Event Horizon

What Would it Cost the City to Host the Olympics in 2012?

Beyond that, recent Olympic host cities have "sanitized" neighborhoods close to Olympic events. To create an environment that "plays well" on an international stage, uncomfortable social problems might be transferred to other neighborhoods or swept aside entirely.

The poor and homeless might be chased even faster out of their current neighborhoods than under the current gentrification. Small neighborhood shops that don't "look good" on camera might be displaced through eminent domain. Some Los Angeles residents reacted with bitterness to local Olympic czar Peter Ueberroth's heavy-handed authoritarianism in 1984, and many in Atlanta have expressed anger that the '96 Olympics have changed the complexion of some neighborhoods. Similar fallout would likely occur here.

New York City, which has never hosted the Games, can't model its plans after those North American cities that have. Montreal, for example, siphoned off so many resources to prepare for hosting the 1976 Summer Games that it was left with a billion-dollar deficit after the athletes left town—and with a cavernous new stadium that no one wanted.

The 1984 Los Angeles Games relied upon existing facilities; no major sports stadiums were constructed. Ueberroth's tightfisted approach brought a profit of $222.7 million, the first time a modern Summer Olympiad had turned a profit on North American soil. It also set the stage for more ruthless competition to host the Olympics, and, quite possibly, gave the IOC, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, the incentive to expect more generous infrastructure support from future host cities.

New York City does not have the sports infrastructure of Los Angeles, so it is probable that a successful Olympic bid would require substantial stadium-related expenditures.

Bob Trumpbour, a native of Queens, is an assistant professor of mass communications at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. He completed a doctoral dissertation at Penn State on the politics of stadium construction and has written numerous articles on the topic.

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