The Olympics saddle cities with debt and isolate local businesses from the games. So why would companies want anything to do with the Olympics? Turns out, many don’t.
Today, a new survey shows that a majority of Japanese firms oppose a rescheduled Olympics next year.
Out of 12,857 Japanese companies surveyed, more than 50 percent of respondents want the Games either canceled or postponed (again) in 2021.
Jules Boykoff is a political scientist who has written four books about the Olympics.
I asked him why businesses, like the thousands of Japanese companies, might oppose next year’s games.
“One of the great myths of the Games,” he tells Deadspin, “is that [they] will be an economic boon for all. Unfortunately, that’s simply not true.”
Boykoff argues that the Olympics is “an exercise in trickle-up economics.” Where “lots of money sloshes through the Olympic system but it tends to flow upwards toward well-connected political and economic elites.”
The modern economic approach to hosting the Olympic Games props up corporate sponsors and leaves small business and local economies behind. The businesses who were promised an economic boom are usually left out to dry.
“Local companies that were slathered with the propaganda that they’d make out like champions are left in the lurch, whether they are food vendors at the London 2012 or Black business owners at the 1984 LA Games,” he says. “In both those cases, and others, local businesses were told they’d make money, only to be severely disappointed when customers failed to materialize, instead opting to remain in the Olympic bubble.”
The “bubble” is a hermetically sealed tourist destination that restricts outside vendors during the Games.
But besides a potential economic fallout from an Olympics, next year’s Games pose another daunting challenge – playing in a pandemic.
A Tokyo Olympic organizer already said if global COVID-19 trends continue as is, there will be no Games.
But even if Japan maintains its relatively low infection rate, why would the host nation want to bring in athletes and spectators from around the world into one city? Is it really worth the risk?
Not for a majority of Japanese businesses.
“Real questions loom about the safety of holding the Olympics during a pandemic,” Boykoff says. “Perhaps we’re seeing traces of that very real concern in this survey.”
Here in the U.S., Olympics activism has already begun in Los Angeles, the site of the 2028 Summer Games. It’s not too early for L.A. businesses to have their own concerns, too.