It never ceases to amaze me on how the fatuity of politicians, especially local politicians, and that of their enablers in media operates. The bid process for the 2024 Olympics is already underway and people are seriously proposing Los Angeles as a potential site. Yahoo News can’t contain itself;
The U.S. Olympic Committee on Tuesday named Los Angeles as its candidate for the 2024 Games, replacing Boston’s soured bid and marking a comeback for LA’s dream of becoming a three-time Olympic host.
And of course, the glad-handers in the Los Angeles City council are tripping over themselves to bring this monstrosity to Los Angeles. Geniuses over on Central Avenue of course voted 15-0 to pursue this idiocy.
When Garcetti was elected, I was excited that at least a thinking Democrat had been chosen instead of the unions’ point stooge. It seems the mayor left his brain at the door when he went to work;
Garcetti has vowed to sign an IOC host contract that would make the city financially liable if the Games ended up in debt. The mayor has said no tax dollars would be needed because billions in broadcast, sponsorship and ticket revenues would cover costs and generate a $161-million surplus.
Makes you wonder if he bought stock in a few local construction companies. Or, far more likely, has favors to owe.
Stadiums and the Politicians Who Love Them
Seriously. Politicians love stadiums and hosting gigantic, wasteful sports events. It’s like they are ignorant or just gluttons for punishment. Furthermore, their friends in the chattering classes also love to egg them on. For instance the Los Angeles Times breathlessly assures us, “There’s no denying Los Angeles’ growing Olympic appeal.” What? Of course there’s denying it. It just seems politicians have no interest in hearing any such “denials.”
Whether it’s Scott Walker and his beloved Bucks Stadium or the St. Louis City Council and their groveling attempt to keep the Rams from jumping ship to Los Angeles, politicians cannot throw enough taxpayer dollars at sports franchises and their massive events.
Two main reasons. The first is just basic corruption in politics, especially municipal politics. They have allies to pay and donors to reward with various bids and contracts. The stadium, or the Olympics, is a pay out. A great (fictional but in a fake-but-accurate sort of way) example of this is a scene from HBO’s highly underrated Boss, which has Kelsey Grammer portraying a Tom Daley type mayor of Chicago; slick modern politician meets old school Irish head breaker. First episode has a great scene where Kane (Grammer) bawls out a city alderman for threatening an airport expansion at O’Hare. He explains out the ins and outs of municipal politics quite easily in this profanity laden rant;
22 f–kin’ years. You think this is easy. Does Moco? I’ve been accused of bulldozing the First Amendment. Trashing people’s constitutional right to rest in peace until Jesus Christ’s redemptive resurrection at the world’s f–kin’ end. And I’ve only been dealing here with your average heroes of the Underground f–king Railroad. Veterans of the Civil f–kin’ War. Families who hosted Abraham f–king Lincoln, lying in grave that happened to be lined up east-west because they believe Christ will return on that axis, which also happens to cut smack f–ckin’ bang! Across two of my runways! Do you think this is easy?! Answer me!
I’ve been called everything from sacrilegious to vile to a f–cking grave robber. And I’m doing it all! Brow beating, finessing, pleading, threatening, begging on my g-ddamn knees. F–ckin’debasing myself! And for what!? For the contracts, for the jobs…
The second, less cynical, reason is that politicians, like most in the media and most voters, are just economic illiterates, more focused on the seen versus the unseen. In his 1850 essay, French economist Frederic Bastiat explained that people celebrate the seen and do not focus on the unseen. In his parable of the broken window, he explains that we celebrate the money earned by the glazier when the shop keeper’s window is broken and could thus surmise that broken windows is helpful for the economy. After all they increase industry and move money. However he notes that what is unseen is the lost opportunity as that money could’ve been spent elsewhere on more productive sectors of the economy.
Similarly we freak out over “stolen jobs” when an immigrant gains a tile laying job but then do not see the created jobs via lower prices, paychecks going farther and increased investment. Populists on the right and left bemoan outsourcing and then does not see how more jobs would’ve been lost had the firm not moved 70% of their labor overseas.
So it is with sports. Politicians see the increased tax revenue, the franchise profits, vendors, building contracts, et cetera and don’t see the displacement, the lost tax revenue, the how capital has been reallocated to unproductive sectors and how the economy is overall harmed.
No Olympics Here Please
The first thing that must be discussed is the exorbitant cost. On average; the Games bring in roughly $5 billion to which idiots go, “Oh boy!” Problem? Best case scenario in recent history has been costs that run up to the tens of billions. Literally our best case recent scenario is Athens’ $16 billion. Look around LA’s crumbling infrastructure and tell yourself with a straight face that we will be more efficient than the
municipal mafia government in Athens. This is a city constantly teetering on the edge of debt. I did mention the mayor wants to make the city financially liable if it goes over budget, right?
In return, what does the city get? Basically nothing. There are always these promises of lasting economic development that never materialize; Athens, the East End of London. At best the host city receives very short term benefits, which immediately evaporate once the Olympics are over.
Perversely, host cities usually suffer a lack of tourism during the Olympics. Yes that’s right, cities hosting one of the most watched events on the planet see a decline of people wanting to visit. For instance both Atlanta and Sydney saw declines in tourists as people don’t wish to wait through longer lines and increased prices (if you think trying to park in Los Angeles is a Kafkaesque, tears producing nightmare now, just wait until thousands of over fit yuppies and those who enjoy leering at them show up for a month).
Then, in the final insult, like a cheap john who leaves a tip of $1.25 on the dresser, the Olympics leaves immensely expensive, decaying, useless pieces of sports infrastructure that almost nobody uses.
Yet people can’t help themselves. Cities literally line up to be debased and abused like this, like some debauched Skull & Bones initiation ceremony. Until the entire IOC bidding process is dramatically changed (it won’t be), American cities and really just cities in general should opt out of this sucker’s game. Unfortunately for Los Angeles and fortunately for the IOC, Garcetti is an exceptionally enthusiastic sucker who is just begging to be played (our one consolation is that this absurdity didn’t occur during Villaraigosa’s regime, a mayor so patently corrupt he would have willingly paid for the pleasure of pimping himself).
Unfortunately the only thing that can really save Los Angeles is the hope that another city prostitutes itself in a far more humiliatingly efficient manner (here’s lookin’ at you Rome!). Los Angeles has a terrible history of pursuing sports events/stadiums at any cost, including displacing marginalized residents, about whom presumably the city council would not care if they all died of Ebola. (Obviously the fact my grandmother lost her childhood home thanks to the heavy handed manner in which the city pursued the Brooklyn Dodgers hasn’t jaundiced me at all. Of course not.)
For those who would like to read more on how hosting the Olympics and other sports-industrial complex nonsense is a chump’s game, here are some sources.
- Why the Olympics Aren’t Good For Us and How They Can Be by Mark Perryman
- Bidding for the Olympics: Fool’s Gold? by Robert Baade and Victor Matheson
- Assessing the impact of the 2004 Olympic Games on the Greek economy: A small macroeconometric model by Kasimati and Dawson
- Why Do Mayors Love Sports Stadiums by The Nation