‘Get excited for the greatest sporting event.”
That was the line from a note landing in my inbox recently from the Peacock network, NBC’s new streaming channel (which I love — all 20 seasons of “Law and Order,” on demand).
Oh, yeah, the headline on the note: “One Year Out.”
In case you might have forgotten, the greatest sporting event they are referring to — it’s the Olympics.
We were supposed to be right in the middle of the Olympics right now, coming to you taped for TV and live on the web, from Tokyo.
But the 2020 Games were canceled, postponed, buried, whatever your reality is to describe the present and future world of coronavirus.
Supposedly, they will take place in 2021 — wishful thinking.
The price tag for delaying the Games for a year will reportedly run between $2 billion and $6 billion. That’s on top of the $18 billion in cost overruns the Japanese were already on the hook for, which comes on top of the original $7 billion budget Tokyo promised its citizens when the city was awarded the Games in 2013.
Olympic money being flushed down the drain is nothing new.
Montreal, which went $1.5 billion in debt for the 1976 Games, finally paid off that red ink 30 years later.
This was the headline in the Los Angeles Times one year after the 1992 Barcelona Olympics: “Barcelona Struggles With Debt, High Taxes in Post-Olympic Era.”
A study of the 1996 Games in Atlanta by two Georgia Tech urban-planning professors reported a significant drop a year later in retail and restaurant sales, vendors going bankrupt, huge tax dollars wasted and mistreatment of low-income residents — all in the name of the Olympic Games.
It goes on and on — Sydney in 2000 was left with vacant structures and bankrupt businesses.
Greece may have held the gold medal for Olympic pain, with the deficits for the 2004 Games helping to bring down the country’s entire economy.
Then came Rio de Janeiro and Brazil, a country ruined by the double gut-punch of hosting two of the world’s biggest grifters — FIFA and the World Cup and the International Olympic Committee’s 2016 Summer Olympics.
Both events were notoriously rife with corruption.
A 2018 paper by the Council on Foreign Relations said Rio “struggles from debt incurred, maintenance costs for abandoned facilities, under-equipped public services and rising crime.”
At least one Brazilian official, the former governor of Rio de Janeiro, admitted in court he paid $2 million in bribes to bag men for former International Association of Athletes Federations in exchange for up to six IOC votes.
Brazil seemed destined to wear the crown of world’s biggest Olympic mark until the coronavirus, when Japan said, “Hold my beer.”
Japan was already vying for that title before the coronavirus crushed the 2020 Games, with projected costs having already more than tripled.
But the delay will add to that debt, and, the worst part, they may never have any Olympic Games to show for all that money.
There are doubts that they will be able to pull the Games off next year as well. After that, it’s over, done.
In April, Japanese officials said they could not guarantee the Games would take place in 2021.
“I don’t think anyone would be able to say if it is going to be possible to get it under control by next July or not,” Tokyo organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto said, speaking through an interpreter at a news conference conducted remotely. “We’re certainly are not in a position to give you a clear answer.”
The murky answers aren’t encouraging.
“To be honest with you, I don’t think the Olympics is likely to be held next year,” said Kentaro Iwata, a professor of infectious disease at Kobe University, the Associated Press reported. “Holding the Olympics needs two conditions; one, controlling covid-19 in Japan, and controlling covid-19 everywhere.
“I am very pessimistic about holding the Olympic Games next summer unless you hold the Olympic Games in a totally different structure such as no audience, or a very limited participation,” he said.
How bad is it for Japan? In addition to the $25 billion and rising in costs to prepare and host the Games, they actually paid $150 million to host the 2016 Games — and they lost that bid.
They aren’t the only ones holding the bag for the 2020 Games. NBC didn’t pay $7.75 billion six years ago to put on the Olympic television show through the 2032 Games to televise “very limited participation.” Who knows what these games look like in 2024 and beyond — if they survive?
The Peacock may wind up being plucked. Better keep those “Law and Order” episodes available.
Hear Thom Loverro Tuesdays and Thursdays on The Kevin Sheehan Podcast and Wednesday afternoons on Chad Dukes Vs. The World on 106.7 The Fan.
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