Olympics in San Francisco Will Suck More Than America's Cup

Jun 16 at 2pm

For anybody with grim memories of what a clusterfuck/boondoggle/predictable exercise in futility the America’s Cup was, you should know that the 2017 regatta is probably going to be in San Diego, Bermuda, or on Lake Michigan. But while we dodged that bullet, another Big Giant Thing is upon us: San Francisco’s bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics. As SFist notes, we’re on the shortlist, along with Boston, L.A. and D.C.

Mayor Ed Lee wants it bad, and hopes to use 2016’s Super Bowl 50 as a showcase for the city and a test run for how it accommodates a huge influx of visitors. That’s even though the Super Bowl is but a single game in a single venue that also happens to be 50 miles away, in Santa Clara. The Olympics are weeks-long, and require many different types of facilities, so SF is really bidding on behalf of the entire Bay Area. Considering that the city just said no to a Warriors stadium on Mission Bay, and there have been two other fights over waterfront development in the last year alone, it’s probable that any major construction would be elsewhere. Alameda wants development, but are its citizens really pining for a complete transformation?

Like political conventions, giant sports events usually over-promise and under-deliver. Remember how the America’s Cup was supposed to involve 15 teams and yield $1.4 billion in tax revenues? Only four teams competed, attendance fell far below expectations, the city may not break even in the end, somebody died – and the U.S. also cheated, not exactly endearing behavior for a sport with a class-image problem. In fact, Big Giant Things make almost no economic sense. China lost money on the 2008 Olympics, London went 107% over budget in 2012, Sochi was completely bonkers in every way, and every host city gets stuck with ghost stadiums that do nothing but slowly fall apart.

Massive sports events are basically humongous nightmares for the hosts. Accusations of corruption and outright evil are threatening to overshadow actual soccer at the World Cup. In Rio de Janeiro, the city that will also host the 2016 Olympics, Brazilians are protesting en masse as the government builds stadiums that will never be used again while deliberately withholding promised infrastructure. Nobody wanted to host the 2022 World Cup, so FIFA gave it to Qatar, a de facto monarchy essentially built by slaves toiling in 120-degree heat. Jinkies.

Big Giant Things also involve supremely frightening surveillance states that exceed even the NYPD’s nastiness at the 2004 Republican National Convention. When London hosted the 2012 Olympics, they mounted missiles on rooftops to deter potential terrorist attacks, and the official sponsors’ marketing dominance was so absolute that brand police scoured the East End for unsanctioned use of “2012” by small businesses hoping at least some of the money might trickle down. It’s positively ghoulish when you think that all anybody cares about is women’s gymnastics and maybe the decathlon, really.

But if San Francisco does get the Olympics, look forward to some ingenious satirical guerrilla marketing and assorted zingers. I have every confidence in you artsy lefties to make it awesome.

[Via SFist; image by Richard Heathcote via Getty Images]

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