Sunday, October 19, 2014

Crashing down

The Olympics is a bubble.  We talk about bubbles in stocks, housing markets, and other economic ventures but I think the term is just as useful in this context.  In the past the Olympics have been sold to people as an investment in infrastructure that returns many benefits to the host city and country but it is becoming abundantly clear that this is bogus.  What truly happens is that the host area spends an outrageous fortune building facilities that will be used for two weeks and then mostly abandoned.  I found a great photographic tour of the wreckage of previous Olympic sites here.  The benefits are pretty much entirely restricted to bragging rights and that looks like a pretty sketchy purchase for $51 billion dollars.

Now it turns out that only two cities are left bidding for the 2022 Olympics.  Not because the other cities were deemed in appropriate or lacking but simply because nobody wants the games anymore.  The only people who are willing to pay the bill are dictators who don't have to care what the average person wants their cash spent on and can happily drop any sum to shore up their egos.  That said, it looks like the 2022 Olympics are safe as somebody will want to give them a home.  Should things not change course though I think the future is going to feature a gigantic crash.

Just imagine what happens when the Olympics gets about this far through the selection process and it turns out that literally no one wants to make a bid.  The sponsors suddenly get terrified that their event isn't worth funding, the prestige of the event takes a huge hit, and everyone will spend months examining every facet of what has gone wrong with the IOC.  The problem is that everyone is so used to the splendour and opulence that the Olympics has come to represent that selling them on a drab, pedestrian event that focuses on athletic achievement instead of shining construction will be nearly impossible.

Hosting the Olympics has become a matter of vanity and vanity requires that you do something even more than all previous attempts.  At some point that has to come crashing down to earth with a savage thud, if not a sickly splatter.  When the IOC is demanding things like "IOC members will be received with a smile on arrival at hotel." and demanding special traffic light patterns, highway lanes, and airport construction just for them you know it has gone completely to their heads.  They have bought into their scheme not realizing that the bubble will pop and when it does the aftermath will not be pretty.

Of course this is a good thing.  The world has better things to spend money on than the Olympics.  Tests of athletic skill are all fine and good (though the nationalism that accompanies it is disturbing) but the pageantry that is associated with the event has gotten completely out of hand.  It is long past time people stopped pouring money into this utter waste.


  1. I don't think I'd describe this as a bubble. There is a lack of trading, and positive feedback loops see:

    In economic terms, I'd view this as a monopolist who has set the price too high.

  2. Fine, let your precise definitions and citations crush my rhetorical flair and reckless disregard for truth. See if I care.