Rio 2016: Olympic Myths, Hard Realities

Brookings Institution Press
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A clear-eyed, critical examination of the social, political, and economic costs of hosting the 2016 summer Olympics

The selection of Rio de Janeiro as the site of the summer 2016 Olympic Games set off jubilant celebrations in Brazil—and created enormous expectations for economic development and the advancement of Brazil as a major player on the world stage. Although the games were held without major incident, the economic, environmental, political, and social outcomes for Brazil ranged from disappointing to devastating. Corruption scandals trimmed the fat profits that many local real estate developers had envisioned, and the local government was driven into bankruptcy. At the other end of the economic spectrum, some 77,000 residents of Rio's poorest neighborhoods—the favelas—were evicted and forced to move, in many cases as far as 20 or 30 miles to the west. Hosting the games ultimately cost Brazil $20 billion, with little positive to show for the investment.

Rio 2016 assembles the views of leading experts on Brazil and the Olympics into a clear-eyed assessment of the impact of the games on Brazil in general and on the lives of Cariocas, as Rio's residents are known. Edited by sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, the other contributors include Juliana Barbassa, Jules Boykoff, Jamil Chade, Stephen Essex, Renata Latuf, and Theresa Williamson.

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About the author

List of Contributors

Juliana Barbassa is an award-winning journalist and the managing editor of Americas Quarterly, a publication about politics and business in Latin America. She is also the author of Dancing with the Devil in the City of God: Rio de Janeiro on the Brink, based on her years as the Associated Press’s Rio correspondent.

Jules Boykoff has written three books on the Olympic Games, most recently Power Games: A Political History of the Olympics. In fall 2015 he was a Fulbright research fellow in Rio de Janeiro. In the 1990s he represented the U.S. Olympic Soccer Team in international competition.

Jamil Chade is the European correspondent for the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo. Honored as the best Brazilian foreign correspondent, he was chosen as one of the forty most influential journalists in Brazil. A member of the network Anti-corruption Solutions and Knowledge (ASK), led by Transparency International, Chade has written four books and visited more than sixty countries.

Stephen Essex is associate professor in human geography at the School of Geography, Earth, and Environmental Science, Plymouth University (UK). His teaching and research focuses on urban and rural planning, especially the infrastructure implications of the Olympic Games. He has coauthored a number of journal articles and book chapters on the urban impacts and planning of both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games with Brian Chalkley (also at Plymouth University).

Renata Latuf is a Brazilian architect and urbanist based in São Paulo currently working on the urban design legacy of Rio Olympics. Supported by the São Paulo Research Foundation, she was a guest researcher in Copenhagen and England in 2016.

Theresa Williamson, a city planner, is the executive director of Catalytic Communities, a Rio de Janeiro–based organization that provides media and networking support to favela communities. An advocate on behalf of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, she helps to ensure they are recognized for their heritage status and their residents fully served as equal citizens.

Andrew Zimbalist is the Robert A. Woods Professor of Economics at Smith College and a noted sports economist and sports industry consultant. He has published twenty-six books, most recently Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup and Unwinding Madness: What Went Wrong with College Sports and How to Fix It (with Gerald Gurney and Donna Lopiano.)

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Additional Information

Publisher
Brookings Institution Press
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Published on
Sep 12, 2017
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Pages
270
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ISBN
9780815732464
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / International / Economics
Political Science / Public Policy / Economic Policy
Sports & Recreation / Olympics & Paralympics
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Athletes compete for national honor in Olympic and World Cup games. But the road to these mega events is paved by big business. We all know who the winners on the field are—but who wins off the field?

The numbers are staggering: China spent $40 billion to host the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing and Russia spent $50 billion for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. Brazil's total expenditures are thought to have been as much as $20 billion for the World Cup this summer and Qatar, which will be the site of the 2022 World Cup, is estimating that it will spend $200 billion.

How did we get here? And is it worth it? Those are among the questions noted sports economist Andrew Zimbalist answers in Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup. Both the Olympics and the World Cup are touted as major economic boons for the countries that host them, and the competition is fierce to win hosting rights. Developing countries especially see the events as a chance to stand in the world's spotlight.

Circus Maximus traces the path of the Olympic Games and the World Cup from noble sporting events to exhibits of excess. It exposes the hollowness of the claims made by their private industry boosters and government supporters, all illustrated through a series of case studies ripping open the experiences of Barcelona, Sochi, Rio, and London. Zimbalist finds no net economic gains for the countries that have played host to the Olympics or the World Cup. While the wealthy may profit, those in the middle and lower income brackets do not, and Zimbalist predicts more outbursts of political anger like that seen in Brazil surrounding the 2014 World Cup.

Big-time college sports embodies the ideals of amateurism and provides an important complement to university education. Or so its apologists would have us believe. As Andrew Zimbalist shows in this unprecedented analysis, college sports is really a massively commercialized industry based on activities that are often irrelevant and even harmful to education. Zimbalist combines groundbreaking empirical research and a talent for storytelling to provide a firm, factual basis for the many arguments that currently rage about the goals, history, structure, incentive system, and legal architecture of college sports. He paints a picture of a system in desperate need of reform and presents bold recommendations to chart a more sensible future.

Zimbalist begins by showing that today's problems are nothing new--that schools have been consumed for more than a century by debates about cheating, commercialism, and the erosion of academic standards. He then takes us into the world of the modern student athlete, explaining the incentives that, for example, encourage star athletes to abandon college for the pros, that create such useless courses as "The Theory of Basketball," and that lead students to ignore classes despite the astronomical odds against becoming a professional athlete. Zimbalist discusses the economic and legal aspects of gender equity in college sports. He assesses the economic impact of television and radio contracts and the financial rewards that come from winning major championships. He examines the often harmful effects of corporate sponsorship and shows that, despite such sponsorship, most schools run their athletic programs at a loss. Zimbalist also considers the relevance of antitrust laws to college sports and asks whether student athletes are ultimately exploited by the system.


Zimbalist's provocative recommendations include eliminating freshman eligibility for sports, restricting coaches' access to "sneaker money" from corporations, and ending the hypocrisy about professionalism by allowing teams to employ a quota of non-students as well as to receive funding from the pro leagues. A mixture of lively anecdotes, hard economic data, cogent arguments, and clear analysis, Unpaid Professionals will revitalize debate about a subject close to the hearts and minds of millions of Americans.

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
 
Acclaimed sports journalist Jack McCallum delivers the untold story of the greatest team ever assembled: the 1992 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team. As a writer for Sports Illustrated, McCallum enjoyed a courtside seat for the most exciting basketball spectacle on earth, covering the Dream Team from its inception to the gold medal ceremony in Barcelona. Drawing on fresh interviews with the players, McCallum provides the definitive account of the Dream Team phenomenon. He offers a behind-the-scenes look at the controversial selection process. He takes us inside the team’s Olympic suites for late-night card games and bull sessions where superstars like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird debated the finer points of basketball. And he narrates a riveting account of the legendary intrasquad scrimmage that pitted the Dream Teamers against one another in what may have been the greatest pickup game in history. In the twenty years since the Dream Team first captivated the world, its mystique has only grown. Dream Team vividly re-creates the moment when a once-in-a-millennium group of athletes came together and changed the future of sports—one perfectly executed fast break at a time.
 
With a new Afterword by the author.
 
“The absolute definitive work on the subject, a perfectly wonderful once-you-pick-it-up-you-won’t-be-able-to-put-it-down book.”—The Boston Globe
 
“An Olympic hoops dream.”—Newsday
 
“What makes this volume a must-read for nostalgic hoopsters are the robust portraits of the outsize personalities of the participants, all of whom were remarkably open with McCallum, both then and now.”—Booklist (starred review)
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