- Several Olympics of the last two decades have faced questions over vote-buying, including the upcoming 2020 Games.
- In the past two decades, both the overt and hidden costs to host the games have ballooned, with host cities picking up the tab.
- Although corruption allegations appear to be consistent, with the increasing costs, in the last couple of years, many cities and countries have pulled out of bids for the games.
Authors Note: During the research for this piece about the Olympics, I found more information than I couldn’t fit into the video. I wanted to share some of those details with you, so what follows below is a more detailed version of the video we have produced! Thanks for watching.
What It Takes To Host The Olympics
The Olympic host city is determined by a multi-year bid process that involves significant planning from the prospective host city. International Olympic Committee (IOC) members visit the potential cities and evaluate the plans and visions of the cities. In the case of the 2024 Olympics candidature process, the IOC required a total fee of $250,000. The planning phase alone typically accounts for tens of millions of dollars in expenditures from host cities. Chicago spent around $100 million in a failed bid for 2012, and Tokyo spent upwards of $150 million in their failed 2016 bid, according to Transparency International.
The bid process most recently changed in December 2014, governing bids for the 2020 Olympics and onwards. The IOC claims their new process is designed for cities to create a Games that “fits their sporting, economic, social and environmental long-term planning needs” while also “reducing costs for bidding…and providing a significant financial contribution from the IOC.”
That process lasts about two years in total, with cities sometimes dropping out of the bid at one of the three stages of the process. Stage one encompasses mostly planning and the vision for the Games, while Stages two and three focus more on the concrete: legal considerations, venue funding, how the Games interact with government, and of course, delivering the Games. The IOC Candidature page states, “Olympic Agenda 2020 has highlighted the need for a shift in the candidature process in order to accommodate different solutions to meet Games needs within different cities’ contexts. To enable this the IOC has placed even further emphasis on sustainability and legacy.”
The History of Olympic Corruption
The reality is that the newest policies do little to address what appears to be continued vote-buying in the Olympic bid process – vote-buying that was perhaps most prominently exposed in 1998 over the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. After multiple investigations, including one chaired by a former U.S. Senator, what was exposed was an extensive vote-buying scheme where roughly $1.2 million of cash, scholarships, jobs, medical treatment, shopping sprees, and other expenses made their way into IOC delegates’ hands from the Salt Lake City Olympic Committee. In total, 10 IOC members either resigned or were forced out, and several indictments were levied against bid committee members.
In the midst of the investigations into Salt Lake City, Japan’s 1998 Nagano Games came under question. According to Japanese media, the bid committee for the 1998 Nagano Olympics spent an average of $22,000 on 62 visiting IOC members, but the records were conveniently destroyed. Richard Pound, head of one of the independent investigations and former vice-president of the IOC, claimed, to the credit of the IOC, that it neither fostered nor encouraged corruption in its delegates.
Even though the IOC allegedly didn’t encourage corruption, they still responded to the scandal by instituting significant reforms that include a still-extant Ethics Commission and a special commission to write a new Code of Ethics. Part of the IOC’s reforms included prohibiting from visiting potential host cities. Andrew Zimbalist, Professor of Economics at Smith College and author of several books on the Olympic games, told Rogue Rocket that the bid process for the 2002 Olympics had great potential for bribing IOC members, especially when visiting cities.
“The potential host cities had open game to lavish all sorts of extravagant entertainment on these people, in some cases to give them cash bribes, in other cases to give the children of the members of the IOC free college tuition, in other cases to take them to massage parlors, qua prostitution venues,” Zimbalist explained.
An investigation of the 2000 Sydney Olympics found that two IOC members received paid trips to European sports events. In 2000, the New York Times reported that “About 30 of the I.O.C.’s 114 delegates have been linked to improprieties in bidding processes for those Games.”
In 2004, the BBC’s Panorama team aired an investigative report detailing their efforts to pose as local consultancy firm interested in helping bring the Olympics to London in 2012. The team connected with representatives who claimed they knew how to bribe certain IOC members – some members were susceptible to gifts, while others “just believe in sport.” One IOC member, Ivan Slavkov, met with the Panorama team and was eventually suspended for it. Slavkov claimed that he was posing as a double-agent, actually there to catch the vote-buyers, telling the BBC, “Whatever I could say during the meeting was intended to trap the ‘corruptors’.”
Despite the fact that less IOC members visit host cities today, Zimbalist told Rogue Rocket that “it doesn’t really do anything to stop vote buying or backstage dealing among members of the IOC.”
Carlos Nuzman, President of Brazil’s Olympic Committee was ensnared in a vote-buying scandal in 2017. The IOC suspended Nuzman for allegedly coordinating a two million dollar payment to an influential Senegalese athlete, Lamine Diack, to secure votes from delegates of African nations. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were found in Nuzman’s home. In Japan, Takeda Tsunekazu, the head of the Japanese Olympic Committee, is facing allegations that he also coordinated with Diack to buy votes through a separate channel – and perhaps most tellingly, for the same amount of $2 million. Takeda announced that he will resign this summer.
The Costs & Benefits of The Olympics
Yet even with the consistent peppering of vote-buying allegations plaguing the IOC, there is little question that the Games are perhaps the greatest stage for athletes, countries, movements, and ideas. What price can you put on the triumph of the U.S. Ice Hockey team over the perceived “Soviet Menace” in the 1980 Olympics? Is a bought vote outweighed by the symbolic gesture of Cathy Freeman, a member of Australia’s subjugated native population, lighting the Olympic torch in her own country’s Olympics?
The IOC seems highly attuned to the idea that the Olympics promote something intangibly more, highlighting the nebulous term “legacy” in promoting how past games have lived through to today. In fact, the Olympic YouTube channel has an entire series of videos dedicated to legacy, frequently using rhetoric like “touching millions of people” in the case of Beijing in 2008. Sometimes developmental achievements are highlighted, like when the IOC describes Barcelona in 1992 as an example for the Games “to transform [a city’s] urban landscape, strengthen its position on the world map, and create broader social and environmental benefits.” The IOC’s website and promotional materials for hosting the Games are littered with such lofty ideas.
The IOC website also spotlights more distinct economic stats from specific games: The Sydney games are estimated to have boosted GDP by around $5 billion, created more than 100,000 new jobs, and boosted tourism. The 2016 Rio Games, perhaps most known for their now-abandoned venues and stagnant water reportedly boosted foreign tourism by about 4.8 percent the year of the Olympics.
However, there is more than ample evidence that suggests the Olympics are exceptionally costly for the cities and countries that host them. Costs have grown enormously in the last decade, with no profit benefit for the host cities and countries’ governments. The 2004 games in Greece cost around $11 billion, and has even been credited with pushing Greece into a spiral of financial instability. The 2018 Pyeongchang games cost about $13 billion dollars, and one stadium will reportedly have been used just four times before being demolished. Authoritarian governments have been even more willing to pay top dollar for the exercise in theater that the Games have become: 2008 in Beijing cost roughly $40 billion with only about $3.6 billion in revenue; 2014 in Sochi, Russia cost about $50 billion, with a recurring maintenance bill of nearly $1 billion per year for taxpayers.
When speaking with Professor Zimbalist, he explained that part of the reason for this explosion of cost is how the Games have changed. “They were supposed to be athletic events, they were never supposed to be construction events.” The Games have “become very focused on this false notion of promoting economic development, of promoting infrastructure development, and paying attention to construction profits.” The IOC did not respond to our request for an interview.
Besides the monetary cost of the Olympics, the production of the Games has engendered less visible costs like displacement and ecological damage. “In most urban environments where land is scarce, and millions of people are living in the areas, people have to be moved,” Zimbalist said. For Beijing, Rio, and 1996 in Atlanta, thousands, and in some cases, millions were pushed out of their homes to make way for facilities. Producing the Sochi games amounted to declining biodiversity. The 2018 Pyeongchang games destroyed a forest of around 58,000 trees and displaced a village for a ski course.
But amidst the enormous costs that the Olympics have spawned, the 1984 Los Angeles games stands out as a trend-breaker. While those games took place before the more recent trend of increasing costs, they were the only to generate a budget surplus. The reasons are multiple: it was a privately funded games that benefited from the expertise of Peter Ueberroth, a business and marketing executive who would become MLB’s commissioner in 1984; a plethora of infrastructure already existed to support the Games, including hospitality and athletic stadiums; and Los Angeles received financial concessions from the IOC since interest in hosting the Games had been waning leading up to the bid for the 1984 games.
However, opponents of the upcoming 2028 Los Angeles Olympics believe there are plenty of reasons to reject the Games. Steve Ducey, an Organizer for NOlympics LA told Rogue Rocket that “displacement and gentrification” in Los Angeles communities, the “militarization of our police force” and the “diversion of public resources” are front of mind. “We see time as one of the most valuable resources that our city officials have. And how much time are they spending trying to welcome the world for 2028 when they could be spending that time addressing the things that are problems in the city right now.” Los Angeles suffers from a notoriously sticky homeless crisis that Cody Snell from our team examined earlier this year, highlighting that nearly 50,000 people were homeless in 2018. LA 2028 did not respond to our request for an interview.
Despite the costs that have become increasingly obvious in recent years, vote-buying scandals have not ceased to plague the Games. It is almost a wonder that a two-week celebration of sport that brings cities to a screeching halt could still be sought after.
Growing Disinterest in Hosting The Olympics
As these costs have become more evident to prospective host cities, protests and referendums have erupted in opposition to potential host cities’ bids for the Games. Hamburg, Boston, Innsbruck, Rome, Norway, and Calgary have all rejected the Olympics in varying capacities over the last couple years. Thus, a move away from the Olympics was born – and not for the first time. “There was a trend away several decades ago. In 1978, countries and cities were not interested in bidding,” on the back of disasters like the Munich Massacre at the 1972 games, Zimbalist explained.
The IOC is “at the precipice of having basically destroyed the interest around the world in hosting the Games because of what a heavy burden it has been in a financial way, in an environmental way, and in a social way,” Zimbalist told Rogue Rocket. Perhaps the IOC is awaiting another savior in Los Angeles for the 2028 games. But the IOC will have to grind through the scandal of the Tokyo Olympics, another fight with pollution in Beijing in 2022, a potentially underprepared Paris in 2024, and an as-of-yet unknown contender for 2026, before getting to their poster child – Los Angeles.
Iran Blamed for Strike on Saudi Oil Plants
- A massive attack on Saudi oil plants Saturday wiped out nearly 5% of global oil supplies.
- Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attack, but U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Iran was behind the strikes.
- President Donald Trump did not directly name who launched the attack but said the U.S. was “locked and loaded” to respond. He later indicated Iran may have been behind the attacks in a tweet Monday morning.
- Saudi officials said on Monday that Iranian weapons were used.
Saudi Arabia Says Iranian Weapons Used in Attack
Saudi Arabia said Monday that Iranian weapons were used for drone strikes that decimated a group of Saudi oil facilities Saturday.
According to reports, the attack wiped out nearly half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production. Saudi Arabia produces about 10% of the world’s oil, meaning that the attacks singlehandedly knocked out 5% of all global oil supplies.
Some have argued it is one of the most significant military operations against Saudi Arabia’s critical infrastructure ever.
Shortly after the strike, Houthi rebels in Yemen issued a statement claiming that they were behind the attacks.
Since 2015, Yemen has been engaged in an incredibly violent civil war between Houthi rebels backed by Iran, and the Yemeni government backed by Saudi Arabia and the U.S.
Saudi Arabia has received a lot of international backlash for launching airstrikes in Yemen that have killed thousands of civilians, also prompting many to question the relationship the U.S. has with Saudi Arabia.
Now, Houthi leaders are describing Saturday’s strike on Saudi oil plants as their “right” to retaliate the airstrikes that have targeted their civilians.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also echoed that sentiment Monday, while speaking at a joint news conference.
“Yemeni people are exercising their legitimate right of defense,” he said. “The attacks were a reciprocal response to aggression against Yemen for years.”
Despite the fact that the Houthis claimed responsibility for the attacks, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took to Twitter Saturday to blame Iran.
“Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia while Rouhani and Zarif pretend to engage in diplomacy,” he wrote. “Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply. There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.”
Pompeo also called on other nations to “condemn Iran’s attacks,” and added that the U.S. was working to make sure “Iran is held accountable for its aggression.”
The following day, President Donald Trump also addressed the incident on Twitter, though he did not directly blame Iran like Pompeo.
“Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked,” he wrote. “There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!”
However, Trump seemed to reference Iran more specifically in another tweet on Monday, where he noted an earlier incident involving a U.S. drone being shot down in contested airspace.
“Remember when Iran shot down a drone, saying knowingly that it was in their ‘airspace’ when, in fact, it was nowhere close,” the President wrote. “They stuck strongly to that story knowing that it was a very big lie. Now they say that they had nothing to do with the attack on Saudi Arabia. We’ll see?”
Iran for its part has denied any involvement in the attacks. Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, responded to Pompeo’s claims in a tweet on Sunday.
“Having failed at ‘max pressure’, @SecPompeo’s turning to ‘max deceit’ US & its clients are stuck in Yemen because of illusion that weapon superiority will lead to military victory,” he said. “Blaming Iran won’t end disaster. Accepting our April ’15 proposal to end war & begin talks may.”
Implications Moving Forward
While announcing that Saudi officials claim Iranian weapons were used in the attack, a Saudi military spokesperson also said that the strikes did not originate from within Yemen.
U.S. officials have separately confirmed to the media that they are operating on the assumption that the strikes did not come from inside Yemen. A number of officials and experts have also claimed that the Houthis do not have the capabilities to initiate a strike of this scale on their own.
Some U.S. officials have additionally told reporters that they do not believe the strikes originated in Iraq, debunking an earlier theory.
Neither U.S. nor Saudi officials have not provided evidence that Iran launched the strike or that Iranian weapons were used. However, on the other side, Houthi leaders have also not provided any evidence that they carried out the attack.
Currently, senior U.S. officials are reportedly deliberating about how to respond.
Many foreign leaders are again warning the U.S. not to get drawn into a war. Leaders in both Britain and Germany condemned the attacks on Monday but did not directly blame Iran.
“In terms of who is responsible, the picture is not entirely clear,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said. “I want to have a very clear picture, which we will be having shortly.”
Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a news conference that his country was working to find out who carried out the attacks. China’s Foreign Ministry also warned world leaders against naming a culprit “without conclusive facts.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry took a bit of a firmer stance and warned the U.S. against blaming Iran, saying in a statement that “jumping to conclusions” as the United States often does is “counterproductive” and also calling military retaliation “unacceptable.”
Regardless, many experts are now saying that the attack undermines any kind of hopes for diplomacy between Iran and the U.S. Though to be fair, those chances were fairly slim before this happened.
Iran, for its part, has repeatedly said it will not meet with Trump or any U.S. officials as long as sanctions are in place
As for the Houthis, a military spokesperson said in a statement that foreigners in Saudi Arabia should leave the area near Saturday’s attacks, saying that those facilities could be attacked again at “any moment.”
“We assure the Saudi regime that our long hand can reach wherever we want, and whenever we want,” the spokesperson added.
Oil prices meanwhile skyrocketed following the attack. However, it appears as though Saudi Arabia and oil experts do not expect any long term impacts.
President Trump, however, seemed to be more skeptical of Saudi oil reserves
“Based on the attack on Saudi Arabia, which may have an impact on oil prices, I have authorized the release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, if needed,” the President said in a tweet Sunday. “I have also informed all appropriate agencies to expedite approvals of the oil pipelines currently in the permitting process in Texas and various other States.”
“PLENTY OF OIL!” the President tweeted shortly after, seemingly in reference to the attacks on Saudi oil.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Al Jazeera) (CNN)
Parliament Blocks Boris Johnson From Executing No-Deal Brexit
- British Parliament successfully passed a bill that blocks the U.K. from leaving the EU without a deal ahead of the U.K.’s Oct. 31 Brexit deadline.
- The House of Commons denied Prime Minister Boris Johnson a chance to hold snap elections for the second time.
- Parliament has now been suspended until Oct. 19, per Johnson’s request. Opposition lawmakers openly protested the suspension in the House of Commons on Monday.
No-Deal Brexit Block
British Parliament passed a law preventing the United Kingdom from leaving the European Union on Monday ahead of its current Oct. 31 deadline. Lawmakers also passed an order forcing Prime Minister Boris Johnson to release private communications about his Brexit plans and blocked his second attempt to hold snap elections.
Last week, the House of Commons passed a first version of the bill after taking control of the House away from Johnson. After being sent to the House of Lords, it was then passed again and sent back to the Commons, which approved final amendments. The bill was finally enacted into law after receiving formal assent from Queen Elizabeth II.
The passage of the law means Johnson may be forced to go back to the EU and ask for an extension to the current Oct. 31 deadline, something Johnson has repeatedly said he will not do.
Many now fear Johnson will attempt to find a loophole or challenge the law in court after he said Monday he would not allow the U.K. to remain in the EU following the deadline. Others have speculated Johnson might attempt to ignore the law altogether.
Despite this, Johnson said Monday that a no-deal Brexit would be a failure of the state, saying he would be partially to blame.
“I want to get a deal,” Johnson said in a press conference with the Irish Prime Minister. “Like you, I have looked carefully at no-deal. I have assessed its consequences… and yes, of course, we could do it. The U.K. could certainly get through it, but be in no doubt that outcome would be a failure of statecraft for which we would all be responsible.”
Second Vote for Elections
Johnson also held another vote for elections after a vote in the Commons last week failed to garner the two-thirds majority needed to pass; however, this vote similarly failed to attract that majority.
Johnson has argued he wants the British people to decide how lawmakers handle Brexit through elections, which would open up all 650 seats in the House of Commons three years early. That would also include his own position as prime minister.
Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn said he is eager to hold elections but wants the party to focus on ensuring a no-deal is fully blocked ahead of the October deadline. Many lawmakers, however, said they expect elections to be held by the end of the year.
Vote Over Johnson’s Private Communications
The Commons held another vote that requires Johnson to hand over private communications about his Brexit plans.
The order comes after Johnson requested to suspend or “prorogue” parliament an additional week on top of an already scheduled recess. It primarily seeks to investigate why he issued the suspension, which will limit the time lawmakers have to discuss a Brexit deal.
While Johnson has said the prorogue was called to create a “bold” new domestic agenda following Brexit, opposition lawmakers have rebuked the claim and denounced it as a power-grab by Johnson to be able to execute a no-deal, if necessary.
“We will consider the implications of this vote and respond in due course,” a spokesperson for Johnson said after calling the information request “disproportionate and unprecedented.”
Parliament is Suspended
Following Monday’s votes, parliament was suspended until Oct. 14. That means it will only have a little more than two weeks to agree on a deal before it reaches the Oct. 31 deadline.
Notably, the law barring a no-deal Brexit will force Johnson to ask the EU to extend the Brexit deadline until January if a deal is not reached by Oct. 19.
A day prior to that, Johnson will attend an EU summit in Brussels where he will try to strike a deal.
During the traditional prorogation proceedings, many opposition lawmakers broke formality and jeered, chanting “Shame on you!” and holding signs that read, “Silenced,” in reference to Johnson’s suspension.
Before the suspension began, House Speaker John Bercow announced he will be resigning on Oct. 31. Bercow is known for his flamboyant remarks during House proceedings.
“This is not a standard or normal prorogation,” he said Monday.
See what others are saying: (CNBC) (BBC) (Wall Street Journal)
One Person Dies Every 40 Seconds From Suicide, WHO Says
- Despite progress in national suicide prevention strategies, one person dies every 40 seconds from suicide and only 38 countries have prevention practices in place.
- WHO said some ways to help reduce suicide rates are to restrict access to means often used, educate the media on responsible suicide reporting, identify people at risk early, and implement programs to teach young people how to better cope with stress.
- The agency also launched its “40 Seconds of Action Campaign” in honor of World Suicide Prevention Day, encouraging those struggling to take 40 seconds to reach out to someone they trust. You can also support the campaign by initiating private conversations or sharing messages of hope with someone you are concerned for.
One person dies every 40 seconds from suicide, the World Health Organisation said in a news release Monday, ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day.
While the number of countries with national suicide prevention strategies has increased in the five years since WHO issued its first global report on suicide, the agency said the overall number is still too low.
Just 38 counties have strategies in place and the WHO is encouraging more governments to commit to establishing similar life-saving practices.
“Every death is a tragedy for family, friends and colleagues. Yet suicides are preventable. We call on all countries to incorporate proven suicide prevention strategies into national health and education programmes in a sustainable way,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
According to WHO data, nearly 800,000 people die by suicide every year. “While 79% of the world’s suicides occurred in low- and middle-income countries, high-income countries had the highest rate, at 11.5 per 100 000,” the WHO said.
“Nearly three times as many men as women die by suicide in high-income countries, in contrast to low- and middle-income countries, where the rate is more equal,” their statement continued.
Their data also found that in 2016, suicide was the second leading cause of death among young people between 15-29, after road injury. For teens 15-19, suicide was the second leading cause of death among girls and the third leading causing of death in boys.
Key Ways to Prevent Suicides
WHO said one way to decrease global suicide rates is to limit access to means often used. The agency said the most common methods of suicide are hanging, pesticide poisoning, and firearms. “The intervention that has the most imminent potential to bring down the number of suicides is restricting access to pesticides that are used for self-poisoning,” WHO said.
For instance, in Sri Lanka, a series of bans on hazardous pesticides lead to a 70% fall in suicides, saving an estimated 93,000 lives from 1995 to 2015, according to the WHO news release.
Similarly, in South Korea, the herbicide paraquat accounted for the majority of pesticide suicide deaths in the 2000s. But when paraquat was banned in 2011-2013, suicide rates decreased by 50% the following year.
The agency also recommends reducing suicide by educating the media on how to report responsibly on the topic, identifying people at risk early on, following up with those at risk, and helping younger people build skills to better cope with stress.
Do you know someone who is feeling suicidal? Don’t miss the opportunity to let them know you care!— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) September 10, 2019
Feeling suicidal often passes with the right support
👉 https://t.co/M0K8sRMUSH #40seconds#WorldSuicidePreventionDay pic.twitter.com/de4z1Qkgu0
World Suicide Prevention Day
The WHO partnered with the World Federation for Mental Health, the International Association for Suicide Prevention, and United for Global Mental Health, to launch a campaign on Tuesday called the “40 Seconds of Action Campaign.”
The campaign encourages those struggling with suicidal thoughts to take 40 seconds to start a conversation with someone they trust about their feelings.
Do you feel like life is not worth living?— World Health Organization Philippines (@WHOPhilippines) September 10, 2019
If you are struggling, take #40seconds to kickstart a conversation with someone you trust about how you are feeling. It’s okay to talk about suicide.
Remember: You are not alone. Help is available. 💚#LetsTalk pic.twitter.com/iiPFdjbMQL
You can also support the campaign by initiating private conversations with someone you are concerned for or sharing a message of hope with someone you know is struggling.
You can support @WHO‘s #40seconds campaign by initiating a private conversation with someone you are worried about or sharing a message of hope with someone who is struggling— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) September 10, 2019
👉 https://t.co/YNVF12ijAl#LetsTalk #WorldSuicidePreventionDay pic.twitter.com/AZcnDXiKob
According to the agency, “If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, talk to them about it. Listen with an open mind and offer your support.” WHO also has a website with more resources about what you can do and how to identify warning signs.
Those struggling with suicidal thoughts can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text TALK to 741741 for free, anonymous 24/7 crisis support in the U.S. from the Crisis Text Line. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org.