Ah, Yes, I Can Hear The Money Roll In Now…and Nero Fiddling

Since ancient Rome the people have been fascinated with bread and circuses. And rulers from then until now have been able to convince the people and themselves that benefits far outweight the costs. Indeed, they never even mention the costs. So sayeth the local news:

A new street sign has gone up at the corner of Broad Street and South Penn Square, renaming that intersection adjacent to Philadelphia City Hall as “The Road to Beijing” for the next several days.

It’s because the US Olympic team trials in gymnastics will be here later this week (see previous story).

Mayor Michael Nutter, who hopped up on stage to show his balance skills, says it’s a world-class event that raises Philadelphia’s image as an international sports city — not to mention the more than $20 million it will bring to the local economy:

Who came up with that $20 million figure and how did they do it? Doesn’t matter as no one is even allowed to ask. However, the economic catsstrophe that was the Athens Olympics hasn’t escaped scrutiny by the Wall Street Journal:

For a few giddy weeks last summer, the whitewashed houses at the foot of [Athens’] Mount Parnitha, and the 10,500 athletes who lived there, were the center of the world.
Today the Olympic village is a ghost town, and most of the jobs it generated have vanished. Soldiers guard the site while the government tries to find another use for it. “Please move on,” one tells a visitor. “There’s nothing to see here.”

Meanwhile, Greece is still waiting for an Olympic boost to materialize for its $8.86 billion-a-year tourism industry. In 2003, the number of annual visitors to Greece declined almost 7% to 13.9 million and dropped again in 2004 to 13.1 million.

To a degree, Greece’s woes are no different than the headaches past Olympic cities have experienced. In the history of the Games, only two cities — Los Angeles in 1984 and Atlanta in 1996 — have earned a profit. Montreal, which hosted the 1976 Summer Games, won’t finish paying off its debt until next year: Its Olympic Stadium has been a financial sinkhole, with a malfunctioning domed roof that collapsed in 1999 under a load of snow, injuring five people setting up for an auto show.

So someone, somewhere was able to calculate that two cities made a profit. I’d bet a dollar, though, that it didn’t get back into the pockets of those who were forced to pay it against their will. And the cost of the lost investments that would have been made by those are incalculable as Bastiat told us. I guess were fortunate, though, in that Philadelphia is not actually hosting the Olympics as that immense circus brings with it an even greater net loss. Just ask Athens.


1 Response to “Ah, Yes, I Can Hear The Money Roll In Now…and Nero Fiddling”

  1. 1 libertyvini
    June 17, 2008 at 10:16 am

    Philadelphia perhaps more than any other city, is hopelessly in the grip of the professional sports team and construction trade union lobbies. Any ‘profits’ (real or imaginary)that should happen to accrue to the ‘City’ actually accrue solely to the pockets of sports franchise owners, fatcat union bosses, and the politicians they own.

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