Have you ever wondered what $1 million could buy? Yeah, of course you have. According to the Barenaked Ladies’ hit song “If I Had $1,000,000,” you could buy an exotic pet (yep, like a llama or an emu) furniture for your house (maybe a nice Chesterfield or an ottoman) or a fur coat (but not a real fur coat, that’s cruel).
Now multiply that $1 million figure by 50,000. I’ll save you the trouble of digging out your calculator and accidentally adding an extra zero and inform you that it equals $50 billion. To put that number into perspective, it would take fifty-thousand instances of spending $1 million per day to run out of dough.
Now, have you ever wondered what that could buy? Yeah, me neither. But it looks like we have finally found out, at least in Russian terms.
Fifty billion buys the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. It buys a ski resort, an Olympic village, sporting arenas and flashy opening and closing ceremonies.
As the quadrennial event was set to begin earlier this month, press from around the world flocked to Sochi to chronicle the action. Upon arriving, they were astounded, disgusted, angry and amused at what they saw.
Journalists did not meet the extravagant, well-constructed city they may have expected $50 billion to fund. Instead, media members checked into unfinished hotel rooms, broke door handles with just a simple twist, turned on sinks that spewed undrinkable tap water, slept on beds with no pillows, noticed exposed cords hanging above puddled water that dripped from ceilings, among countless other complaints. In sum, the games appeared to be a disaster before they even began.
Despite spending more money than any other country has in order to pay for the costs of hosting the Winter Olympics, trumping Beijing’s $40-billion price tag for the 2008 summer games, Russia seemed noticeably unprepared for this year’s festivities.
While the country’s economic prowess has risen to eighth largest in the world, it’s apparent Russia is still well behind other world powers when it comes to efficiency, organization and execution. And that’s not the only issue with the country’s Olympic overindulgence.
Tucked into the laundry list of problems taking place within Russian borders is government corruption. Although corruption takes place in even the most democratic of countries (the United States of America), when a government picks up a $50-billlion tab to host the Olympic Games, like Russia did, not only does the country’s image suffer when the event does not go as planned, but the nation’s citizens are also robbed of $50 billion that could have been spent improving health care, social security or defense.
Yes, hosting the Olympics is a great platform to put a country’s world influence on display, but it is also an opportunity to expose a country’s weaknesses.
It is time that nations like China and Russia cut back on Olympic spending. It is time cities such as Sochi, which had few Olympic-ready facilities prior to the games, are not named hosts.
Countless times in years past, facilities have been built to hold Olympic events just to be abandoned following the end of competition.
Places like Sarajevo, Bosnia— Herzegovina, Japan and China have seen bobsled tracks, ski jumps, hotels, stadiums and other Olympic venues completely deserted.
All of the money these countries spent, which often came directly from taxpayers’ pockets, was wasted. Sure, these venues served their initial purpose, but shouldn’t they continue to do so for years after so their construction is worth the trouble? Yes, they should and there is a way around this reoccurring conundrum.
Often countries host the Olympics in hopes it will not only be economically advantageous in the short run, but also to provide a long-term tourist attraction. Unfortunately, it does not always work out that way, leading to abandoned facilities.
U.S. hosts such as Los Angeles (1984 Summer Olympics) and Atlanta (1996 Summer Olympics) have not run into such problems. These cities were already established sports hubs. They already had arenas, hotels and transportation systems in place to handle the task of hosting the Olympics. Of course other facilities had to be constructed in order to hold certain events that may not be as common as others, but L.A. and Atlanta weren’t built for the sole purpose of hosting the Olympic Games. Sochi was.
Prior to 2011, when the Roza Khutor Alpine Resort—the location of this year’s Winter Games ski and snowboard events—was completed, the Russian city had virtually no previously-built structures capable of hosting the Olympics. While the resort’s construction may appear to be a good investment that will pay off for Russia, there is still the looming uncertainty of its possible abandonment.
The International Olympic Committee needs to prevent this uncertainty by restricting hosts to cities that are already stable environments to hold such an event, like L.A. or Atlanta.
It is the responsibility of the members of this group to choose the most capable and prepared host. The Committee should not only make its decision in the best interests of the Olympic Games as whole, but in the best interests of the countries who are vying for the opportunity. There should be guidelines set in place so cities like Sochi aren’t forced to build a ski resort, hotels and stadiums, spending an unimaginable amount of money in the process, while risking the facilities’ potential desertion down the line.
The Olympics is an event that, through sports, brings the entire world together once every two years. And in order for the event to be made worth while for the world as a whole, the IOC needs to reconsider its host-choosing methods in the years to come.
Do you agree with Christian’s plan to alter the IOC’s Olympic host selection process? What do you think about the preparation for Sochi? Should under-prepared cities be picked to host Olympic Games in the future? Will issues like that in Sochi arise for the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil? Let us know how you feel by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.