Recreation and Sport Studies

Studying, Experiencing and Facilitating Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport through Wellness and Physical Activity


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Barriers and facilitators when hosting sporting events: Exploring the Canadian and Swiss sport event hosting policies

By N. Romoff

In the Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, Leopkey, Mutter, and Parent (2010) offer a broad comparative analysis between Canada and Switzerland, and their varying approaches to hosting sporting events. While the article does not formulate a conclusion, it does offer valuable insight into the stark differences between the two nations.

The analysis is undertaken both horizontally (within the country), and vertically (transnationally). It outlines event-hosting policies (or lack thereof) at the national level, along with funding issues, and operations at the municipal level.

Canada has quite rigid policies in place, and by doing so, has begun the fostering of accompanying legislation. The policies act as a checks-and-balances system, enforcing the adherence to certain guidelines to maintain the desired level of excellence hosting sporting events. Canada too holds much pride hosting sporting events of all levels, as seen with the wide variety of events hosted throughout the country, culminating in a very successful Vancouver Olympics in 2010. With said policy-based rigidity, comes the freedom of having no discernable budget. This system is flipped entirely by the Swiss.

Conversely, Switzerland does not hold any legislation or national policies when it comes to event hosting as a whole. They then, have the opportunity to operate freely, and host as they see fit (within their set parameters of mega-events of course). The Swiss feel compelled to host said mega-events, as they pride themselves on doing so; this can be seen by way of the self-titled “Olympic City” of Lausanne. Their lack of official policies however, see the seemingly requisite structure and feedback through their rigid budget. An allotment is given towards events, and when said allotment is consumed, one must reapply for more funds. This ultimately replaces policies, limits, and quotas seen in Canada.

Overall, the Canadian and Swiss approaches to sporting-event hosting vary greatly, however they both hold themselves accountable by way of checks and balances. Whether it is in Canada where said feedback is embedded within the process by way of policies, or in Switzerland where it is done through funding, both offer enough accountability to avoid instances of disastrous event-hosting seen elsewhere.

Reference:

B. Leopkey, O. Mutter & M.M. Parent (2010): Barriers and facilitators when hosting sporting events: exploring the Canadian and Swiss sport event hosting policies, International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, 2:2, 113-134

The following is a short poem outlining an interpretive analysis, with accompanying discussion topics, and subsequent interesting questions raised:

Winter, summer, spring, fall,

There is no break in the year for sports,

Some care to host, some not at all,

Just please ignore the feasibility reports.

 

Is it policy or quotas that drive success,

Canada and Swiss must be compared,

Mindset; whenever possible, create a mess,

Bidding process inherently impaired.

 

Transcending level, all be welcome,

Canada hosts with open arms,

No Budget, but legislation in place,

Fostering excellence, turn minor sports into farms.

 

An event one can’t miss, hosted by the Swiss,

The home of the torch , Olympic Village by name,

Reapply for more funds, on our soil they’ll run,

Can we exist without it, or is it our claim to fame.

 

Feedback must be constant, there is no doubt,

Should it be ongoing, or embedded for clout,

The swiss do the former, the latter the ‘nuck,

Must we remember, some always run it amok.

 

Are there answers? Does anyone know?

The fact remains that dollar figures continue to grow.

Man is golf; drawn to the green at all costs. Hope lies in those not keeping score.

Insert instructions for perfect event-hosting paradigm here


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Mega-sport events as “Circus Maximus”: Short-Term Thrill, Long-Term Agony

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The chapter “Bread or Circuses?” from Andrew Zimbalist’s book, Circus Maximus, examines the intricacies and complexities associated with hosting mega-events, such as the Olympics and the World Cup. The main issue that Zimbalist is trying to understand is if it’s worth the economic gamble that the host cities must undertake to put on these extravagant events. Do the positives outweigh the negatives? Do the benefits outweigh the risks? Simply put, the answer to these questions is most definitely, NO.

The IOC (International Olympic Committee), and FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) claim that hosting these mega-events is a boon to the economic development of the host city/country. They claim that much of the expense in hosting is connected to improving infrastructure, which will support the long-term development needs. They claim that hosting brings short-term employment gains. Furthermore, they claim that host cities will benefit from long-term legacy returns, such as business and/or tourism opportunities. When examining each event individually it may seem like some of these claims are true. However, once you dig deeper it becomes convincingly clear that they are able to create that perception through the use of systematic corruption and manipulation.

In regards to the claim that improving infrastructure will support the long-term development needs of a host city, this may be true, however, to be successful it requires very careful and clever planning. Unfortunately, this is rarely done properly. The best example of this being done is Barcelona when they hosted the 1992 Summer Olympic Games. The case of Barcelona is very unique though. City planners had begun to re-conceptualize the city in 1975 and put their plan to use over the next decade before they even considered hosting. Hosting was seen as a vehicle to put their plan into action. Therefore, Barcelona used the Olympics; the Olympics didn’t use Barcelona. Cities have tried and failed to copy Barcelona’s blueprint. The difference being that they are on the clock and don’t have the time to strategically and organically implement their infrastructure plans.

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The layout of venues for the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics.

Regarding the claim that hosting brings short-term employment gains, again this may be true, but fails to tell the whole story. The people that stand to gain the most are the local business elite, mainly the construction companies. The costs budgeted in the bid are always massively understated, in order to get political and public consent. This leads to the government having to borrow money and pay it back over the ensuing decades, which reduces funding for other government projects and reduces public employment in the future. The local population do not usually benefit from the increase in employment opportunities. Instead, the construction companies that are contracted to build the facilities and infrastructure bring in imports from other countries for cheap labor. For example, Qatar has brought in an estimated 1.5 million migrant workers from Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and the Philippines to undertake the massive construction for the 2022 World Cup.

Additionally, the long-term legacy return that the IOC and FIFA claim that host cities will benefit from has been unfounded. If any does take place it happens decades down the line and is very hard to quantify. What has become most common among host cities is the number of “white elephants” that have been left behind. These “white elephants” are the Olympic venues that cost billions to build and millions annually to maintain, along with the mountains of debt that must be paid back over the ensuing decades. For only 19 days of action is it really worth such a large investment? If there is no plan post-event for the venues it can be catastrophic on the community and its economy.

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Abandoned Softball Stadium from 2004 Athens Summer Olympics.

Athens, Greece, host of the 2004 Summer Olympics is an example of the worst-case scenario. Athens ended up spending approximately 16 times its initial bid budget to put on the Games. The majority of the venues built have since been abandoned with no use to the people. This act of financial mismanagement was a main contributor to bankrupting Greece when in 2010 the debt crisis began. The government was forced to stop maintaining the venues and they have become a great source of embarrassment for the city of Athens, which happens to be the birthplace of the modern Olympic era.

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Abandoned Diving Pool from 2004 Athens Summer Olympics.

Since 2001, the number of bidders to host has diminished greatly due to the negative image caused by the outlandishly excessive mega-events from Beijing (2008), South Africa (2010), Sochi (2014), and Rio (2014, 2016). The increased coverage of these events and the pitfalls of hosting have scared government officials and the public away from bidding. To put this into perspective, there were 12 bidders for the 2004 Summer Olympics, but since has steadily declined to 10, 9, 7 and then just 5 bidders for the 2020 Summer Olympics. The Winter Olympics have been hit even harder. There were 9 bidders for the 2002 Winter Olympics, but that number has decreased steadily all the way down to 2 for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

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Rio’s Broken Promise

Everyone sees the commercials, the market, the stories. It is considered a great time of year when the Olympic games are about to begin. Thousands of athletes with different stories and accomplishments gather together to compete against each other for their country. Who wouldn’t think that was great? Who wouldn’t pay to see that? Unfortunately, over time the mentality of the Olympics has changed. The problem isn’t with the athletes, it is with the hosting country and the billions of dollars spent on the “production” of the games.

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Hosting is considered an honour, it is the chance to show the world your country and its pride. Countries work tirelessly to get that bid to host, and when granted, it is celebrated throughout. Rio thought that winning the right to host the Summer games would give them the opportunity to catapult themselves into the club of developed nations. Develop infrastructure and remake the city, giving residents a slight dose of confidence.

That confidence started to drift away over the seven years of developing Rio and it going down in history as the most expensive Olympics games. The pile of broken promises grew bigger and bigger. Homicides in Rio were on the rise, sewage lines lacking, rowers and sailors competing in waterways stained by drug-resistant bacteria. Brazil deep in recession with the government overspending on the Olympics and resulting in not be able to pay for public security, and healthcare.

It made me think why was the Olympics more important to spend money on?

Unfortunately, the Olympics were not a loser for everyone. Contracts for everything have found the pockets of some of Rio’s wealthiest. Confirming that old quote of, “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” Mayor Eduardo Paes has created controversy within by visualizing a modern Rio, promising vital infrastructure, and urbanize the poor area of Rio. Instead the money went to the construction of the athletes’ village and a new golf course. Paes stated that most of the money was put up by private investors but, upon further research it was realized that the state fronted for basically the entire cost of the most expensive project (i.e. Subway extension). The construction of the athletes’ village was built-in mind with the plan to transition them into luxury condos post Olympics. Yet, in 2012 London converted their village into affordable housing. The poor country of Rio was more focused on catching millionaires eyes, than the well-being of their residents. The controversies continue with Carvahlo (Athletes’ village private investor) securing a low-interest government loan, and permission to build several stories above regulation, and hiring the construction firm that was involved in a multibillion-dollar corruption scandal. Government choosing to look away due to the fact that Carvahlo has money and is considered powerful. Paes has evicted more than 20,000 families from their homes. Thankfully due to international press attention most families were transferred to low-income housing or received indemnities. Other families were transferred 25 miles out-of-town, so their house could be demolished to make room for a stadium. Stadiums that in 10 years may be used a maximum of 100 times.

Reading this article opened my eyes to the reckless spending involved within the games. Building a golf course for the games to please the wealthy, when money could have been spent redoing one of the two courses that were deemed appropriate. It is the constant thought of wanting to be bigger and better and zero concern on how it could affect the people of Rio. Government corruption is constant, it is publicized yet people ignore and believe it isn’t actually happening. If it does not directly affect you does it matter? This is the problem throughout the world today. Everyone turns their cheek and pretends it isn’t happening. Graft politics in removing homes because of the Olympics when in fact it is just the government using the “Olympics” as an excuse to pursue unrelated projects. Allowing shady multimillionaires to build infrastructure because of past donations to their campaign, yet, the residents of Rio can do absolutely nothing about it.

Media coverage can help and hinder in many ways. The Olympics are followed consistently in the news world. Brazilians losing their homes and receiving an indemnity for their trouble was because of media attention surrounding the scandal. The government is under fire due to the promises promised at the beginning and what resulted in the end. Media attention is also one of the main problems. The Olympics are supposed to be about the athlete’s and yet if a problem occurs during the opening ceremonies, that is what is broadcasted. If the opening ceremonies are lacking in any way that is the first thing that is discussed the next morning. If the athletes’ village or the stadiums are not up to par, then it is considered a disappointing games and lack of commitment by the host. The expectations are high and can be detrimental to the country economically. Sadly the Rio Olympics will always be viewed as a missed opportunity for the country. Focused on building amazing architectural stadiums rather then cleaning up the the cities and water sewage.

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The Olympic Games were not established with this mentality. It was built on the thought of bringing the world together to showcase the top worlds top athletes and for two weeks’ peace between countries. Is the problem with the athletes? Some athletes that travel to the games are millionaires in their own sport. Do the hosts believe they have to meet the athlete’s expectations? Do we blame the sport organizations around the world that have multimillion dollar facilities that create these expectations? There is a competition within hosts, who will have the biggest and most over the top opening ceremonies, and what will be done different in the closing ceremonies. It is the same competition aspects that athletes enter the games with; who will be the best?

The main thought I have surrounding the Olympics is when is it too much? Who is going to stop it; who is going to be a leader and say no we are not spending all this money on infrastructure. Who will be creative enough to use the money in a way that showcases the Olympics and build their economy. What country will make money off being the host again? Will a sigh of relief be heard throughout the world?

All these questions have yet to be answered on why or who? I can only imagine the potentially terrifying spending that will continue to happen if someone does not put a stop to it. I guess it is just who will be willing to risk it.

Cuadros, A. (2016, August 1). The Broken Promise of the Rio Olympics. Retrieved September 27, 2016, from http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/08/building-barra-rio-olympics-brazil/493697/

 


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Securing Sport: Protecting Those Who Participate

This past September I had the privilege to attend the 2013 Jeux de la Francophonie in Nice, France. The games are a combination of artistic and sporting events, and 55 countries attended in 2013. I had the good fortune of placing 3rd in my weight category, which I think is great, but I considered the games much smaller in scope compared to other “Mega Events”.

However, the security was extraordinary at the games. Armed soldiers patrolled the streets, entire rail lines and highways leading into the heart of the city were shut down, and cameras everywhere were documenting every second. During the event we were informed that security was tightening because of the rise in threat level. Participants from African nations were “disappearing”. Chances are that they were most likely defecting, but the mission staff could not rule out that the causes was more malevolent.

The large scale security of the event made me ponder a question I’ve had many times in the past while attending other sporting events: “Why is Sport the target for Terrorism?”

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