Despite the best efforts of President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey to bolster Chicagoâ€™s bid to host the Olympic Games in 2016, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) awarded the â€œhonorâ€ to the City of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
The White House lobbied hard and had made the argument that hosting the Olympics in Chicago would showcase the United States and provide a â€œtangible economic benefitâ€ to that city.
On hearing about the IOCâ€™s rejection, the President and his team were visibly devastated. White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters that the president received the bad news aboard Air Force One while watching TV, alone in his quarters on the presidential jet as he and his wife, Michelle, flew back to Washington from Copenhagen.
In these trying economic times, it seems the First Family was lamenting the fact that all of the revenue generated from hosting the Olympics would now find its way to Rio.
Of course, if history is any guide, instead of sadness, the President should have been elated, for according to sportswriter Dave Zirin, Amy Goodmanâ€™s guest on Democracy Now! last evening, the Olympics have never been anything but a financial drain on the host country.
Consider the following:
DAVE ZIRIN: Well, I donâ€™t know about you, but I never take my kids out and say, â€œHey, letâ€™s go out and do a fun luge, or what do you say we go out and do some synchronized swimming?â€ And thatâ€™s part of the problem, is that these facilities get built that have no real use after the cameras have gone and people have gone home. And what places are left with is debt.
I mean, letâ€™sâ€”we could go down the list, chapter and verse, on this. But China, for example, they spent as high, according to the LA Times, as $42 billion to get their Olympics there. My favorite exampleâ€”not favoriteâ€”but Athens, Greece, they went 1,000 percent over budget in Athens. That defies my knowledge of math that they went a thousand percent over budget. The city of Montreal, 1976 Olympics, they finished paying off their debt in 2006. It took thirty years to do it.
The 2012 games, which will be held in London, were originally projected by that city to cost less than $5 billion, but in actuality the figure may now end up costing London much, much, moreâ€”the price tag is now approaching $19 billion!
Chicagoâ€™s proposed budget for the Olympics was $4 billion, and it was projected that revenue from hosting the event would earn the State of Illinois $22 billion; $13 billion of which would go to the city of Chicago. The Wall Street Journal, however, cites an independent analysis which found that $4.4 billion dollars in generated revenue would be a much more realistic figure. At a cost of $4 billion (and this assumes that the cost estimates are correct), hosting the Olympics hardly seems worth it.
So cheer up, Mr. Presidentâ€”even though the Olympics will not be held in Chicago, there is still plenty to celebrate. After all, the United States just dodged a financial bullet.