The quadrennial Olympic Games are often visually spectacular, emotionally stirring and wonderfully sexy. A civic virtue they are not.

In September, Los Angeles will be “awarded” the right to host the Games in either 2024 or 2028. Great, right? A wonderful boon for our city, right? Ask the people of Rio de Janiero what they think.

And the people of Rome, Hamburg, Budapest, Krakow, Stockholm and even sports-mad Boston — all cities that have withdrawn bids to host the Olympic Games. In these places, and many others, the people who live and work there made their voices heard and earned a just and righteous result.

That’s unlikely to happen in Los Angeles, where the establishment cheerleading is led by the Los Angeles Times, which sees hosting the Games as “an opportunity.” And it is — especially if you’re a real estate speculator, private security contractor or AirBnB baron. The Olympic Games historically have catalyzed gentrification, displacing thousands of society’s most vulnerable members. They’re a convenient pretext for advancing construction projects near the athletic sites. But the Olympic Games will do nothing to ameliorate Los Angeles’s housing crisis and homeless crisis, which lately seem to be two sides of the same coin. They’ll only exacerbate the problem.

Notwithstanding the character-driven “up close and personal” profiles of the athletes (and their tear-jerking struggles, or eccentric hobbies, or relate-able health challenges, or whatever will get you to care about a genetic freak), most of us understand the Olympics, like almost everything else these days, is an elaborate advertising platform for the world’s largest, most pernicious corporations. The athletes are the talent; McDonald’s is the sponsor. (Don’t worry. The athletes aren’t required to eat the products they sell). When success and failure are measured by profits, the Olympic Games are the manure pile that attracts the wallowing pigs.

Undocumented immigrants, poor people, mentally disturbed people — these folks aren’t good for business. And they don’t make for good television. Which makes them excellent targets for police brutality and general harassment, and not just from the famously militaristic Los Angeles Police Department. The current plan for 2024 or 2028 is for the City of Los Angeles to defray the approximately $2 billion cost of “security” by abdicating control of the local police to federal agencies like the FBI and Homeland Security. Sure, these upstanding organizations haven’t been altogether successful at preventing homegrown terror attacks from angry white men, but they do have very large armored vehicles, so rest easy, sports fan.

Even if the Olympic Games don’t cost Californian tax payers a penny — and no matter how many assurances to the contrary there will be cost overruns charged to the public — it’s still a bad deal. Our elected leaders ought not be wasting resources, including their precious time, genuflecting before the IOC and cutting wealthy developers sweetheart deals. They should be applying their energy to improving the lives of local residents, particularly the least among us.

Hosting a Los Angeles Olympics Games  in 2024 or 2028 when more than 50,000 human beings are sleeping on the streets of Los Angeles would be immoral. But to the greedy politicians who serve at the pleasure of their wealthy patrons, morality is not a big concern. So long as the corporate money flows, LA’s leaders will drag our city into an Olympian gilded cage.

We the people should just say no. No Olympics in Los Angeles.

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1 Response

  1. Joe says:

    Sorry Michael, the Olympics will be good for the city and even better for the planet. Our largest industry is tourism, not movie-making, so this could be a big boost even after the games are over. It will benefit the working class employed at hotels and restaurants the most, plus give 1000’s of young people short-term employment where none was before. And saying that the Olympics will bring police brutality is quite a stretch. Yes, there is a housing crunch in the city, but that doesn’t mean that we should bring everything else going on to a screeching halt. Should we stop fighting for public school funding because of homelessness? No. Should the city stop pushing for mass transit improvements because of homelessness? Of course not. Tourism employs more of us than anything else – it puts food on our tables. It is not a frivolous distraction.