Saturday, 15 July 2017 00:23

5 Cities That Won't Be Hosting the 2024 Olympics, and Why That Makes Them Winners

Hosting the Olympics is a bad deal, and organizers are having a harder time finding willing rubes.

The International Olympics Committee (IOC) announced this week that the 2024 Summer Olympics would be awarded to either Paris or Los Angeles, the only two cities bidding for the games. The other city would be awarded the 2028 Summer Olympics.

It's a far cry from the 1990s, when the IOC had six cities to choose from for the 1996 Summer Olympics and five for the 2000 Summer Olympics. City residents, especially in democratic countries, are starting to figure out what a rip-off hosting the Olympics can be.

Every Olympics games since 1960 for which data is available has faced cost over-runs, with the Summer Olympics costing an average of 176 percent more than the original estimates. Additionally, as a 2015 paper in World Economics points out, "short-run costs for venue construction and operations invariably exceed Games-related revenues by billions of dollars and long-term gains are elusive." The IOC has also squeezed host cities out of other ways to make money off hosting the Olympics. In the 1990s, for example, the IOC took just a 4 percent cut of the revenue from the TV rights, but now it takes more than 70 percent.

It seems the best way for a city to win on the Olympics is to decline to bid. Here are five cities that will be better off for not hosting an Olympics in the next decade:

Boston

Boston's bid had the support of local and state government when the U.S. Olympics Committee (USOC) chose it as the American city that would bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics. The state legislature had set up a "feasibility commission," members of which were appointed by the state governor, state senate leaders, and the mayor of Boston. The commission concluded that hosting the Olympics was a "monumental" but "feasible" task that the region was better prepared to handle than other parts of the country.

In 2015, the organizers of the Boston bid released the salaries of its executives. The public thus learned that former Gov. Deval Patrick, who had been involved in the feasibility commission, would be paid $7,500 per day of travel on behalf of the bid, and that Boston 2024 would be spending at least $120,000 a month on consulting firms.

Public opinion had already been turning on the Olympics bid, with complaints that there had been no space for public input before the USOC selected Boston as the American bid city.

When the decision was announced in January 2015, polling found support in Boston for hosting the Olympics at 51 percent and opposition at 33 percent. By the end of March, support had plummeted to 33 percent. As Boston.com explains in a detailed timeline, this reflected not just the salary revelations but the heightened sensitivity to government incompetence in the wake of crippling winter snowstorms.

Eventually, Mayor Marty Walsh admitted he hadn't read the entire bid proposal before pitching it to the USOC. In July, two members of the city council threatened to issue subpoenas to get copies of two redacted chapters of Boston 2024's bid books. By the end of the month, Walsh had withdrawn his support for the bid, saying he would not sign the host city contract. The USOC in turn withdrew its support and backed Los Angeles instead.

The grassroots campaign No Boston Olympics was also crucial to the bid's failure. Its activists campaigned against the bid after it became official, and they declared victory when the bid was withdrawn.

"Boston is a world-class city," a statement from the group read, adopting a phrase frequently used by the bid's supporters. "We are a city with an important past and a bright future. We got that way by thinking big, but also thinking smart."

Hamburg

When deciding whether to back Berlin or Hamburg for the 2024 games, the German Olympics Sports Confederation surveyed residents in both cities. It found higher support in Hamburg, but by the time the decision was brought up for a referendum the city's residents had reconsidered. In the November 2015 vote, 51.6 percent of Hamburg voters rejected the Olympics bid.

Hamburg estimated the cost of hosting the Olympics at $12.6 billion, with taxpayers expected to pay $8.3 billion.

"The result is a bitter pill for us to swallow, but a democratic decision must simply be accepted," Nikolas Hill, the head of the Hamburg bid, said after the referendum. "The attacks in Paris, the soccer crisis, the refugee situation, the doping scandals—they did not have anything to do with this but it has been irritating and disturbing people."

But such factors are relevant to an Olympics bid. The security theater demanded at mega-events like the Olympics, the corruption surrounding sports governance, and controversies like doping all make hosting the Olympics even less attractive.

A few months later, activists in Budapest would start their campaign for an Olympics referendum of their own.

Budapest

Political leaders in Hungary have been mulling an Olympics bid for Budapest for years, and the Hungarian Olympic Committee approved the official bid in 2015. By late 2016, Rome and Hamburg had already dropped out of the running, so Budapest was competing only with Paris and Los Angeles for the 2024 Olympics.

In January, youth activists under the Momentum Movement launched a grassroots campaign to force a referendum on whether Budapest's bid should move forward. They collected 10,000 signatures on the first day alone.

The bid was supported by the government of Viktor Orban, a strongman who has thumbed his nose at the EU while happily taking its money; the bid's opponents were concerned about corruption around the games, and more broadly about the misprioritization of government spending.

In about a month, the Momentum Movement gathered more than 260,000 signatures for an Olympics referendum, dooming Budapest's bid. The city withdrew its candidacy, with the IOC complaining the process had been "overtaken by local politics."

The Momentum Movement parlayed its victory on the Olympics issue to start a new youth-oriented political party aimed at challenging Orban's dominance in national politics.

Rome

Rome tried to bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics, but Prime Minister Mario Monti announced the day before the application deadline that he would not support the bid. The IOC requires written commitments from government officials, so that was that. Monti argued it was unwise to commit to a project of uncertain but high cost in the midst of a national fiscal crisis.

Supporters of a Rome bid tried again for 2024, but the idea didn't get as far as the prime minister's office this time. In June, Romans elected Virginia Raggi of the populist Five Star Movement to be mayor. Raggi believes it would be "irresponsible" for Rome to bid for the Olympics, saying there are more important issues, such as trash collection and corruption.

"In ancient times here, Roman emperors offered the thrill of bread and circuses to appease and divert a restless population," the BBC reported after the decision.

"That tactic, it seems, no longer works. These days, Rome is a city which can barely pick up its own rubbish."

Guadalajara

Before Guadalajara, Mexico, hosted the Pan American Games in 2011, construction costs were estimated at $250 million. They ended up at over $750 million. The city was also expected to host the World Aquatics Championship this year, and in 2014 Mexico mulled an Olympics bid, reportedly focusing on Guadalajara and the infrastructure it would already have.

A study led by the president of the sports commission in the Chamber of Deputies—Felipe Muñoz, a former Olympic-winning swimmer—concluded that the idea wasn't feasible. The problem, Inside the Games reported, was "the lack of suitable economic or infrastructure conditions." The next year, the Mexican government withdrew Guadalajara from hosting duties for the 2017 World Aquatics Championships, saying it could not afford the expected $100 million price tag. Those games went to Budapest, where they start today.

Photo Credit: US Air Force


Rare Olympic gold medalist duel set for Rabat; Diamond League preview

A rare, perhaps unprecedented, matchup of Olympic women’s 400m and 800m champions headlines a Diamond League meet in Rabat, Morocco, on Sunday.

Bahamian Shaunae Miller-Uibo and South African Caster Semenya are both entered in the 400m. Coverage begins on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and NBC Sports Gold at 2 p.m. ET.

It’s the first time in recent history, perhaps ever, the reigning 400m and 800m gold medalists go head-to-head in an individual race. The comprehensive track and field statistics website Tilastopaja.org shows no other instances since the women’s 400m was added to the Games in 1964.

Savor it now, because Miller-Uibo and Semenya will not race each other at worlds next month. Semenya is contesting only the 800m there. Miller-Uibo is going for the 200m and 400m.

A number of sprint stars line up in Rabat, including Elaine Thompson, Andre De Grasse and Yohan Blake.

Here are the Rabat entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

1:02 p.m. — Men’s Shot Put
1:10 p.m. — Women’s Triple Jump
1:50 p.m. — Men’s High Jump
1:52 p.m. — Women’s 400m Hurdles B
1:55 p.m. — Men’s Pole Vault


2 p.m. — Women’s Javelin
2:03 p.m. — Women’s 400m Hurdles A
2:13 p.m. — Men’s 100m
2:22 p.m. — Men’s 800m
2:30 p.m. — Men’s Long Jump
2:32 p.m. — Women’s Steeplechase
2:50 p.m. — Men’s 200m
2:58 p.m. — Women’s 1500m
3:12 p.m. — Women’s 100m
3:20 p.m. — Men’s 3000m Steeplechase
3:37 p.m. — Women’s 400m
3:46 p.m. — Men’s 3000m

Here are five events to watch:

Men’s 100m — 2:13 p.m.
Yohan Blake, the joint-second-fastest man in history, can win his first Diamond League race in five years on Sunday. He is the class of a field otherwise lacking world championships medal favorites.

Last time out, Blake swept the 100m and 200m at the Jamaican Championships, posting his fastest times since 2012 to rank Nos. 2 and 5 in the world this year. In the years since 2012, Blake went from legitimate threat to Usain Bolt to the walking wounded, tearing his right and left hamstrings in 2013 and 2014. He’s inching closer to his old form.

Men’s 800m — 2:22 p.m.
Like Blake, Nijel Amos was once the man pushing a legend in this event. At 18 years old, he took silver to David Rudisha in the memorable London Olympic final, shattering the world junior record.

But the Botswana runner missed the 2013 Worlds due to injury and failed to make the final at the 2015 Worlds and 2016 Olympics. He came back strong, winning his first Diamond League race in two years and then posting 1:43.18 in London last Sunday, the fastest time in the world this year by four tenths of a second.

Rudisha has lost two of three 800m races this year, so he may be vulnerable next month. The world-record holder isn’t in Sunday’s race, but other world medal threats are — U.S. champion Donavan Brazier and Kenyan teen phenom Kipyegon Bett.

Men’s 200m — 2:50 p.m.
Interesting mix here. There’s Andre De Grasse, the Olympic silver medalist in Rio. There’s Warren Weir, the Olympic bronze medalist in London contesting his first Diamond League race in three years. There’s U.S. champion Ameer Webb. There’s U.S. 400m champion Fred Kerley. And then Brit Zharnel Hughes, the former teen phenom and longtime Usain Bolt training partner.

Nobody in his field has broken 20 seconds this year (six other men have), but look for De Grasse and Webb to chase 19. They’ll need to in order to be considered threats to Wayde van Niekerk at worlds.

Women’s 100m — 3:12 p.m.
Elaine Thompson should extend her 100m winning streak to 17 meets here. The field lacks her top rivals — American Tori Bowie and the Netherlands’ Dafne Schippers.

It does include two of the other top six women in the world this year — Michelle-Lee Ahye and Kelly-Ann Baptiste, two veterans from Trinidad and Tobago. If they can push Thompson, the Jamaican 100m record of 10.70 seconds may be in jeopardy.

Women’s 400m — 3:37 p.m.
Shaunae Miller-Uibo has won the 400m at nine straight meets since her loss to Allyson Felix at the 2015 World Championships. That streak is very much on the line here.

Caster Semenya chopped 2.14 seconds off her 400m personal best last year, while focusing on the 800m. She even won the Diamond League finale in Brussels in a time that would have placed fifth in Rio.

Miller-Uibo was easily faster than Semenya’s personal best in her two 400m races this year, but she is not the fastest woman this year in the Rabat field. She trails Quanera Hayes, who won the 400m at the USATF Outdoor Champs in the second-fastest time in the world this year.

An interested onlooker will be Felix, ranked No. 1 in 2017.


Doug Robinson: Intersex athletes: A showdown for rights — but for whom?

"If, as the study shows, in certain events female athletes with higher testosterone levels can have a competitive advantage of between 1.8-4.5 percent over female athletes with lower testosterone levels, imagine the magnitude of the advantage for female athletes with testosterone levels in the normal male range."

The world is struggling with a lot of strange, complicated issues, but few are more complex than the one that is shaping up in sports: What, if anything, do you do about female athletes who produce testosterone in the male range — a condition known as hyperandrogenism?

The issue has become another showdown for rights — but for whom? Female athletes or hyperandrogenous/transgender women? It’s a confrontation that pits political correctness versus political correctness.

The World Track and Field Championships will begin in London next week, and once again Caster Semenya, the controversial intersex athlete from South Africa, will return to compete in the 800-meter run. Last summer Semenya won the gold medal at the Rio Olympics. The next two places were taken by Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba and Kenya’s Margaret Wambui, who are also believed to be intersex athletes.

If officials at the International Association of Athletics Federations had their way, Semenya would’ve been sidelined or medicated years ago. After she won the 2009 World Championships by a whopping 2½ seconds, the IAAF ordered her to undergo gender testing and then banned her from competition.

The IAAF reluctantly cleared her return less than a year later, but in 2011 the federation established limits on testosterone for female athletes and required those who exceeded those limits to take medication to reduce testosterone levels. Ironically, a sport that had tried to rid its sport of drug use was now ordering certain athletes to take drugs.

It's unknown if Semenya took the medication, but her times changed dramatically — from a best of 1:55.45 in 2009, to 1:56.35 in 2011, 1:57.23 in 2012, 1:58.92 in 2013, 2:02.66 in 2014.

In July 2015, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) suspended the IAAF rules for two years to allow time to study the issue. Those two years are up, and the results of the IAAF study are in. The research, which studied 2,127 male and female athletes from the 2011 and 2013 World Championships, shows that women with high levels of testosterone have a “significant competitive advantage” — a 1.8 to 4.5 percent advantage to be precise. That might not sound like much, but in the 800 that would mean up to 5 seconds. The research doesn’t even consider women with testosterone levels in the male range.

"If, as the study shows, in certain events female athletes with higher testosterone levels can have a competitive advantage of between 1.8-4.5 percent over female athletes with lower testosterone levels, imagine the magnitude of the advantage for female athletes with testosterone levels in the normal male range," Dr. Stephane Bermon said.

The research will be presented to the CAS this month in an attempt to overturn its ruling of 2015. Meanwhile, Semenya, Niyonsaba and Wambui will run in the World Championships.

Several female athletes condemned the presence of intersex athletes in women’s competition, but nobody summed up the situation better after the CAS reversed the IAAF suspension than medical physicist Joanna Harper, who told USA Today, “This is a huge human rights victory, but sports, not so much.”

Harper is uniquely qualified to address this subject. She was a transgender athlete before she became a scientist and underwent hormone therapy to reduce testosterone levels. She favors some restrictions on intersex athletes.

“While human rights advocates are deliriously happy over the CAS ruling, those who love women’s sport are mortified,” Harper said in a Q&A with exercise physiologist Ross Tucker. “… Allowing these athletes to compete in women’s sport with their serious testosterone-based advantage threatens the very fabric of women’s sport.”

It’s a complex and sensitive issue. Some of the intersex athletes have been vilified, but they have done nothing wrong. Unlike steroid users, they have not elevated their levels of testosterone with drugs; they were born with elevated levels of testosterone. But the question of fairness remains.

Women’s sports were created to provide them with a level playing field because they could not keep up with testosterone-fueled men. Women’s sports have flourished, but what happens if hyperandrogenous women and transgenders compete in women’s sports?

It could be argued that hyperandrogenous women — who have a natural predisposition to high levels of testosterone — simply enjoy a natural competitive advantage similar to other more recognized advantages in other athletes — narrow hips, slender body types, height, a superior neuromuscular system, a high V02 max, long legs, etc. Should Usain Bolt be penalized because he is 6-foot-5 and has the neuromuscular system of a small man?

Blessed with high levels of testosterone, male athletes have superior cardiovascular systems, longer and larger bones and stronger ligaments, more muscle mass and so forth. Testosterone creates a wide gulf between male and female athletes. John McEnroe got in trouble because he said Serena Williams, the women’s tennis champion, would rank 700th on the men’s tour — but that was actually generous.

Former track star Sonia O’Sullivan, writing in the Irish Times recently about hyperandrogenism in her sport, noted in an aside, “… if Williams was ranked 700th in the world (among men), she’d be doing well compared to Semenya, who would barely make the top 8,000 runners over 800m, and the world record would only come in around 5,000 mark.”

The point is, since testosterone creates an immense advantage, what happens when a female has a male’s body chemistry?

More irony: Semenya, the 2016 Olympic champ, placed second to Russia’s Mariya Savinova in the 2012 Olympics — until a retest late last year revealed she had used performance-enhancing drugs and her gold medal was awarded retroactively to Semenya. Savinova reportedly used steroids — which raises the levels of testosterone, the very thing that Semenya produces in abundance naturally.