Posts Tagged ‘olympics’


my $.02 on Rio2016

Monday 22 August, 2016

Now that the Rio2016 Olympics are done & the Olympians & fans are heading home, it’s time to reflect on how it worked out for Rio de Janeiro. When I arrived in Rio a year ago, the prognostications were not good. The Globo newspaper media empire spelled out 5 Grand (large) Obstacles:

  1. Metro/subway-the new subway line which was being built to provide transportation to & from the Olympic park was planned for completion only a month before the games were to begin, a small window to correct problems, if required. Then a few months ago, that window was further reduced to just 5 days before the Olympics start, making any last minute changes of any consequence impossible. Remarkably, the subway opened, took passengers to the events, & was little problem @ all.
  2. H2O-much has been made of the quality of the water in the lagoon and Guanabarra Bay where the rowing & sailing events were held, respectively. The goal was to clean 80% of the water by the time the games begin, but sanitation only advanced to clean 50% of the waste being dumped into the water supply. That’s much more than was in the past, but short of the goal of 80%. I only read of 1 Belgian Olympic sailor who became ill after falling in & possibly ingesting some water, hardly an epidemic, & arguably within statistical norms. While the water quality is still @ an unacceptable level, it didn’t result in any calamities @ the Olympics.
  3. 4, & 5 Stadia for cycling, rowing, & track & field: were behind schedule, but completed on time without incident.

Since that article was published, a few other issues arose which impacted Rio2016 significantly:

  • zika virus: despite not rising to the levels of recent past epidemics & being out-of-season by the time the Olympics arrived, zika was deemed a threat to the health of all who dared to come to Brazil to watch the games live. There was no outbreak & zika seemed to be a non-issue during the games.
  • political crisis: President Dilma Rousseff was impeached, which created lots of political stability & the threat of uprisings, etc. during the Olympics. While Brazil will continue to be in a holding pattern until a new president is elected in 2018, there have been no major repercussions from this calamity.
  • economic crisis: as a result of the political crisis, Brazil’s economy has taken a nose dive, as indicated by a fall in the currency, the Real, of 30% in 6 months, from R$3.2/US$ to R$4.1/$US. investment has fallen, & unemployment has spiked. This made financing the completion of the projects for the games questionable, but again, all venues were completed on time.

True to form, the Brazilians pulled it off, by cramming @ the last minute, but they got it done.  The question is “What will be the long-term outcome of the Rio2016 Olympic games?”  Will Rio become another economic success propelled by the Olympics, like Barcelona & Seoul, or create a lot of white elephants, as in Beijing or Montreal, or even worse, lead to an economic downfall, as has been hypothesized about Athens, Greece.  London took the Olympic opportunity to rehabilitate an underdeveloped part of town to rejuvenate it & make that area a desirable place to live.  When I lived in Munich, they left the Olympic housing as residences for college students.  Rio will leave a different legacy.  While the subway extension & rejuvenation of the Praca Maua port area will benefit all of the population, the Olympic village is being converted into luxury condominiums for sale to the highest bidder.  Many of the venues were temporary structures, probably being deconstructed already as we speak.  The economic development organization of the Rio city government, Rio Negocios, held a series of events highlighting different industries in & around Rio, but I think they were probably disappointed with the international level of interest in their events.  The aftermath of the 2014 World Cup does not bode well.  New stadia now stand empty & a number of infrastructure projects were never completed, in some cases creating risks with what does remain.

I enjoyed being in Rio while the games were taking place: see pix:

…& I hope that Rio recognizes many positive benefits as a result of hosting the games.  I’m just skeptical that enough change will have taken place for the rest of the world to appreciate what a beautiful place this can be.


do big sporting events really help local economies?

Thursday 8 May, 2014

I checked out this event sponsored by NYU’s Sports & Society’s department @ the School for Continuing & Professional Studies “The Lasting Impact of Sports Greatest Events.” The panel contained a veritable who’s who: Lisa Baird, CMO of the US Olympic Committee; Greg Ballard, mayor of Indianapolis-“amateur capital of the US; Greg Carey, sports finance specialist @ Goldman Sachs; Richard Florida, author of “Who’s your City?”; Kevin Hallinan, SVP of security of Major League Baseball, Constantine Kontokosta, of the NYU Center for Urban Science & Progress; Mary Pilon, New York Times sports reporter; David Rousseau, who sits on the Salt River Project board in Arizona.  The panel was moderated by Arthur Miller, Chair of the Sports & Sociey department @ NYU.

Indianapolis used sports to build the city into the capital of amateur sports in America, in which the citizens have a great sense of pride.  Rockpoint analysis determined the General Fund Effect was $40M.  Phoenix feels it’s getting an amazing reward from similar investments. These things bring prestige, like luring a major symphony orchestra.

The motivations for these things have changed, to achieve global city status.  The 1984 Olympics in LA made it an economic development game, but now the temporary economic impact doesn’t justify the long-term investment any longer.  The question is the impact on infrastructure.  Sports have become an excuse to do what should already be done.  For example, after the Olympics, what are they going to do with the bobsled run in Sochi?  There is little talk of what happens afterwards.

The Olympics are all about the athletes.  Sebastian Coe left a legacy in London, having built up the west side & put the para-Olympics on the map.  He’s created social good, while the economic impact hasn’t been measured yet.

There is a lot of ego involved, & differences between who embraces sports & those who do not.  The downside can be displacement.  These projects have to be about more than the game because stadia (stadiums) now cost a lot more:  San Francisco’s cost $1.3B.  Now security is primary & drives up costs, as Atlanta’s Olympics proves.  Terrorism & gay rights could have been issues in Sochi.  The Dept. of State was assuming safety would prevail.

Goldman Sachs actually invests in sports infrastructure & is bullish about this business, but admits these are not always good investments for cities.  The key is whether the investments are in good or bad infrastructure & whether it’s public or private investment.  Rio is building lots of infrastructure for it’s Olympics, but it’s been disaffecting & the security challenges will be unbelievable.   Public safety & public works are the highest priorities.  Cities must look @ expanding their tax bases & the opportunity costs of making other comparable investments.  Indianapolis did it right.

Baseball’s world series is a nightmare for security because the sites aren’t known until a few days before the series starts.  When Pres. Bush attended a game, an extra umpire was actually a Secret Service man. At the 1st Mets game after 9/11, there was a line almost all the way to Manhattan to get in & all the fans said “Thanks for being safe.”  The Super Bowl in New York attracted lots of prostitution, which reflects the best/worst, good/bad these events bring out.  There is a distinct relationship between the Super Bowl & sex traffic.

The economic benefit of the Super Bowl being held in New York/New Jersey was estimated to be $600M, but is actually complete BS.  The hotels are normally only @ 50% capacity, but were full for that week, but there is also a crowding out effect of others who stay away, called displacement tourism.  Theatre attendance is down 20%.  The merchants on Super Bowl Blvd. were dying.  Super Bowls are better held in warm climates, although Minnesota is getting 1.

There is a developmental economics aspect to all this.  Rio is building infrastructure which is building capacity.  The downside is the IOC requires moral obligations, but the city may be stuck with the bill.  Athens is still paying the debt for their Olympics.  Montreal just paid off their debt for the 1976 Olympics.

Sponsors get involved for different reasons, such as branding, ROI, relationships developed as long-term investments, i.e. Coke has been an Olympics sponsor since 1928.  LA changed the model when it was the 1st Olympics to show a profit in 1984, but even it had very few high-priced sponsors.  To stage sustainable games is a tough task.

Different games have left different legacies.  Barcelona used the Olympics as a tool.  Seoul, Sydney, & Montreal had a plan, but the Athens Olympics may have started the crisis there.  It’s definitely not 1 size fits all.

Arizona had to pay the NFL $30M in obligations to get the Super Bowl, which was paid by local corporations.  They will sell their local competitive advantages; good weather & a positive business climate.  But there are unintended consequences too.  To magnify the legacy:

  • you must know who you are
  • focus on branding (London was the 1st games where every country had at least 1 woman on each team)
  • security partnerships help
  • share lessons learned
  • get away from gigantism




my take on the 2016 Olympics

Wednesday 7 October, 2009

1st of all, hats off to Rio de Janiero, a choice that should have been a surprise to no one. It was a historic decision, naming the 1st Olympic site in South America.

However what did surprise me is Chicago being the 1st out of the running.  On the 1 hand, there is no way you can convince me that the Chicago bid was the worst of the lot & worse than Tokyo’s.  That Chicago received fewer votes than New York did in its bid for the 2012 bid is equally ridiculous, but at least partly indicative of the greater problem.

On the other hand, there are a number of reasons Chicago should have lasted only 1 more round.

  • In  the past American Olympic cities were the choice when the IOC needed/wanted the absolute maximum financial return.  That’s no longer the case.  The IOC believes they can make as much money regardless of where they go, & they might be right.  Regardless, we’ve lost our financial advantage.
  • I pass a good part of the responsibility for the IOC’s decision on to the US Olympic Committee.  There are a number of lingering issues that supposedly were not relevant, but with a secret vote, they most certainly played a role.  2 are particularly important.
  1. 1.  the dispute over distribution of advertising revenues is still unresolved,
  2. 2.  the decision to launch the Olympic TV network, despite IOC objections & rescinded shortly after it was introduced for that reason, did not endear the US choice to IOC voters. New York’s rejection 4 years ago can no longer be blamed on their stadium plan falling through.  The IOC membership has issues with how the USOC works together with the IOC & this needs to be resolved before another US candidate city has a chance.
  • Finally, part of Chicago’s failure is due to at least a small bit of parochialism & insularity.  We assumed it was a rational & reasonable process.  It’s not.  It’s intensely political & we don’t play very well in those circles.  Americans admitted to not knowing how the Olympic system works.  Rio supporters hypothesized that Madrid was the bigger rival because they recognized the political power of Juan Antonio Samarach.  They were correct when Madrid came in 1st after the 1st round.  I fault the US members of the IOC too.  There is much talk of all the back-room bargaining which goes on in these “negotiations.”  Where were the US representatives when this horsetrading was going on?  They certainly didn’t do a very good job.  The Pakistani IOC rep asked about visa issues entering the US, & the response was sloughed off to Pres. Obama, who answered with a vaguely general response which said nothing.  We ignored issues relevant to this constituency which should have been duly addressed.  We missed the boat since this was an issue.

So what can be done?  The IOC/USOC rift needs to be addressed.  The current system begs for more transparency.  Too much money is at stake for there not to be some accountability for each IOC representative’s decision to be divulged.  We could encourage American advertisers to boycott the Olympics, but they won’t do that because they’re global players & can’t risk alienating the rest of the world.

I’m disappointed but not surprised Chicago didn’t win the bid because the Olympics would have been great for the city.  I can’t believe the number of people who couldn’t see the benefits Seoul & Barcelona have enjoyed since they hosted Olympics. If I had to have made a prediction, it would have been for Rio because of the significance of the decision, but I was still rooting for Chicago.


Alderman for & local organizer against the Olympics

Wednesday 16 September, 2009

I attended another Chicago Olympics event, Chicago 2016: The Thrill of Victory or the Agony of Defeat? this time @ the Chicago Historical Museum.  It featured Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, in whose ward much of the development for the Olympics would fall, & Jay Travis, the executive director of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO), which represents neighborhoods where much Olympic construction would happen as well.  The handouts included the documents created by The Civic Federation which reviewed the Chicago 2016 Olympic bid, which can be found here & the summary here.

Here’s what was said that’s not contained in those documents:

  • the US federal government makes no investments before an Olympic city is named, only afterwards
  • an MOU is not legally binding, but an ordinance is the law
  • Jay is still concerned about displacement, rising prices, long-term employment, & eminent domain issues
  • 1/4-ly reports to the city council will provide transparency
  • the bottom line is the alderman believes that with the financial guarantees & insurance, the finances for the Chicago 2016 Olympics are secure.
  • Q&A resulted in typical Chicago town-hall fashion being reduced to incendiary accusations of the alderman’s husband benefiting from real-estate deals coming out of the Olympics.

What surprises me is that the community organizers fail to recognize the long-term economic benefits gained by hosting the Summer Olympics.  There are risks, & they are correct to have them addressed, but if Chicago can get the Olympics, I don’t think there’s any question it will be good for the city.


a few dissenting voices against a chicago olympics

Friday 17 April, 2009

I attended this event last week Creative Living In the City: Are You Game for the Games? Chicago 2016’s Legacy on Parks, Transportation and Local Sports & was surprised to find there are a few people who are not gung-ho for hosting the 2016 summer olympics in Chicago.  Generally, the Friends of the Parks want a lot of the structures constructed for the games to be disassembled after the games are over:

  • Washington Park-stadium & aquatic center
  • Douglas Park-velodrome
  • Northerly Island-slalom center

They also want these revisions to the plan:

  • Lincoln Park-replace 20 tennis courts with 20 courts rather than proposed 13, & protect the bird sanctuary
  • Jackson Park-replace artificial turf with natural turf
  • Monroe Harbor-the new breakwater could remove boaters from the harbor for 4 years, costing the Park District $4M/year or $16+M, so allow boaters to use the harbor during the construction of the breakwater.

Interestingly, Randy Neufeld, Chief Strategy Officer of the Active Transportation Alliance, formerly Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, was invited to speak about transportation.  He pointed out that the current goal of Chicago’s public transportation is mainly to move large volumes of people in & out of the loop, which is a different goal from moving huge volumes of people to widely dispersed parks & venues.  He sees 4 legacies of the games for transportation in the city:

  • investment in rail & its stations
  • creating the most accessible games, but that costs $10-50M/rehabbed station
  • rapid transit bus system with exclusive rights of way for buses, including shuttlebuses on the expressways for the Olympics, but only 15% of the population uses pubic transportation while 60% drive their cars
  • shared public bicycles

A short Q&A brought into the open:

  • while the old US Steel site on the southeast side might not be utilized, the Michael Reese site should rejuvenate that area
  • the boating community should only be out of Monroe harbor for 1 year
  • there are community meetings to be held to discuss the future of the parks
  • The bid is limited to the answers required in the bid book for the IOC to address issues such as the bird sanctuary, tennis courts, green space.  Chicago’s bid book provides more detail than London’s did, for example we calculated the carbon footprint impact.  There will be changes in the plan as it moves along.

My take-these are all valid criticisms.  What’s important is to have an open & honest discussion of how all this will be played out.  The Olympics are a great opportunity for Chicago, but not at any cost.


dutch support the olympics

Tuesday 20 January, 2009

The Dutch-Chicago Business Exchange & Netherlands America Foundation hosted an event featuring Michael Murnane of Chicago 2016.  If you’ve seen many of these presentations to drum up local support for the movement, (which is an important variable in the International Olympic Committee(IOC)’s evaluation of all the competitive bids), there wasn’t much that was new.  but a few new nuggets.  The Chicago 2016 bid’s biggest obstacle is that Chicago is not well known to the IOC.  Many foreigners still think of Chicago as a flyover zone between the coasts, the city of Al Capone, or just a conglomeration of industrial smokestacks.  Chicago 2016 has grown to have 50 full-time staff in addition to 40-50 contributing on a pro bono basis.  They already count 10,000 volunteers, & if Chicago wins, we’ll need 4 times that.  The composition of the number of IOC voting members breaks down like so:
North America-(US & Canada)-4
Latin America-14
Asia Pacific-19
Western Europe-37
Eastern Europe-10
Middle East-8

Strengths of the bid are that Chicago represents 188 of 205 ancestries, 20 of which have 25,000+ residents represented by 10,000 ethnic organizations.  The bid book is due 12 Feb. & 4 IOC committee members led by a Moroccan woman will be in Chicago 2-8 April as the 1st stop on their tour of the candidate cities.  Register here can support the bid.

Q&A-Chicago 2016 does not have a ministry of sport like the administrations of other bidders, so it is 100% self-financed by donations.  The only expense to be incurred by the city will be for security, etc.  Their thinking is what’s implemented for 2016 has to make sense in 2017 as well.  Since their goals are:  1. win the bid  2. contribute to the Olympic movement 3. contribute to Chicago, that approach makes sense.  The Olympics cannot rehabilitate the CTA-there will be an overlay to the CTA during the games, but otherwise there is little Chicago 2016 can do to help.  Cricket, baseball, & softball may be demonstration sports for the 2016 Olympics, but those decisions won’t be made until the host city is chosen.  Building relationships with IOC members & the election & support of Barack Obama will help win votes.

I’ve already commented on what I think of Chicago’s bid a number of times.  Just search on this blog for those comments.


Chicago’s olympic obstacles

Tuesday 26 August, 2008

I caught with interest this article Chicago Olympic bidders share Beijing impressions by Kathy Bergen of the Chicago Tribune, which gave Mayor Daley’s & Chicago Olympic bid chairman Patrick Ryan’s observations on what Chicago will have to do to improve its chances of winning the 2016 Summer Games.  Here are mine:

Traffic-if the IOC is going to depend on local “express” ways to get specatators to events, it will take much more than a little education to get them there on time.  They’re a mess & will need a major overhaul to meet international expectations.  Competitor cities are crowded too, but ours are some of the worst in the nation.

Volunteers-There’s no way any other other city will match the sheer number of volunteers Beijing provided.  China is all about throwing masses of people @ problems, & no other country has that population to devote to volunteers.  I think the solution is multilingual ubiquitous technology (ex. wireless & kiosks) which should provide a lot of the information volunteers can, & will remain as valuable assets after the games are done.

Transportation-we had a really good rail system, but it’s pathetically managed, poorly maintained, & woefully underfunded.  It will take more than $ to shore it up.  It needs to be managed much more effectively.  We are competing with world-class public transportation systems, & the CTA looks pathetic by comparison.

Venues-This should be a real advantage for Chicago to show off its marvelous architecture.  Hopefully Chicago can utilize even more athletic facilities than are already planned, such as US Cellular Field, Ryan Field in Evanston, etc.

Residents-it will take a lot more than live sites to involve local residents in the games.  There are tons more tourists here than there were 5-10 years ago, & it looks like they get along OK here, but I think that’s in spite of many residents rather than because of them.  Midwesterners have the reputation of being very nice, which is probably true & helpful, but also very parochial & insular, which doesn’t help when people who speak with funny accents, or even in different foreign languages, ask questions on the streets.