This article originally appeared in Make Travel Fair. It won second place in the Backdoor Write Your Way In competition. See the original post here. September. 2010
The article was republished on The Travel Word. See the original post here. September 2010
When I was in London on July 6 of 2005, the city was celebrating. After a long bidding campaign to host the 2012 summer Olympics, the International Olympic Committee had declared it the winner. People were cheering in the streets and the media was drunk on the good news. On the subway, everyone was buzzing and smiling until an old bearded man got on board and started nay-saying. “London Olympics? Not on my dime!” said his cardboard sign. “This is just one more way that the working man’s taxes are siphoned into deep corporate pockets!” he ranted. “The promises are false!”
The subway may not be the best forum to open a dialogue, but the bearded nay-sayer had made an impression on me. If everybody else in the city was joyful with the news, what was this guy talking about? Who was making these promises? How are they false? I decided to entertain the bearded nay-sayer’s position and look into the expectations surrounding this year’s most recent mega-event, the FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa. Do mega-events really keep their promises?
Promise #1: “Huge economic benefits!”
Economists talk in numbers about the impact of past mega-events in past host regions and make sunny forecasts about the total effect on job creation, increased GDP, direct foreign investment, etc. The actual data for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa is still rolling in, but estimates had promised between and $7.6 billion and $21.3 billion of direct economic benefits from the event. Between 159,000 and 415,000 jobs were estimated to have been created or sustained. An estimated $40 billion was spent on infrastructure. No wonder hosting mega-events is often projected to be a great economic windfall. In this case, speculators had even called the World Cup bid a “turning point” for South Africa.