Once again, it’s that wonderful time. After waiting four whole years, the Winter Olympics are finally back, this time in Beijing starting February 4th. While the event gains an extreme amount of news coverage, few people know the controversial process behind host city selection or the negative impact that the Olympics have on political and economic stability. As we watch the event intently on our television screens, it’s also important to educate ourselves on the bureaucracy behind the beloved winter pastime.
Firstly, the Olympics are incredibly expensive. The sticker price for hosting the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was $12.6 billion alone, yet many think that authorities were hiding the true price, which some suspect to be nearly $30 billion. While the Olympics bring in some sources of revenue, it is nowhere near enough to make up for the enormous amounts of money spent building the infrastructure necessary to host such a large event. Thus, Olympics deplete their host countries of funds and resources that could be used to go toward things of greater importance.
Perhaps the best extreme example of this would be Brazil, which hosted the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro back in 2016. Brazil has a massive wealth disparity, with recent estimates suggesting that 50 million people, or 25% of the population of Brazil, live in poverty. To make matters even worse, Brazil had also hosted the World Cup for soccer in 2014, meaning they were hosting two multi-billion dollar events within the span of two years. While the Olympics can do much to increase tourism within a country, boost its reputation, and even put the name of a lesser-known spot on a map, the games themselves are not a matter of utmost significance. A government’s priorities should lie in taking care of its citizens, which Brazil failed to do by squandering its money on unnecessary sporting events in an attempt to distract the world from its multiple corruption scandals.
To make matters worse, in many cases after the games, the Olympic stadiums are rarely used and ultimately left to rot. Abandoned Olympic stadiums have become a huge problem, emphasizing the extent of the wastefulness of the Olympics. One notable example that sticks out is the multiple venues from the Athens 2004 Olympics that have arguably fallen into irreversible disrepair. Greece, a country which has had a history of economic issues, is just one example of the pattern of corrupt countries hosting Olympic games when those funds could have gone toward more pressing issues. Instead, countries should build Olympic venues with the thought in mind that these venues can be used by the general public in the long-run, not simply for a short-term sporting event that will be over within a few days. Another option would be to invest in repurposing old Olympic venues that have gone to waste, which can do much to revive a city. For instance, in Australia, the old grounds of the Sydney Olympics have been turned into a public park. However, this option involves high costs, which many countries are unable to cover after having nearly gone bankrupt from hosting the Olympics.
This discussion brings us to China, the host of the next Olympics. China has a long track record of human rights abuses under its belt. It is a well-known public fact that the Chinese government has been committing an ongoing genocide against Uyghur Muslims in the northwest of the country. Many groups have protested against China’s ability to host the Olympics, but to no avail. With Beijing offering to pay the exorbitant costs of the event, the Olympic Committee undoubtedly had no hesitation accepting Beijing’s bid to host. Clearly the Olympic Committee ignored a pressing human rights issue in favor of securing a host city, even when there were plenty of other suitable contenders. This dismissed the plight of the Uyghurs for a sporting event that is irrelevant in comparison. Indeed, the event serves as a tool for the Chinese government to cover up its genocide and act as if it is a welcoming and inclusive country that preaches unity and diplomacy. Given these circumstances, host city selection must be reconsidered, especially in light of China’s ethnic cleansing, which only sends a message that such disgusting actions on the part of China are excusable. No longer is there any reason to give a problematic government the honor of hosting such a time-honored tradition.
To ignore such a matter is not only questionable in and of itself, but also points to China’s unfair leverage in the Olympic bid process. Beijing hosted the Summer Olympics just 14 years ago in 2008. As previously mentioned, countries who host the Olympics typically receive much news coverage and tourism as a result of the games. This would greatly benefit smaller countries, assuming that they have the proper financial means to take on an undertaking like the Olympics. Therefore, China is taking away a fair chance to host the Olympics from many other countries who have not yet had the opportunity to do so.
Lastly, China continues its legacy of disregarding the environment with the upcoming Olympics. The event this year will include artificial snow in addition to the relocation of an entire forest for skiing purposes. Both of these measures have numerous poor environmental impacts that could have been avoided if the games were placed in a more apt location, proving that Beijing is the entirely wrong site for the winter games.
While the Olympic Games are long-standing diplomatic tradition that by all means should continue, the decision to allow China to host the games was not appropriate. With the whole world watching, hosting the Olympics is a great responsibility, one that China is not deserving of. As the general public, we must implore the Olympic Committee to do better in the future and set better guidelines so that the event is more sustainable and inclusive, and not simply used as a political tool.