Boston's Olympics boosters tell us that the Games will be an economic boon, and that costs will be borne by the private sector. This is the exact same rhetoric that was pitched in Athens, Vancouver, and London.  Economists have found that none of these host cities enjoyed lasting economic benefits.  And in each, the public was left on the hook for billions of dollars in overruns (the London Olympics were 3x over budget), one-time security costs, and ongoing maintenance of unwanted venues.  A Boston Olympics would divert resources from education, healthcare, transportation, and open space -- all to throw an extravagant party for the unelected, unaccountable members of the International Olympic Committee.  Whatever our priorities as a Commonwealth, it is clear that $19 billion, the average cost of a summer games (and more than the cost of the Big Dig), could be better spent on other things.

 

Boston is one of the great cities on the earth, and we don’t need rings to prove it.

- No Boston Olympics

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Why Oppose The Games?

Boston Farmer's Market

#1 -- Olympics do not boost local economies:

Study after study by independent academics has shown that Olympics do not create economic growth.  At first, this seems counter-intuitive -- what about all those events and Olympic visitors?  It turns out they mostly displace economic activity that would otherwise have occurred.  The number of visitors passing through the Vancouver airport actually dropped immediately before and during Vancouver’s 2010 Winter Games, as businesspeople, skiers, and tourists who would otherwise have visited British Columbia decided to stay away.  Greater Boston’s hotels are already at 90%+ capacity in the summer months -- filling them with Olympic visitors will just push out others.  Olympic boosters often cite the 1992 Barcelona Games for propelling that city to the international stage, but University of Chicago economist Allen Sanderson found no statistical difference between Barcelona’s growth and that of Madrid, which didn’t host the games.  In his words: “We tried to look at tourism, construction, tax revenues, both before and after. And we could not find any significant difference between the city that had the Olympics and the city that didn't.”

#2 -- Olympics are expensive, and Massachusetts taxpayers will be footing the bill:  $10-$20B The average pricetag for hosting a Summer Olympics is $15 billion -- roughly the same cost as Boston’s Big Dig.  That’s more than what the Commonwealth of Massachusetts collects annually in income taxes.  The International Olympic Committee requires a public official from each bidding city to “guarantee” the Games, meaning Massachusetts taxpayers would be on the hook as costs go over the initial budget, as they have in every modern Olympic Games.  And just like the Big Dig, the final price tag doesn’t include ongoing maintenance expenses, which are the true, costly legacy of being an Olympic host -- anyone who has ever owned a swimming pool knows you don’t stop paying for it once it’s built!  Olympic boosters will say that the private sector can pick up much of the tab, but we should be wary of those assurances.  A developer promised Vancouver to build its Olympic Village at no cost, but then later filed for bankruptcy, leaving the city responsible for $300 million in unpaid construction loans.

#3 -- Olympics have enormous opportunity costs:  

Massachusetts State House

Every dollar that gets spent on a velodrome is one that doesn’t get spent on fixing potholes or paying police officers. But perhaps the biggest cost of hosting an Olympics is the one that is hardest to account for -- the price of taking our eye off the ball.  For our elected officials, government bureaucrats, and civic leaders, an Olympics would be an all-encompassing distraction from the day-to-day challenges facing Greater Boston and the entire Commonwealth.  As the Opening Ceremonies drew closer, they would become solely focused on executing the Games: ensuring a costly stadium gets built on time, putting a security plan in place, or determining which roads must be closed to ease travel for Olympic dignitaries.  That means these leaders won’t be working on the things we elected them to do, such as improving our schools, bringing down healthcare costs, or reducing urban violence.  

 

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