Weeks away from the 2016 Olympics in Rio, preparations are plagued by debt, disgruntled police officers, and the spread of the Zika virus. Hosting the international games comes with a heavy financial and human price, yet Los Angeles is currently in the second stage of competing with Rome, Budapest, and Paris to host the 2024 Olympics. In true Hollywood fashion, it’s time for the City of Angels to say “Hasta la vista, baby” to their Olympic bid.
Take a look at the effects of the last three Summer Olympic Games. As David Zirin eloquently state in his last editorial piece for the LA Times, “rejecting the Games is the only action that holds the potential to spur meaningful reform” to the Olympics.
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Zirin wrote that Athens hosted the 2004 Olympics, which filled the streets with 50,000 paramilitary troops, and was 200% over budget. The Olympic venues are now home to the homeless. For the 2008 Games in Beijing, approximately 1.5 million people were displaced, costs totaled about $30 billion, and the main venue is no longer in use. The 2012 London Games were also over budget, as were the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, which cost $51 billion; of those billions, $30 billion disappeared thanks to corruption. Add up the money spent on all of the Winter Games, and the 2014 price tag is larger than the sum.
LA bid organizers believe they can minimize the negative hosting effects by following the successful formula the city used as 1984 Olympic hosts. This remains to be seen however, since no city has stayed within budget in the last 20 years, according to a 2012 study by Oxford University.
To make it easier to host the Games, the International Olympic Committee can’t place such a heavy burden on cities and its reform agenda needs to protect against human rights violations and corruption.
The legacy that the Olympics have brought to past host cities include projects that are over budget, displaced families, and police violence. These complicated issues may affect Los Angeles as well. LA should learn from its predecessors and reconsider their hosting bid, like Boston did in 2015, before it’s too late.