Citius, Altius, Fortius. The Olympic motto which means “Faster, Higher, Stronger”
This year however, the Olympic motto may best be remembered as “Akrivos,” which means, “expensive.” There’s been an estimated $50B spent in preparation for these games which is unprecedented. It doesn’t take a MIT grad to understand the astronomical amount of money that has been pumped into these games. To put it in perspective, the $50B investment is $35B more than the next highest spender, which was Athens in 2004.
It’s been well documented that in 2004, Athens hosted the Games and blundered in a big way. Many economists believe the miscalculations associated with hosting the Games in ’04 were a major contributor to the demise of the Greek Government that fell upon them in 2008. The committee under budgeted severely (nearly $11B) and the unfortunate timing led to a downtrodden post-Olympic era. According to a CNBC report, of the 22 new structures built for the 2004 Athens Games, 21 of them are unoccupied. While researching the economic impact of the Olympics, it’s astonishing to read about all the cities that have hosted Olympic Games and mismanaged the economics of them. What should be an opportunistic point in a country’s history, often times leads to turmoil and economic hardship. Taxes are increased, infrastructure fails, tourism plummets, environmental and sustainability measures are ignored… and the list could go on. I’m sure President Putin knows far more than I about his country, but it begs the question; what will become of Sochi after The Games? Will the $50B Olympic investment serve the people of Russia, or is this an ostentatious display of authority to prove to the world that Russia is powerful and rich and capable of hosting an Olympics unlike any Olympiad ever before?
The Olympics are about the colors, the athletes and the people. In two years when the next Olympiad takes place, no one will talk about Sochi; it will be old news, except to the people of Russia. They are the people who feel $50B spent to appease personal intentions. The rest of us will be watching Rio. It doesn’t take $50B to host The Games; the Olympics began with rocks and dirt. The spirit of the Olympics is about bringing people together to celebrate sport – not a single country, and certainly not a single man.
I’ve become quite interested in this story from a societal and economical perspective, but mostly I’m looking forward to watching the athletes as they stand on the podium, draped in home colors, watching their flag rise while the national anthem echoes through stadium speakers. They worked their entire lives for that moment and I guarantee they do not care how Akrivos the stadium is or how well paved the roads are… because all Olympian’s roads are paved the same. Ups and downs, injuries and set-backs, sacrifices and tears, doubts and fatigue. The Olympian cares not about the money because very few of them have any. They care about the medal, their country and their team.
Thursday marks the beginning of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi and without a doubt; I will be one of 3 billion sports fans around the world tuning in to see the spectacle.