An Olympics Rah-Rah Buzz Kill

>> Thursday, February 25, 2010

No, I'm not discussing a Canadian perspective on the ignominy of losing to an inferior team, in their national sport, during the Olympics, in Canada. Though that must still sting a little, even following their destruction of the Russians and concomitant return to their rightful place as gold medal favorite.

Back in July I marvelled at the marvellous claims made about the new Cowboys stadium as an economic stimulus package for, well, the entire planet. I took the logical leap in speculating that the 2012 Olympics to be held in London will stimulate the solar system, at bare minimum, and hopefully the entire galaxy. It had better considering how much it's going to cost.

It seems that the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver will cost $1 Billion (Canadian) for security alone (presumably shared across federal, provincial, and municipal levels) and potentially cost Vancouver and British Columbia something around $1 Billion in addition due to faults in another much-vaunted public-private partnership. Hell, even NBC will lose around $200 million in broadcasting the games (and considering what I've read of NBC's coverage, they deserve it).

This is to be expected. Every Olympics since Montreal in 1976 has been susceptible to haemorrhaging public money utilizing new and innovative techniques. Some have broken even or been profitable (I haven't found a breakdown), but Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 both lost heaps of cash. While Montreal can bask in the delight of having settled their tab in 2006, Athens stands out as ironic given the current mess of Greek finances. Nobody has the foggiest clue how Beijing did in 2008, but the safe bet is on a huge deficit.

Yet, history is not a guide to the Olympic hopeful.

This all makes my mouth water at the prospect of England earning the right to host the 2018 World Cup, for which my current home of Plymouth was inexplicably selected as a host city. Of course, a new stadium will have to be built as Home Park currently seats only 19,500. While the local newspaper is breathless in its reporting that serving as a host city "could net Plymouth a staggering £292 million", I'll refer readers back to my post on the Cowboys: the economic empirical literature seldom if ever supports these claims. However, what is necessary is that Home Park would need substantial expansion to a capacity of 46,000, which while projected to cost around £50 million, promises to give Plymouth the "Wembley of the West".

A 46,000 seat stadium for a club that has never been in the top division, now five points from safety in the relegation zone of the second tier (this despite a recent good run of form where Plymouth have not lost in three matches), and is currently averaging under 10,000 per match.

Clearly, Plymouth should build on this success and bid for the Olympics.


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