Added baggage to hosting global games

You’re backing the bid for the Rugby World Cup? 

Added baggage to hosting global games

Of course you are. Everybody is. It’s win-win, a chance for us to take our place among the nations of the earth, a boost for the economy and all that kind of good stuff.

Isn’t it?

I was intrigued last week by an Atlantic piece focusing on a study by Martin Muller, a professor of geography at the University of Zurich on ‘mega-events’ like the Olympics and World Cups.

It’s well worth your time. For instance, Muller says: “The mega-event syndrome results in oversized or obsolete infrastructure for an inflated price that the public is forced to pay and in an uneven and inefficient allocation of resources.” He goes on to say that the syndrome is repeated, from Athens to Sochi, from Brazil to Boston, in all of those places bidding for (and winning) the right to host these events; the same mistakes are made and the same damage is done.

Not all of the problems stack up, of course. Even the term ‘cities’ is a misnomer compared to a World Cup (association or rugger) as those are assigned to countries, obviously, rather than individual urban areas.

Still, it was sobering to hear that the US cities which hosted the 1994 World Cup, one generally believed to be financially successful, lost over $9 billion (€12 billion) in hosting the games; or to learn that Boston city employees were ordered not to tweet criticism of the city’s bid for the 2024 Olympics.

Furthermore, there was a weary familiarity to one of Muller’s featured issues: that of ‘elite capture’, a seductive modern term which translates in Irish political discourse as ‘gombeenism’, pure and simple. The vague promises one hears before a big tournament of a forthcoming economic surge tend to be true, alright, just confined to what Muller calls a select group of business and real estate interests.

He also points out that one unusual element of the preparation process for a World Cup is that everyone knows when the projects must be completed: there is no finessing the day and time at which the tournament must be launched.

It can’t be fudged or postponed, it’s set in stone and must be met, which means that in any negotiations those charged with getting facilities ready have a huge advantage over those paying for the facilities.

Put bluntly, those building the stadia and other assorted projects can charge what they like because they know municipal authorities/ organising bodies have no alternative but to pay up to get the job done.

There are other pitfalls, ones which should have anybody familiar with Ireland over the last 10 to 15 years frowning: Muller’s signs of the mega-event syndrome include red-button headings such as displaced urban priorities, huge public risk and one head-shaker in particular — underestimated costs. The man from Zurich points out that since 1960, the average cost overrun for an Olympic Games, for instance, is almost 180%.

This isn’t simply a matter of shrugging one’s shoulders at the prospect of some developer lining his pocket. A horrifying statistic was widely publicised during the week about the Qatar World Cup: going by the current numbers, 62 workers will have died per game played when that tournament actually starts.

Just something to remember when you next see Sepp Blatter ooze across your screens.

So much for no undue influence

I haven’t paid much attention to the Jack Grealish saga because I like to wash my hair (Head and Shoulders) and that new Oliver Sacks book is very interesting (On The Move) and just about any human endeavour which doesn’t involve the dentist would be more rewarding, frankly, but the time has come to comment.

Last week England manager Roy Hodgson spoke out about Grealish and his long (long, long, long) dark night of the soul wrestling with his nationality.

“I don’t want to put pressure on him to play for us if he wants to play for Ireland,” Hodgson said.

“It has to be Jack’s decision and his alone, we must respect that and should not be attempting to use undue influence. I will leave it for him to decide, and if he decides it is us I will be very happy.”

Fair enough?

I’d agree with you, right up to the point where the same Hodgson, at the same press briefing, revealed that the FA’s technical director, Dan Ashworth, has been in regular contact with Jack Grealish and his family, making it clear that England want him to transfer his allegiance from Ireland to England.

Hodgson is also clearly aware that Gareth Southgate, the England U21 manager, and Aidy Boothroyd, the England U20 manager, have also been in touch with Grealish, impressing upon him the same message.

Undue influence, eh?

‘Jaws’ is always one to get your teeth into

Ah, just when it looks like another Saturday evening is a write-off, what pops up on RTÉ 2 at half nine only Jaws?

Seriously, it never gets old. Brody. Hooper. “I’m the chief of police, I can do anything I want.” “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.” The music.

I thought the Big Star documentary I discovered on Netflix was going to be the highlight, but then I heard the clang of that buoy in the opening scene (Chrissie, Chrissie . . .)

What’s it doing here? You don’t think fishing is a sport?

GAA’s ‘sledging’ carries a sharp edge

Whence comes the attack of the vapours about the ‘sledging’ last weekend in the Ulster championship?

We’ve heard the message all week — horrific abuse allegedly dished out to a Donegal minor has no place in the game. This is above and beyond, it’s got to stop, why in my day we only crushed their testicles: all the usual bromides.

As a matter of interest, what did people think we were referring to when we mentioned verbal abuse on the field?

Fatso? Culchie? Townie?

To walk everybody through this again: these are intercounty footballers and hurlers we’re talking about. You know their names precisely because of their innate aggression, competitiveness, bloodyminded focus and intensity.

For such players to acknowledge that they’re being verbally abused on the field, and that that abuse is becoming a crisis, means something with a little more edge than jokes about where they come from is being dished out.

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Saturday, March 6, 2021

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