The Olympic Games are great, but only suckers host them

Typical Olympic aftermath

The Twitterz are abuzz with talks of hosting the Olympic Games in Washington. A group of local businessmen, politicians, and sports industry types called DC 2024 are lobbying to bring the games here, and for good reason.

Greater Great Washington has a nice roundup of arguments for and against the games. One of the commentators weighing in, Dan Molouff, accuses the naysayers of NIMBYism:

“Hosting the Olympics in DC would be expensive, and a huge hassle, and probably wouldn’t result in much lasting benefit to the city, specifically.

But all the hate still breaks my heart. It’s the civic equivalent of when a school board cuts art & music programs and redirects their funding to standardized mathematics testing. On paper it’s the right decision, but it’s wrong if you want your students to grow up with anything to dream about using math to create.

Art, music, and Olympics are all luxuries, it’s true. But they’re luxuries that are good for the soul. They’re luxuries that make our civilization more than the sum of its parts. They’re things worth doing if we value love.

I love the Olympics, and notably, so do many of the haters, who are happy to watch them on TV when they’re hosted in someone else’s backyard. Don’t we have a term for that?”

As regular readers might have guessed, I’m against NIMBYism. I think it’s bad, and it holds cities back.

Like Dan, I also like to watch the games, and I plan on attending them in person sometime soon. My favorite summer sports are modern pentathlon and track cycling. For winter, I think biathlon is great.

But Dan is wrong, and his response makes it seem like he doesn’t understand how the Olympics work. You aren’t a NIMBY just because you don’t think it’s a good idea to host the Olympics in D.C.

NIMBYism is a form of special pleading where someone would normally endorse a project based on their own moral and/or economic beliefs but, simply because the project is in physical proximity to the person in question, he says, “This is different! Don’t build it near me!”

But D.C. residents–and people anywhere else!–shouldn’t host the Olympics because doing so means corporate welfare, eminent domain, kicking out poor people, increasing corruption, and creating useless, sports-centered dead zones.

Why are so many businessmen and politicians working to bring the games here? Because doing so allows them to use tax dollars to build a lot of ill-conceived projects with your money. We put up the cash, and they keep the profit.

David Alpert sums it up well:

DC could put together a sensible, solid plan for an Olympic bid that has real, definite advantages and avoids overspending. It could submit that bid, confident that if it won, it would get a good deal, but also knowing that some city that’s less pragmatic would probably win out. But it’s unlikely to work this way. [They are]spending taxpayer money. The people on the board of the Olympic bid committee aren’t bidding to pay for the Olympics and make profit; they’re trying to convince politicians to spend taxpayer money.

How about the business executives who are pushing for the Olympics get some skin in the game? How about, if the benefits to the region do not exceed the costs, ThinkFoodGroup, District Photo, Venturehouse Group, Carsquare, the Mystics, Kiswe, the Nats, Lerner Enterprise, Under Armour, Akin Gump, rand*, the Informer, and EY have to make up the difference by issuing debt or equity in their companies to pay back the taxpayers? Then we can be sure that, being sensible business people, they will take care to not overbid. I’d be all for an Olympic bid in that case.”

Like David, I’d be happy if the people at DC2024 could bring the Olympics here on their own, but they aren’t proposing to do that. They’re really just asking the government to give them our money.

There’s nothing NIMBY about opposing eminent domain, political corruption, bribery, corporate welfare, or corruption, even if you think sports are great.


3 thoughts on “The Olympic Games are great, but only suckers host them”

  1. Then don’t say “hosting the Olympics is for suckers.” Say “the Olympics should happen in cities with most of the infrastructure already in place; if DC’s bid looks like that then super, let’s host.” Those are vastly different statements. If it’s possible to host without the problems you describe then attack the problems, not the idea of hosting.

    1. Any non-crazy plan is going to be rejected by the IOC. That’s why only suckers (people who waste a ton of tax dollars etc) host the Olympics.

      As I wrote above, “Like David, I’d be happy if the people at DC2024 could bring the Olympics here on their own, but they aren’t proposing to do that.”

  2. I think I’d tend to side with Dan Malouff on this one. I’ll grant that an Olympics bid has the potential to dole out money to special interests, but that doesn’t mean that we should blindly oppose any bid.

    There are plenty of examples of Olympics spurring much-needed spending. Take, for example, transportation and other infrastructure improvements. Currently, there’s zero political will to get any of it done. Look at the H street streetcar, which was supposed to be up and running in 2011, and the half-baked expansion plans that won’t break ground for several years. Or the 16th Street bus lanes, which a still a year(!!!!) away from being STUDIED.

    I’ll happily pay more in taxes to get these and similar improvements, because there simply isn’t the political will to raise taxes to fund these projects in the absence of an Olympics bid.

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