate more jobs, greater income and better standards of living. However, this is a myopic view. The reality is hosting main sporting events is a major economic gamble. The sums received from international bodies are negligible given the scale of investment required and host nations have to pump in huge sums themselves. More often than not, the returns are insufficient to cover the costs. Greece, for example, spent US$15 billion (twice the estimated amount) on the 2004 Olympics and this overspending which was unavoidable given the importance of the event, has in no small part, nudged Greece into a financial abyss. The benefits from tourism are short-term especially if the tourism industry was small to begin with, lasting only for the duration of the event. Thus, given the economic costs plus uncertainties, the sporting events create more problems than benefits for a country.
Another claimed benefit is that sporting events lead to development of a country’s infrastructure which benefits locals in the long run. In order to hold a successful event, governments invest heavily in transport and communication networks, hotels and sporting arenas, among others. An example is India where massive construction is being carried out in New Delhi at an unprecedented scale for the upcoming Commonwealth games. Opponents argue that locals will benefit from this infrastructure development in the long run. However, this is not necessarily the case as the investment is mostly channelled in specific areas, namely building state-of-the-art stadiums, luxury hotels and airports only in major cities hosting the event. Locals who mostly belong to middle-income families do not avail or benefit from these expensive facilities. Even in the long run, countries struggle to maintain these stadiums and buildings which grow redundant after the event, a sheer waste of resources. China still spends billions on ‘The Nest’ which serves no practical purpose today. Also regular businesses are upset as a huge amount of manpower is directed towards sporting events. New construction requires demolishing or relocating existing houses and offices, and often people are not compensated adequately. This breeds discontent among the locals and antagonism against the building authorities and the government. Transport systems and traffic are also disrupted. Thus it is clear that sporting events create significant problems and practically negligible benefits for the locals.
Moreover, optimists claim that host nations, in spending enormous sums of money on their sporting facilities and sportsmen, thus improve the standard of sports in the country. The interest stimulated in sports in the country also helps in producing competent sporting talents in the future. While this may be true to a certain extent, the opportunity cost of investing in sports is huge. The inordinate funds spent on sports could be used instead to fund social programmes like education and healthcare which are pressing concerns. This is especially true of developing nations like India where income disparity is alarming and given limited government resources, diverting resources to sporting events will widen this income gap. Thus, as the benefits of sporting events are not spread evenly, they are a problem in the long run.
Finally, a major reason why nations bid for hosting rights is to gain international recognition to boost national pride. Sporting events are turned into a flamboyant display of a country’s economic, sporting and political might, and governments assume this will glorify the country’s international image. A perfect example is China which used 2008 Olympics to show the world that it had ‘arrived’. However, China’s Olympic success required colossal planning, something which all nations are not capable of. Sporting events, given the celebrities, huge crowds and media interest, are favourite targets of terrorists. A terrorist attack like the Munich Massacre in the Munich Olympics of 1972 can ruin a country’s image forever. Moreover, accidents in major sporting events, like the recent death of Georgian lunger, Nodar Kumaritashvili, in the Vancouver Winter Olympics, cause huge and often irreversible damage to a country’s reputation. Thus host countries face huge concerns in terms of vulnerability to terrorism and ensuring safety. Also, even if the event is a success, host countries may not be able to escape negative publicity, especially if they have skeletons in their closet. Intense media attention on the 2008 Beijing Olympics, unfortunately placed China’s human right abuses, internal dissent and strict censorship policies under greater international scrutiny and oppobrium than before. Thus major sporting events have a huge propensity of tarnishing a country’s image, thus bringing more harm than good.
As is evident, hosting sporting events has both its pros and cons; it depends on the individual country to decide whether it is capable of handling such a difficult responsibility. A country which is still struggling with its economy and grappling with its international image and relations should not consider sporting events as an easy way out as there is a huge likelihood of things going wrong. Instead, only when a country is sure of its capacity to weather any storms hosting sporting events might bring, should it compete in the bidding race. Till then, it is better to patiently wait its turn.