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Volume 10 No. 25


Boosters of Boston's bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics "were buoyed by the Massachusetts state legislature's recent move to create an Olympic exploratory committee," according to Jules Boykoff of the London GUARDIAN. In expressing interest to host the 2024 Olympics, Boston "joined other cities with the five-ring fever" -- places like Washington, D.C., L.A., Dallas, Philadelphia and San Diego. Before "plunging ahead, some clear-minded thinking is in order." We should not "be hoodwinked by the celebratory hoopla" -- hosting the Olympics "is a serious affair." It turns out the Olympic Games "are awash in fiscal myths." Games "boosters always roll out tantalizing promises." One common claim is that the Olympics "are a windfall for the host city, an economic turbo-charge that benefits all." Although developers and the local construction sector tend to benefit as a city builds the necessary infrastructure, in reality, academic economists "simply haven't found a positive relationship between hosting the Games and economic growth." Economist Jeffrey Owen even argues, "it is unlikely that anyone ever will." Games advocates also "vow the Olympics will be relatively inexpensive." Bob Sweeney, who is spearheading the DC 2024 Olympic initiative, estimates total Olympic costs at $4B-$6B. Underestimating Olympic costs "has almost become an Olympic sport in itself." One recent study found that "every single Olympic Games between 1960 and 2012 experienced cost overruns." As people in cities across the U.S. consider whether to support a local Olympic bid, they "would do well to separate the shimmering assurances of Games boosters from the recent experiences of Olympic host cities." If it is "a feel-good festival of sports that you want, then go for it." But as "we ponder the possible, we ought to be aware of the Games' hidden economic downside" (GUARDIAN, 10/31).

As a centerpiece of its Olympic bid, Russia trumpeted a "Zero Waste" program that promised the cleanest Games ever, saying that it "would refrain from dumping construction waste and rely on reusable materials," according to the AP. But on a visit last week to Akhshtyr, just north of Sochi, the AP found that state-owned Russian Railways "is dumping tons of construction waste into what authorities call an illegal landfill, raising concerns of possible contamination in the water that directly supplies Sochi." The finding shows "how little Russia has done to fulfill its ambitious green pledges." Its $51B budget for the Olympics "contains no provisions for treating construction waste." In a letter obtained by the AP, the Environmental Protection Agency in the area where Sochi is located told the Black Sea resort’s environment council in late August that "it had inspected the Akhshtyr landfill and found 'unauthorized dumping of construction waste as well as soil from excavation works.'" The agency said that it "had fined Russian Railways, whose Sochi project costs billions of dollars, $3,000 for the dumping." It "did not order the dump closed." Authorities confirm that Russian Railways "operates the Akhshtyr dump without a license" -- but it "would not be able to obtain one even if it tried." That is because the village "lies in an area where dumping construction waste and soil is forbidden under the Russian Water Code." Russian Academy of Sciences Geologist Boris Golubov said that "it was impossible to accurately judge the impact of the Akhshtyr dump without a chemical breakdown of the waste and a full geological survey of the rocks." He said, however, that the landfill’s location on karst "is potentially hazardous." Deputy PM Dmitry Kozak "has persistently dismissed claims that Sochi is failing on its green commitments." Speaking to reporters this year, he admitted "certain violations," but denied claims that trash still gets dumped in illegal landfills. Kozak spokesperson Ilya Dzhus said -- after being confronted with evidence of last Friday’s dumping and the tons of waste that sit in the village pit -- that "the situation in Akhshtyr is under control" (AP, 10/31).

Ahead of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Russia "is taking saliva samples from religiously conservative Muslim women, according to locals in the North Caucasus, gathering DNA so authorities can identify the body parts if any become suicide bombers." The move "coincides with a drive by President Vladimir Putin to crack down on an Islamist insurgency in Dagestan, a province in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains east of the Winter Games sites in Sochi" (REUTERS, 10/31). ... The squash world "might still be recovering from the blow of another Olympic disappointment, but all the signs are that they will pick themselves up and try for a fourth time to join sport's greatest event." Professional Squash Association CEO Alex Gough said, "We've got to all sit around the table again and work out what's best for the sport" (BBC, 10/31).