Olympic Waste

Adequate planning of the Olympic Games would allow them to keep contributing to building a more peaceful and better world.



Why is it happening ?

Rio is yet another story, after Athens, Beijing and Sochi, of the lack of cost-efficiency for hosting the Olympic Games (OG). The Olympics bring a wave of excitement and light to every city it passes by, bringing the best athletes and the greatest worldwide event with every nation of the world. However, after it is finished, it is as if a hurricane passed by and took everything with it, leaving the city for dead.


These are no flash news either for Rio, its politicians, or the International Olympic Committee (IOC) or even the world. This is a tale as old as the 1976 Montréal Games. The OG indeed have their relevance and significance and the goal could not be more important: “to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind, in a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play”. However, the games sharply fail in their contribution as they leave Olympic cities and their local population with nothing but empty buildings, poverty, and bills—Greek taxpayers are still paying their 2004 champion costs.


While in Greece there was no plan for the ‘after party’, Rio has no excuse. There was a plan, a set of plans to turn the venues into public sporting arenas and schools, and regenerate a lagoon to provide cleaner water for residents. This altogether partly convinced locals that the Games could bring something good for the community. Instead, it flushed their economies and left communities hanging. The lack of cost-effective planning, supervision, and will to implement promises made to the Brazilian people is shocking.


Why does it matter?

Brazil is a country on the path of development, lately ranked as “junk” by the main credit rating agencies and placed 21st in the world according to external debt, it now struggles with a doubled unemployment rate in the post-event period, with 21% of the population below the poverty line. The IOC—if not Brazil itself—should have taken into account these potential and now real consequences, among other economic and social indicators. Apart from the immediate effect, the fallback of the Brazilian economy can have obvious negative impacts on the global economy in today’s interconnected world in terms of trade, investment, tourism, and finance.


The truth is that, although the Olympics are one of the most beautiful events bringing the world to one place, it is turning into a nightmare that no city wants to go through anymore. This is seen from the latest withdrawal of applications of hosting cities, such as Stockholm and Oslo for the 2022 Winter Games, and Rome and Budapest for the 2024 Summer Games. Slowly, a once triumphant and glamorous event is turning into a burden ever less countries are willing to bear.


The Olympics is the most important sports event. It should only bring joy and happiness, and not misery to those who have to live in an athlete’s once Olympic dream.


What can you do about it?

The 1984 Los Angeles Games are a perfect example of how the Olympics could be a profitable and enjoyable sports event. First, there is no need for megalomaniac projects with brand new and shiny venues; instead, organizers should improve the existing sites. Second, where there are no facilities, as it is expected for some particular sports, governments have to build new ones. However, instead of focusing on its visual impact for the two to four-weeks event, governments and city representatives should think about the community, and what benefits the project can have for public usage so that it has a long-term purpose. Finally, as far as Millennials are concerned, there is something important this generation already does: volunteering. Over 240,000 people applied to help at the Rio OG, with 70,000 recruited, most of them Millennials. Working overtime, sometimes only provided with just a snack and working for free, these young enthusiasts contributed significantly to the success of an impactful global event to bring the world together.





Image Credit: We Are Social

Ágata F. Swiatkiewicz briefs from Lisbon, Portugal. She is a candidate for a Master of Science in Global Cooperation and Security.



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