In its ongoing need to be taken seriously as a World Class City – and despite Canada’s almost universal “meh” interest in summer sports – Toronto continually bids for the Summer Games. The city claims it can’t afford to improve our appalling transit service, and cuts civic offerings left right and centre, yet wants to burden us with White Elephants that will keep us in the red for decades to come. When it comes to the Olympics, not spending money is making money.
The problem starts with the bidding process. Getting to host the games is an Olympic event in itself — a marathon that starts ten years before the opening ceremonies.Cities form local organizing committees that first compete nationally to become their countrys candidate, then internationally to be chosen as host. At each stage, they must convince the selection committee that the city will orchestrate the most effective, elaborate, safe, and convenient athletic blowout of the myriad competitors. As the bidding proceeds, the plans become more and more detailed, spectacular, and expensive.
If the process were rational, each local organizing committee would have a notion of how much their city stood to benefit financially from the games and would cap their bid below that dollar figure. Since the Olympics are likely to generate roughly similar amounts of business activity in any given city, the competition among would-be hosts would drive all of their proposals up to the limit, and whichever town was chosen would reap close to zero net benefit from the event.
Local committees, however, invariably are motivated and run by private business interests which individually stand to gain from the massive construction associated with the events.These interests include construction companies, construction unions, architectural firms, investment bankers, and lawyers, among others. They come together to form a coalition and bring politicians on board.