SportsProf

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Friday, September 10, 2004

Fields of Schemes

If you haven't checked out the Field of Schemes weblog, you should. This blogger does a good job of addressing the issue of building stadiums in various cities, and some of the pitfalls that await taxpayers if they believe that using they hard-earned tax dollars for these venues actually makes good sense.

Everyone thought the Greeks did a good job pulling off the Olympics, and you'll get no debate here (at least from the standpoint of putting on a good show that looked good on TV), except that it appeared that the Olympics were under-attended, probably owing to three main reasons. First, there was so much talk about security concerns and a terrorist attack that many people figured that they should go to a less popular place to spend their summer vacation. (When asked whether she was concerned about security at the Olympics, Martina Navratilova responded that she wasn't concerned at all, because the Olympics were probably the best-guarded place in the world and that terrorists usually strike less secure places. She had a good point). Second, many locals take August off, and this summer they fled Athens in droves. Third, the local hospitality vendors (read: hoteliers) jacked up their prices so much that some members of the press actually had to stay in converted hospital rooms because those were all they could afford. And they were subsized. The ordinary fan wasn't going to fork over the equivalent of $800 a night for an average hotel room. Other than that, the spectacle was quite terrific on television, and NBC did a fair job of not screwing up whatever drama could be preserved with built in time delays.

But when you say, "the Greeks did a good job," for whom did they actually do a good job? Probably not themselves, as the Field of Schemes blogger points out. The Greeks will have a big deficit, they don't have post-Olympics uses for many of the facilities, and they could be in debt for years. Just ask Montreal, which is still paying off the 1976 Olympic games. And you're talking serious debt here.

So, if you're a citizen of New York, which is bidding for the 2012 games, and you're already worried about very high taxes, the deficits the city is running, and the lunacy of the campaign to build a football stadium on the west side (figuring that whatever damage Robert Moses didn't already do to this wonderful metropolis, Woody Johnson and his new political friends certainly can finish off if they get the chance), be very careful here. Yes, you have a great city, but do you really want the Olympics?

After all, some things are truly better off if you watch them on TV.

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