Panem et circenses is a phrase with its origins in ancient Rome so I suppose that we should not be entirely surprised by the news that Italy is going to apply to host the 2024 Olympics.
The Daily Telegraph:
Announcing the move on Monday, Matteo Renzi, the prime minister, said he hoped the bid would help kick-start investment and cheer up a country overcome by the gloom of rising unemployment and a shrinking economy.
“Too often Italy seems resigned, to have lowered its ambitions,” said the 39-year-old prime minister, who has vowed to embark on a massive programme of reform to haul Italy out of its political and economic malaise.
Fortunately people are not quite so gullible as in the past:
[The] announcement was immediately greeted with scorn and criticism, with many saying Italy was in no fit state financially to hold one of the world’s biggest sporting events and that the projects would pour money into the hands of the mafia, which continues to have a grip on Italy’s construction industry….
“This is madness, they’ll be the Olympics of Waste,” said Matteo Salvini, the head of the [populist-right] Northern League, who added that arrests are being made in Rome on an almost daily basis as investigators probe the links between politicians and the mafia…
Critics pointed to the example of Greece, where the 2004 Olympics left crippling debts which contributed to the country’s economic meltdown.
Meanwhile another famously well-run entity is pitching to have the games come to town:
The Washington Post:
A five-person contingent will present a case to the 16-member U.S. Olympic Committee board of directors Tuesday morning [December 16] for why the nation’s capital deserves to host the 2024 Summer Games.
The USOC hasn’t yet come to a decision (between LA, San Francisco and Boston are also competing to host this plague), but the organizers of the Washington bid already deserve a gold medal in crawling:
“…Olympians stand united as citizens of the world, competing peacefully, in the spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play. As citizens of Washington, D.C. and the Capital Region, we would be humbled by the honor of hosting this momentous event, and we believe our city and region would be an ideal Host City for the 2024 Summer Games.”
And proving the point that every bad, expensive idea will find at least one reasonably prominent Republican politician ready to throw taxpayer money in its direction:
The District’s incoming Democratic mayor and the Utah Republican soon to assume congressional oversight of D.C. affairs agree on this bipartisan goal: It would be great to bring the Olympics to Washington.
“What a great thing it would be for the nation,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz said he told Mayor-elect Muriel E. Bowser.
Chaffetz said in an interview that he would not only support the D.C. bid for the 2024 Games — having seen the impact of the 2002 Winter Games on Utah — but would urge Republicans in Congress to spend federal funds in support of a successful Olympics in the nation’s capital.
Successful for whom, Congressman?
Certainly not for the taxpayers.
Even the liberal Vox, which almost certainly would like to like the Olympics, reports:
Hosting the Olympics is a terrible idea for most cities. And it’s very likely a terrible idea for Washington DC.
Just listen to the economists who study this topic: “My basic takeaway for any city considering a bid for the Olympics is to run away like crazy,” Victor Matheson, a professor of economics at College of the Holy Cross, told me in an interview last fall. His research has found that hosting “mega-sports events” like the World Cup or Olympics tends to cost an enormous amount — and brings few tangible benefits.
…The evidence is compelling. Back in 2013, Matheson and Robert Baumann put out a paper studying the experiences of cities that hosted “mega-sporting events” in the past. They found that the costs tend to skyrocket, the economic upside was negligible, and the cities that have benefited seem to be special exceptions. That said, there is some evidence that hosting mega-sporting events makes people a bit happier. So not all is lost.
…Baumann and Matheson do note that it’s probably better if a rich country hosts the Olympics than a poorer nation — given all the negative impacts. Here’s how Matheson put it to me: “If you’re going to waste $10 billion, would you rather waste Northern Virginia/DC’s money or waste Cape Town’s money?”
Meanwhile, The Atlantic notes that opposition to the (Winter) Games is mounting in places where voters have a say in how things are run:
Citing financial concerns, Norway more or less announced the end of its Olympic bid for the 2022 [winter] games on Wednesday. The [center-right] government’s vote against providing financial backing for the bid means that Oslo will likely go the way of Stockholm, Krakow, and Lviv, all of which withdrew from the 2022 host field.
“They would have been fun, but there are lots of other important matters that we have to deal with.”
…This development also leaves us with just two curious candidates remaining: Beijing, China, and Almaty, Kazakhstan. With Qatar already set to host the 2022 World Cup—despite growing controversies—Oslo’s imminent self-extraction means that 2022 will be The Year of the Authoritarian Host Country.
“Publics may finally be getting wise to the fact that the long-term economic benefits of hosting mega-events like the Olympics or the World Cup are usually negligible at best,” Joshua Keating wrote after Krakow’s withdrawal in May. “This is going to mean that fewer democratic countries will make bids for them and the ones that do, like Brazil, will do so in the face of widespread popular opposition.”
I’ve argued before that the Olympics, something of a totalitarian spectacle (despite the undeniable achievements of the athletes), should be relocated permanently to Pyongyang, but until that happy day arrives can we not insist that no US city bids to host an Olympics (winter or summer) without a referendum (Denver set a good example in 1972) and the clear understanding that there will be no (sorry Rep. Chaffetz) federal funds coming the games’ way?