was because it is now costing $30 million a year to operate the 90,000-seat Olympic Stadium. The story was little
different for the 2004 Games in Athens, where maintenance costs of the Olympics facilities by 2005 were about
$124 million per year, and there appears to be little to no
local interest in the two Olympic soccer stadiums.
According to a 2010 analysis in the Wall Street Journal,
21 of the 22 stadiums erected for the 2004 Summer Games
in Athens were unoccupied in 2010. The article reported:
“The vacant venues, several of which dominate parts of
the city’s renovated Aegean coastline, have become some
of the most visible reminders of Greece’s age of excessive spending. Sites range from a softball stadium and
kayaking facility to a beach volleyball stadium and a sailing marina. As Greece sifts through the wreckage wrought
by its enormous public debt, the Games are once again
unifying this nation—this time as a target of criticism.” 4
A 1999 retrospective study by Jon Teigland on the long-term economic impact of the 1994 Winter Olympic Games
in Lillehammer, Nor way, found little long-term benefit.
Despite extremely optimistic predictions from local and
national authorities about the impact of the Lillehammer Games on local tourism, within a few years, 40 percent of the hotels built in and around Lillehammer for
the Games had gone bankrupt. Two large alpine skiing
facilities built for the Games had been sold for less than
$1 to prevent bankruptcy.
In general, the long-term effects on tourism in the Lillehammer area were a fraction of the impact forecasted by
planners. Even the Games themselves were something
of a letdown for the hospitality industry in Lillehammer
concluded Teigland, “February 1994 became a major disappointment for many hotels in the host region.”
Getting to Work
For now, though, the biggest concern for Bra- zil is beginning and finishing the myriad construction projects that were part of its World Cup and Olympics bid proposals. The obstacles are severe: they include labor shortages, bureaucratic encumbrances, political corruption, legal entrapments, insufficient funds, incompetence, and
As Brazil’s Sports Minister Orlando Silva warns, “We
need to begin to control people’s expectations. The idea
that we are going to make up for 30 years without [hav-ing made] investment in infrastructure was probably
The São Paulo stadium that is slated to host the
Today—even without the flood of sports fans—
visitors returning home from São Paulo by air are recommended to leave their hotels five hours before their
flights because traffic snarls along the 15-mile road to the
airport cause interminable delays, which are then compounded by massive lines at airline counters. Latin Trade
magazine ranked the São Paulo airport the worst among
26 major airports in Latin America, and conditions have
only deteriorated as airline traffic has soared along with
Brazil’s economic boom.
The armed forces, which control airports, are renowned as one of the most dysfunctional government agencies in the country. One-third of its engineers
are under suspension for corruption charges. Of the $3.3
billion that Brazil budgeted to upgrade the nation’s airports, reportedly only 2 percent has been spent so far.
President Dilma Rousseff has given up on the plan to
create a new terminal at the São Paulo airport before the
World Cup and instead says that Brazil will rely on temporary, warehouse-like modules to accommodate the additional travelers during the World Cup and the Olympics.
Among other things, this is precisely the outcome countries need to avoid when hosting mega-sporting events—
spending millions of dollars on structures that have no
legacy or lasting benefit for the country’s development.
The railroad line that was supposed to connect
downtown São Paulo to the airport is hopelessly
behind schedule and is no longer expected to be ready
for the coming competitions.
Entangled political systems often look to events like
the Olympics and the hard construction deadlines as
a way to break through the red tape of the decision-making process.
It’s a nice thought when it works. When the obstacles
are too great to overcome, however, the costs can be high.
Brazil’s legendary soccer star, Pelé, has warned that the
country is at risk of embarrassing itself before the world.
Brazilians may have been dancing in the streets when
FIFA awarded the 2014 World Cup to the country, but there
is a difficult road ahead. FIFA reports that more than 2. 6
billion viewers watched the 2006 World Cup. Potentially,