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Post from Right to the City - Brazil

Right to the City - Brazil | Projects | Blog #3 | Updates

  • Hosting the Olympic Games is a great honor for a country, and an even greater one for the city within that country that the Games will take place. However, putting on such an event creates an enormous amount of pressure, especially with the eyes of every country in the world on you. Not only is it stressful, but it is not always as beneficial as is often assumed. Host countries often suffer in many ways as opposed to thriving, which is the natural expectation. In the case of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, there were people who were actually dreading them, for several reasons. First of all, anything “Olympic” is given priority. In London, 30 miles of Games Lanes were created for use by the “Olympic family,” which gave special treatment to athletes and media. Anyone who used the lanes without permission was fined, and even some ambulances could not take advantage of them. Additionally, there is the cost factor. Some people believe that the Olympics are a waste of money. In 2004, the estimated budget for the London Games was 3.4 billion pounds. By 2007, that number had risen to 9.3 billion, which ended up being roughly the amount spent. So much is put into the Games, but it cannot be predicted how much will actually come out of them.
    Another significant reason for Olympic anxiety is the issue of public transportation. With so many tourists flooding into the city, how can anyone, locals and visitors, get around safely and efficiently? Won’t the transportation systems be overly crowded? This is a noteworthy concern, however, in London, the problem turned out to be the opposite. Because of this fear, the mayor warned people to stay away from the capital during the Olympics, and everyone listened. A week into the Games, London was a ghost town. Tourists were scared away by all this talk of chaos, and many Londoners had left on vacation for the duration of the events. Traffic rates in Central London went down 20 percent, tour operators had rates drop 30 percent or more, hotels were half-empty, and the city appeared to be deserted. London attracts a lot of tourists even without the Olympics. During the summer it is normal for the city to be crowded. As the author of thisGuardian article puts it, “Net tourism would be down if the number of potential visitors deterred by horror stories about gridlock... exceeded the numbers coming to London for the judo, athletics and beach volleyball.” Evidence suggests that this could very well have happened. Therefore, in London’s case, the Olympic Games actually decreased the number of tourists, consequently decreasing the amount of revenue brought into the city.
    The host city of the Olympics spends a great deal of time under the spotlight before and during the Games. This is another significant reason someone might not want to have the events in their hometown. All of the attention creates the pressure to be perfect. Some people who live in the less wealthy and pristine areas of a city might at first look forward to having their community cleaned up, but not every area of the city always receives this help. In 2012, the Olympic stadium was in a district in east London called Stratford. They fixed up the area for the Olympics; however, not all of Stratford was improved. The side of the city that was not under immediate scrutiny was left untouched. Residents could see the Olympic Park from their location in Stratford Center, but this part of the area contained boarded up shops, trash and furniture on the streets, and buildings in desperate need of repair. How is it fair that this community was used for the Games, but those living there endured the same conditions as always? Shop owner Uday Patel, who runs a business in the Stratford Center, said: “Money needs to be invested in the Stratford Centre, not just the Olympic Park. It doesn't impact locals if not. How are we meant to compete?”
    All of these factors did not take away from an outstanding show at the Olympics. The events were beautiful and well put together, but at what cost? The local people of London were impacted by these Games, as well as the local economy. Hosting the Olympics takes a great toll on a country, and we are left with the everlasting question of if it is possible to avoid being impacted in a negative way by such a positive world event.

    Grace Bucking