In the last two days there have been suggestions that New Zealand should consider a bid to host the Summer Olympics.
Now, I am a nationalist at heart and I absolutely believe in New Zealand’s capabilities. We probably could have hosted the Cricket World Cup on our own, and there would have been nothing greater than playing the Cricket World Cup Final on New Zealand soil. But to host the largest, most watched, most expensive, most resource intensive sporting fixture anywhere in the world is not only totally unrealistic, but it would also leave an economic legacy that we can ill afford.
If we are lucky, we might be able to host another Commonwealth Games. Our experience hosting the games in Christchurch in 1974 and in Auckland in 1990 was quite positive. The Commonwealth Games is much smaller, restricted to the nations of the British Commonwealth. The New Zealand contingent would be one of the larger contingents, as opposed to the Olympics where the largest would be from Russia, China and the United States. Hosting the Commonwealth Games though is a quantum leap from hosting the Olympics.
There are several very good reasons we should not bid to host the Olympics. And I would be willing to guess that both Mike Hosking and the International Olympic Committee Chief Executive gave nary a thought to these:
- Security – we would need thousands of soldiers, police, and other security personnel. They would need to be conversant in New Zealand law enforcement. We would need security surveillance capacity that simply does not exist in New Zealand at the moment and which for the most part we would otherwise have no need for.
- Stadia – the number of venues that would need to be built (unfortunately the Olympic movement seems to accept nothing other than brand new)would be beyond the budget of any one New Zealand city council, regional or district or any combination of them many times over.
- A complete athletes village would need to be constructed – and what would happen to it when the Olympics were over?
- The environmental impact for just 14 days of sporting excellence would be unbecoming for such a small nation as New Zealand
- The economic cost when we have a city still recovering from the country’s worst natural disaster in 80 years might very well bankrupt New Zealand before the first athlete arrived. What then?
- To cope with the huge influx of officials, spectators, competitors, states people from around the world, the infrastructure would need to be totally overhauled, even if it was in Auckland
Philosophical issues are also raised by hosting a sporting fixture that is becoming very expensive for even wealth countries such as the U.S., Japan and so forth to host. A decade after the Athens Olympics, Greece is in a state of economic malaise. It really struggled to meet I.O.C. deadlines for completing certain tasks, and the stadia today are largely disused. In Brazil, which is hosting the Olympics in 2016, the corruption that has permeated Brazilian politics and the associated crackdown on human rights raise issues about its suitability. Although Rio de Janeiro looks certain to host the games, what will the cost be?