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Despite debt risk, cities continue to bid to host the Olympics: NPR

At the Summer Olympics, the world’s attention is on Tokyo. NPR History Podcast, Through lineFind out if the city hosting the game will eventually win or lose.



Noel King, Host:

The Olympics have always been a cozy international sporting event, bringing the world together without exaggeration. The Olympics are now a multi-billion dollar industry.

Ramtin Arablouei, co-host of the NPR history podcast Throughline, investigated how this evolved.

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RAMTIN ARABLOUEI, Byline: In 1970, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) chose Denver, Colorado as the venue for the 1976 Winter Olympics.

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UNIDENTIFIED NARRATOR # 1: Above all, the people of Denver want to share a truly rich experience at the XII Winter Olympics. I hope to see you in 1976.

ARABLOUEI: But a search for the 1976 Denver Olympics doesn’t find much.

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Jules Boykoff: That’s because they never happened.

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ARABLOUEI: This is Jules Boykov. He is a professor at the University of the Pacific in Oregon and has written many books on the Olympics.

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Boykov: People from the entire political spectrum, from fiscal conservatives to environmentalists, have come together and are very concerned about how the game will affect the mountains around Denver. Not to mention the costs associated with it.

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Unified Person # 1: I don’t want it. I want to see it in Germany and France.

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BOYKOFF: So they put together this referendum for Colorado. It said voters had to choose whether to give their taxpayers money to the sights of this Olympics.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER # 1: Colorado voters have decided that they do not want the 1976 Winter Olympics to be held in Colorado.

ARABLOUEI: Denver got off at the Olympics and without debt.

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BOYKOFF: Montreal Olympics-Now those games have actually happened. And what happened there, Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau insisted that the Olympic Games in Montreal could not have more deficits than men could have babies.

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Jean Drapeau: I repeat. I repeat. These games (Montreal, 1976) will be the first fully self-funded Olympic Games.

ARABLOUEI: But …

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Boykov: What do you think? Those Olympics cost $ 1.5 billion. They were unrewarded for 30 years until 2006.

ARABLOUEI: And who was left to submit the bill? People in Montreal, not the IOC.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER # 2: And some taxpayers in Montreal have come to know it as the Big O.

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ARABLOUEI: The city was aware that hosting the Olympics was gambling. And they will probably lose. Therefore, the IOC had to bring the city back.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER # 3: Take the bankrupt boycott era game and make it the most popular sports festival in the world.

ARABLOUEI: And the 1984 Los Angeles match was their chance.

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UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Welcome to the opening ceremony of the 23rd Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER # 4: The problem is the financial responsibility of the Olympics. IOC Location-If the city hosts the game, it picks up the tabs.

Boykov: Meanwhile, a man named Tom Bradley, then Mayor of Los Angeles, promised Los Angeles residents that public funds would not be used at the Olympics.

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TOM BRADLEY: We will not host the tournament unless we can confirm that the City of Los Angeles is not financially responsible.

Boykov: So the Olympic organizers have signed a deal with the US Olympic Commission, which has taken an unprecedented step to share the financial responsibilities of the game, rather than the city of Los Angeles. Now, all of this has caused a perfect storm of privatization.

ARABLOUEI: This was the stage for the sponsor.

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BOYKOFF: A few corporate sponsors who milk for more money.

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UNIDENTIFIED NARRATOR # 2: Budweiser pays homage to men like Mike Prescott (ph), and the Olympic spirit of everyone there …

ARABLOUEI: Budweiser, McDonald’s, big sponsor.

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UNIDENTIFIED NARRATOR # 3: You feel like you are participating in the Olympic action. Play McDonald’s and if the United States wins, you win the Olympics.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON # 2: What is your event (as a character)?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON # 3: Female freestyle relay (as a character).

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BOYKOFF: I’ve begun to see enterprises paying nine-digit costs to participate in some sort of Olympic spectacle.

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ARABLOUEI: The LA Olympics have been a huge success for Los Angeles and the IOC. In fact, the IOC made a profit of $ 225 million. It became green for the first time since 1932.

Boykov: By the way, this is eye-catching to the people who run the International Olympic Committee. They, hey, this is like a real possibility here.

It gave a stable flow of money. And that corporate sponsorship model is still maintained today.

ARABLOUEI: The Los Angeles Olympics suddenly had a major impact on the IOC in negotiations with cities bidding to host the Olympics. And financial success will continue for the IOC, not the host. As we recently saw at the 2016 Rio Olympics, cities continued to be in debt. Rio has lost millions of dollars. And when they asked for help, the IOC basically said no, claiming they had already paid over $ 1.5 billion.

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Boykov: The Rio Olympics have actually embodied many of the unique issues of the Olympics.

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Dick Pound: No. He is wrong on that issue.

ARABLOUEI: This is Dick Pound.

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Pound: I-I think I’m the longest working member of the International Olympic Committee.

ARABLOUEI: And he disagrees with much of Jules Boykov’s argument.

Pound: That’s pretty difficult. So the IOC plays an important role, but it’s a very small organization.

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Pound: And we rely on the sincerity of the host country to put it into practice. We know that it is they who have to accept the consequences if they make a mistake.

ARABLOUEI: There is one thing that is clear, regardless of who is responsible.

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ARABLOUEI: Hosting the Olympics can be a dangerous proposal for the city. That raises the question of why cities are still bidding to host the Olympics.

Boykov: The only reason cities are still bidding on the Olympics is because the elite of those cities are bidding on the Olympics.

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BOYKOFF: Another reason is that it has become a real place for sports washing.

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Boykov: A good example of sports washing is the 2022 Beijing Olympics. Here, Chinese leaders and other leaders around the world are using the game to stand on the pedestal and look important. ..

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Boykov: The Olympic scene is a powerful drug. And I think many of us know it from our personal experience. And I think it’s getting harder and harder to square the ugly hunger of political economy and the appreciation of athletes to make the Olympics a reality.

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Despite debt risk, cities continue to bid to host the Olympics: NPR

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