“ Despite assurances from…faceless authorities that work would not begin for four years, the diggers arrived before the start of the 2007 season” to convert the football pitches used by the Hackney and Leyton Sunday Football League at Hackney Marshes into “parking space for the 2012 green Olympics”. 3
On 7 July 2005, the day after London was announced as the host nation for the 2012 Olympics, 56 people died and 700 more were wounded as four Muslim men, upset by British involvement in the war in Iraq, blew themselves up along the London Underground and on one double-decker bus.
Thus “the Olympic project, from the start, would be about security.” 8
Rio, boasting beautiful beaches and mountain majesties, is also home to shantytowns serving one-third of its population, riddled by drug trafficking and murders—2,069 in 2008 alone, writes The New Republic ’s Suzy Khimm.
Reuters reported that a tight security scheme enabled Rio to make it through the Pan-American Games in 2007 “without serious incident” but the crime levels rose again almost as soon as the event was over.
Among Sinclair’s criticisms of the Olympics is “recklessly underestimated costs,…a snare to ensure government approval.” 10
Initially estimated as costing “a couple of billion, liberated from lottery loot and siphoned from Arts Council vanity projects,” the spending for the 2012 Olympics swelled “as the reality of the damaged topography was investigated: towards 10 billion (and climbing).” 11
Rio never made good on its infrastructure development promises, despite running way over budget for the 2007 Pan-American Games.
Neither a new circular road system and state highway nor light rail and metro lines came to fruition.
Promises to clean up Guanabara Bay—described by TIME ’s Andrew Downie as “the fetid body of water whose smell assails visitors driving into town from the international airport”—were reneged despite millions spent.
Coca-Cola—“supporting the Olympics since 1928”—McDonald’s, Visa, Samsung et al. want their brands attached to the Olympics. Their logos get tacked onto a billboard or a poster, the Olympic rings grace their packaging, their commercials feature former and future Olympians alike.
“ The word on the street is that if nobody can be persuaded to take up residence in this reclaimed toxic wilderness, the tower blocks (generic and architecturally undistinguished) will serve as holding pens for asylum seekers and economic migrants, until they can be processed or shunted back through the conveniently sited Channel Tunnel rail link.” 12
The Olympic Village will serve its Olympic purpose as a unified meeting place of nations, then will be converted into an institution of difference and segregation.
Optimists view the 2012 Olympics as “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to revitalise this valley, leaving in its footprints world-class sports, business and leisure facilities” along with 12,000 new jobs, 1.2 million visitors, billions of t.v. viewers. 15
As ESPN’s Emily Badger sums up legacy, “There are many kinds of Olympic legacies—the legacy of parks and stadiums built, of neighborhoods altered, of tourism and investment boosted (or not), and, of course, this legacy of stuff. All of it adds up to what really matters for locals: not what happened during the two weeks of the Games but everything that was left over and that came afterward.”
Harvey Newman, a professor of public administration and urban studies at Georgia State, contends that economic turnaround was limited largely to Olympic venues themselves, not to areas around them and the lower-class residents who lived there, despite exceptions such as the neighbourhood where MLK Jr. grew up.
As Charles Rutheiser, an urban development consultant who wrote the book Imagineering Atlanta , explains “neither the Olympic organizers or the city government thought they needed to pay attention to physical infrastructure outside the venues because the real legacy would be Atlanta’s enhanced image before the world.”
The Olympics act as a means of social control “by providing the disadvantaged a taste of bread and a day of entertainment” so that “they will forget their troubles and believe in the authority’s benefits”. 17
Indeed, the Olympics became a “mechanism of social co-ordination and control ” which distracts from economic conflict and social strife whilst projecting an image of Sydney in line with de Coubertinian “togetherness, friendship, safety, pleasure and social harmony”. 18
The Sydney 2000 Olympic bid highlighted a “visual transformation of the built and social environment of the city into an aesthetic product symbolising friendship, safety and a pristine environment”. 19
The competition between Sydney and its fellow aspirants—Beijing, Berlin, Istanbul, Manchester and Milan—was marred by a “smear campaign”: a Channel Nine doco portrayed Manchester as “a grim, drizzly wasteland” while a Daily Mail headline read “Aussies Build Olympic City on Poison Waste Dump”. 29
The IOC welcomed the spectacle of the Obama visit.
IOC members posed with Michelle Obama and took photos of President Obama with their mobile phones.
But he spent only a few hours in Copenhagen and left before the result was announced, which prompted former IOC member Kai Holm to comment that the “business-like” brevity of his appearance may have been seen “as a lack of respect.”
Former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch—who ran the IOC for 21 years before Rogge assumed leadership in 2001—appeared on behalf of Madrid to remind the IOC voters that, at age 89, “I am very near the end of my time.”
The hashtag #yeswecréu trended on Twitter, as the triumphant Brazilians played on President Obama’s “Yes We Can” campaign slogan to celebrate Rio’s victory over Chicago—and, by extension, him—in the Olympic hosting race.