Felicitações, Rio!

Felicitações, Rio!

So, Rio de Janeiro has won the 2016 summer Olympics, dashing the hopes of Chicagoans, including President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, adviser Valerie Jarrett, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and, to boot, Oprah Winfrey.

I’m sanguine. Chicago is one of my favorite cities in the United States, and would have been a great host. Fabulous food, plenty of space, beautiful scenery. It’s hard to see it lose, but I’d rather visit without all the hubbub.

But, on the other hand, I’d love to go to Rio. And, just saying, any Foreign Policy poohbahs who might be reading, I think this site could use some hard-hitting ground truth on the policy implications of heated Olympic competition. I’m available, and hear there’s one coming up! 

This week, I took a look at how Olympic preparations are faring in my hometown of London. The answer? Not great, per se. The city will spend billions and billions of pounds (money it doesn’t have) on infrastructure it doesn’t really need. London’s got plenty of stadiums. It could use certain transport investments, but it seems those aren’t happening. And the price tag will likely hit $40 billion. That’s as much as Beijing spent. It’s more than Britain’s stimulus, enacted last fall to ward off economic contraction. It’s a lot of money, and means London might end up with a lot of debt.

All of which has convinced me that the only countries which should really want the Olympics in these economic dark days are big emerging economies. Why? Well, developed economies tend to have plenty of infrastructure in the type of major cities which host Olympics. They also tend to have high labor costs. Often, they don’t need the Olympics to attract more tourists, either. 

But big emerging economies — like the BRICs — often need serious infrastructure investment. They have higher GDP growth rates, which helps with legacy debt. They have also been hit less-hard by the recession (a generalization, of course, but mostly true).

It seems that this is being born out, too…BRIC countries have won three of the five most recently announced Olympics. We have Beijing 2008, Vancouver 2010, London 2012, Sochi 2014, and Rio de Janeiro 2016.

I’m putting my money down for New Delhi 2020!