23 February 2017

Rio 2016, Six Months After

Written with Professor John Horne, University of Central Lancashire

Decrepit, unused venues, unfinished transportation projects, rising unemployment and social unrest, crippling debt, the Maracanã in tatters – this is the scenario in Rio de Janeiro six months after Thomas Bach strode off the stage at the 2016 Closing Ceremonies, never to return.

Similar to the catastrophic waste of money for twelve stadiums for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the unfulfilled promises of social housing and efficient venue use following London 2012, the herd of white elephants released in South Africa, the destruction of the environment and staggering graft in Sochi, and the monumental decrepitude of the Bird´s Nest, Rio 2016 has demonstrated yet again that the business of hosting sports mega-events is a temporary boon to the organisers, construction industry, and wealthy fans, but a terrible proposition for cities, taxpayers, and the environment.

This week, residents of Switzerland voted not to bid for the 2026 Winter Games. Hamburg, Boston, Budapest, and Rome refused to bid for the 2024 Olympics. Perhaps because they know the outcome, L.A.  and Paris refuse to hold referendums on their Olympic bids. The 2018 Korean Olympics have already had disastrous environmental and political consequences. The Russians are building 12 stadiums for the 2018 World Cup and those projects are shrouded in graft and waste. Tokyo 2020 is spectacularly dysfunctional and over budget.  The only choices for the 2022 Olympics were Beijing and Almaty: the Chinese are building a high-speed rail to mountains that have no snow. The Qatari labour system has killed hundreds of migrant workers, toiling to build stadiums that will glint in the desert winter for a few weeks. FIFA says they can´t influence national political systems, but they refuse to pay for any of the infrastructure that they need and then argue that national governments are responsible for cost overruns, not them. This corporate disingenuousness is written across the global landscape.

Given that we - academics, researchers, and journalists, who have been arguing for some time that there are difficulties with the hosting of mega-events as they are currently organized - repeat the refrain every two years, we need to ask ourselves two questions: is this outcome accidental and should we continue?

To answer the first question, we must first suspend our conceptions of major sports events as such. These massive gatherings are, as Jules Boykoff and Andrew Zimbalist have pointed out, integral elements of the global economy, moments of spectacular consumption that make billions for their owners: FIFA and the IOC. If we follow the money back to Switzerland, we see two organizations that act as monopoly rights holders, that operate with very little transparency, and take no responsibility for the short or long-term outcomes of their events. True, local coalitions of vested interests seek out the Games, yet the media companies, politicians, security, tourism, real-estate and construction firms that push for the bids are those that are guaranteed to benefit from public largesse. With a guarantee of public financing and a puerile search for symbolic and political capital, there is no need to skimp on the party. Thus, the answer is no, the destruction is a naturalised element of the festival: a long lasting hangover unequally borne by the most vulnerable with the benefits accruing to the “rights holders” that imagined and staged the bi-annual global bacchanal.

With Rio, we saw a city and country caught up in a sudden spasm of good fortune, with government sponsored pre-Games legacy proclamations echoing all previous Games in recent times: socializing the costs will socialize the benefits. There is the dream-like quality of the Olympics that appears to grip boosters who are alerted to the potential opportunities for place promotion on a global stage. Yet the benefits continue to be overestimated by event organisers and sports fans are all too willing to suspend critical thought as they can travel to see the events or watch them from the comfort of their sofas. The IOC and FIFA touch down for a month, take their billions and are gone. Fans descend in the hundreds of thousands, take their selfies, drink their globalized lagers and sodas,  and return home to reminisce.
What remains, in every case, is a city or country whose pre-existing problems have been exacerbated: increased gentrification and real-estate speculation in London, greater social division, urban fragmentation, and lack of resources in Rio, concentration of political power in Russia, environmental destruction in China, tens of billions wasted in Japan.

Should we continue? The Games certainly will. An ‘East Asian Era’ is about to unfold in the hosting of the Winter and Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games as Pyeongchang (South Korea), Tokyo (Japan), and Beijing (China) prepare to act as hosts for the next three between 2018 and 2022. Before Pyeongchang hosts the Winter Olympics and Paralympics the IOC will select either Paris or L.A. for the 2024 debt-inducing media specatcular (Why they will do so in Lima, Peru is anyone´s guess).  Since the Games take place within fractured social structures and amid enormous inequalities that persist and develop over time we have to continue to conduct research, investigate questionable practices, and articulate our concerns. Neither Paris or Los Angeles can meet budgetary, human rights, or sustainability standards – indeed the hosting of an Olympic Games implies consumption, militarization, pollution, waste, and corruption. Cities around the world are realizing this and are pulling the bid. If you wouldn´t want the Games in your city, you too should pull the plug on the Olympics and go play.


2014 World Cup Rio de Janeiro Maracanã FIFA 2016 Olympics 2016 Summer Olympics Eduardo Paes CBF Copa do Mundo 2014 Rio de Janeiro Olympics Ricardo Texeira World Cup 2014 Vasco da Gama 2010 World Cup White Elephants mega-events APO UPP BRT Brazil football Flamengo Lula Orlando Silva violence ANT Aldeia Maracana Carlos Nuzman Dilma Eike Batista Rio 2016 Sergio Cabral 2007 Pan American Games Campeonato Carioca Corruption IOC Jerome Valcke Novo Maracanã stadiums BOPE BRASIL 2016 Brasil 2014 Engenhao Joao Havelange Maracana Policia Militar Vila Autódromo Aldo Rebelo Botafogo Henrique Meirelles Medida Provisoria Metro Revolta do Vinagre Sao Paulo Sepp Blatter World Cup 2010 forced removal Carnaval Elefantes Brancos Fechadao Marcia Lins Minerao Morumbi Odebrecht Porto Maravilha Rio+20 Romario Security Walls South Africa South Africa 2010 TCU Transoeste protests public money public transportation slavery transparency x-Maracana Andrew Jennings Argentina Audiencia Publica Barcelona Brazil Carvalho Hosken Comitê Popular Confederatons Cup Copa do Brasil 2010 Cost overruns Crisis of Capital Accumulation EMOP FERJ Favela do Metro Fluminense Fluminese Fonte Novo IMX Jose Marin Leonel Messi London 2012 Marcelo Freixo Maré Museu do Indio Olympic Delivery Authority Perimetral Rocinha Soccerex Transcarioca bicycles consumer society debt idiocy militarization transportation 1995 Rugby World Cup 2004 Olympics 2015 Copa America Banco Imobiliario Barcas SA Belo Horizonte Bom Senso F.C. Brasilerao CDURP CONMEBOL Champions League. Mourinho Complexo do Alemão Copa Libertadores Cupula dos Povos ESPN England FiFA Fan Fest Istanbul 2020 Jogos Militares John Carioca Kaka Manaus McDonald's Obama Olympic Village PPP Paralympics Providencia Recife Russia Salvador Soccer City Taksim Square Tatu-bola Urban Social Forum Vidigal Vila Olimpica War World Cup Xaracana attendance figures cities corrupcao drugs estadios football frangueiro futebol mafia planejamento urbano police repression porn privitization reforms shock doctrine taxes 201 2010 Elections 2010 Vancouver Olypmics 2013 2018 World Cup 2030 Argentina / Uruguay ABRAJI AGENCO ANPUR ANT-SP Amazonia Ancelmo Gois Andrade Gutierrez Anthony Garotinho Arena Amazonia Arena Pernambucana Athens Atlético Paranaense Avenida das Americas BID Barra de Tijuca Blatter Brasil x Cote d'Iviore Brasileirão 2013 Brasilia Brasilierao Bruno Souza Bus fares COB COI COMLURB CPI CPO Cabral Caixa Economica Canal do Anil Cantagalo Celio de Barros Cesar Maia Chapeu Mangueira Chile 2015 Choque do Ordem Cidade da Copa Class One Powerboat Racing Clint Dempsey Comite Companhia das Docas Copa do Brasil Corinthians Cuiabá Curitiba Dave Zrin David Harvey Der Spiegel Eastwood Edge of Sports Escola Friendenrich Expo Estadio Expo Urbano FGV Fonte Nova Gamboa Garotinho Geostadia Ghana Globo Greek Debt Crisis Greek Olympics HBO Hipoptopoma IMG IPHAN ISL Iniesta Internatinal Football Arena Invictus Istanbul Itaquerao Jacque Rogge Jefferson John Coates Jose Beltrame Julio Grondona Julio Lopes Julio de Lamare Knights Templar Korea Lei Geral da Copa MAR MEX Manchester United Mangabeira Unger Maracanã. Soccerex Marina da Gloria Mexico Milton Santos Molotov Cocktail Mr.Balls Neymar Nicholas Leoz Nilton Santos Olympic Flag Olympic Park Project Oscar Niemeyer Pacaembu Pan American Games Parque Olimpico Pernambuco Plano Popular Plano Popular do Maracana Plano Popular do Maracanã Play the Game Pope Porto Alegre Porto Olimpico Porto Seguro Portuguesa Praca Tiradentes Preview Projeto Morrinho Putin Qatar Quatar 2022 RSA Realengo Regis Fichtner Roberto Dinamite Russia 2018 SETRANS SMH Santa Teresa Santos Sao Raimundo Sargento Pepper Security Cameras Smart City Sochi 2014 South Korea Stormtroopers São Januário São Paulo Teargas Templars Tokyo 2020 Tropa do Elite II Turkey UFRJ/IPPUR URU USA USA! Unidos da Tijuca United States government Urban Age Conference VVIP Via Binário Victory Team Vila Autodromo Vila Cruzeiro Vila do Pan Vilvadao Vivaldao Volta Alice Wasteland Workers' Party World Cup 2018 Xavi Zurich apartments atrazos barrier beer bio-fuels bonde capacities civil society comite popular copa sudamericana crack crime dengue dictatorship estádios favelalógica feira livre fiador flooding freedom of information furos geral graffiti guarda municipal host city agreement identity infrastructure ipanema istoe labor rape riots schedule school shooting security segregation social movements stadium state of exception supervia tear gas ticket prices torcidas organizadas tourism traffic tragedy trash trem-bala velodromo wikileaks xingar