Tuesday, 24 July 2007

"Inappropriate to local needs"

From the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a report issued in March 2007 about Halifax's failed bid for the Commonwealth Games:

Authors James Wildsmith (development economist), and Michael Bradfield (Professor of Economics, Dalhousie conclude that the “Halifax bid over-estimated the benefits and under-estimated the costs and that hosting the Games would be a very expensive way to generate sports and other infrastructure.”

“When governments support the development of major sporting events” according to Wildsmith “they need to ensure the public's best interest by taking into account the overall costs and benefits of the event.”

Bradfield points out that “the estimated economic benefit from the Halifax Games and spending by tourists was grossly over-estimated and the forecasting model used was an inappropriate tool to base an investment decision on.”

The appropriate tool according to the authors is a cost-benefit analysis which, while required by the federal government, was not completed for the Halifax bid.

The report’s review of the experience of other cities that have hosted major international sporting events concludes that legitimate benefits of these events are the legacy of the games facilities and the urban infrastructure built for them. But Wildsmith points out “games usually do not even cover the costs of running them and the pubic is left to foot the bill for infrastructure and long term maintenance.” The reality is, Bradfield adds, that “in most cities, the infrastructure is expensive to build, costly to maintain, and inappropriate to local needs.”

Read the report here.

Halifax: "A lasting legacy"

Halifax, Nova Scotia was one of the original Commonwealth Games bidders, along with Glasgow and Abuja, Nigeria. Halifax's bid fell apart a few months ago however.

But in the spirit of openness and transparency that characterises our modern democracies, the president of Halifax's bid committee won't tell anyone what has become of the public money spent on this venture.

The organisers "spent $8.5 million [Canadian dollars] in taxpayers' money", but they won't tell the citizens who profited from this.

As the president says:

"All those documents are in the hands of the actual international bid committee at this particular point and I don’t know if they ever will be divulged," said Fred MacGillivray, president of the Halifax 2014 bid committee.

"That’s not a decision I will make."

Well that's perfectly clear isn't it? It just goes to show that these mega-events are designed to "provide a lasting legacy" in the words of our own Steven Purcell. It's just that the actual legacy may be a little different from the pretty pictures that are painted by our dear leaders. It doesn't really matter if the games happen or not, because the same people keep on making massive amounts of money from the public. It's amazing, schools need to close, but there's plenty of money to be thrown at mega-events.

See more here at the Chronicle Herald: http://www.thechronicleherald.ca/Front/847205.html

Monday, 23 July 2007

Back the Common Good Games!

Check out the "Common Good Games" over at City Strolls:

"The Commonwealth Games is a kickback from British Empire days. There is nothing Commonwealth about them, apart from the robbery of the commonwealth into the pockets of the not so common wealthy.

"Now it is much easier to convince people that the Commonwealth Games is a wonderful achievement for the city and we will share and benefit from winning this prestigious event. People like sport - so our kind and generous city administrators are giving the people what they want? Did they not give us "The Garden Festival" "Culture City" "City of Architecture" and many more accolades that we can be proud of? Did we not enjoy ourselves for a few weeks? Did not each succeeding council leader in turn promise that the profits from these events would be spent on creating social inclusion? And do we not see the benefits of this social inclusion all around us? All these beautiful flats along the river - nice hotels, bistros all the shopping retail outlets and Tesco's we could only dream of before these accolades became ours - the people's of Glasgow.

"It is through the profits of these events and achievements that we have been able to afford to welcome so many asylum seekers to our city. Have we not spread this wealth and social inclusion to the folk in Keppochhill, Parkhead, Hutchesontown, Bridgeton, Dalmarnock, Queenslie, Royston, Braidfauld, Ibrox, Barlanark, Ashfield, Milton, Wyndford, Easterhouse, Summerhill, to mention a few. OK perhaps a few of these places fell through the regeneration net. But we really promise this time. If you let use have the Commonwealth Games and allow us to sell of some old dusty buildings a few parks that no ones bothered about anyway. We will make sure everyone benefits. Honest."

Sunday, 22 July 2007

The Scottish Executive: Protecting Intellectual Property Rights

From the "intellectual property" focused website IPKAT:

A mini-consultation on the UKIPO website draws attention to the Scottish Executive’s draft provisions for a new Bill if it’s successful in its attempts to host the Commonwealth Games in 2014. Amongst the issues raised is the need to prevent possible ambush marketing, to whit, the Scottish Executive’s document contains the following:


12. The draft Bill will make it a criminal offence to advertise within the vicinity of a Games event during the Games period without authorisation. This will be a summary offence punishable by a fine up to a maximum of £20,000. Following consultation with the Organising Committee, Ministers will designate in secondary legislation the areas and periods during which the restrictions will apply.

To make matters more fun, the Scottish Executive does not have the power to legislate on IP. IP provisions would need to come from Westminster. Consequently, the UKIPO is in discussions with the Scottish Executive as to what extra powers would be needed to prevent ambush marketing, and would welcome comments by email from interested parties by 21 September.

The IPKat says that the proposed provisions are rather harsh. They may be effective in preventing the advertising (although he wonders if £20K will deter larger companies), but the sums involved seem more focused on the harm suffered by authorised advertisers than on the ‘naughtiness’ of ambush marketers’ actions.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Costs Rise

The Herald reports the cost of Glasgow staging the 2014 Commonwealth Games may be almost 10 million pounds higher than originally projected.

It would be a three per cent increase on the initial total cost of 288 million pounds and would be split 80/20 between the Scottish Executive and Glasgow City Council, reports the newspaper.

Bid director Derek Casey described it as “a contingency rather than a definite increase”.

The issue came up in the wake of a Commonwealth Games Federation evaluation visit. Casey said, “the commission had some supplementary questions and suggested that we might not hit our target for broadcasting rights. It is impossible to predict how new technology might impact on that market seven years from now. Though it could be worth more than we projected, the commission have suggested it might be worth less. So it is prudent to err on the side of caution. We are not just talking TV and radio. It is impossible to judge how the Internet might dilute these broadcasting rights”, he said.

He added, “it’s impossible to predict how the world may be in 2014, but the increase may not actually occur. With more countries coming in there is more potential revenue”.
Casey denied the increased costs signalled the start of a London Olympic-style escalation in costs.

He said, “there is no question of that whatever. This is well thought-out analysis and the review of costs has been extremely robust. We have been absolutely transparent on the figures throughout and when any chance has occurred we have immediately informed the public”.

The 9.5 million pound increase covers a range of issues highlighted by the commission – broadcasting, lighting, venue improvements including extra temporary seating, athlete catering and transport.

A success?: The 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games

From Games Monitor:

"The Barcelona case represents these aspects extremely well. The 1992 Olympic Games are recorded as a success, even if they didn’t fulfil the expectations they claimed. The Olympic investments (in the broad sense, including some roads, coastal area renewal, cultural outlets, etc.), reached near 6 million euros (£4.1m) and 53% of that budget were public funds. But the economic activity that this money generated didn’t have a positive impact on the economic indicators of the Barcelona area.

"Between 1987 and 1991 the number of jobs created in the construction sector were only 33.000, a figure much lower than was expected considering that three quarters of the total investment went towards the construction sector. On top of this, all of them were temporary jobs. In the hotel and catering trade sector only 20.000 new jobs appeared and only lasted the duration of the event, again, much less than was expected. In the other sectors, the labour impact was zero (we tend to forget that the Olympic volunteers take on a great amount of tasks that would otherwise generate jobs). During 1992, the number of jobs began to fall.

"If we take a look at trade, we will see that during 1992 the sales rate decreased and the number of tourists that visited the city (a million and a half) was lower than expected and spent less money than it was estimated (exactly the same has happened in Athens this last summer). Also, the Barcelona event resulted in a dramatic decrease in the number of people that visited other destinations in the Barcelona region.

"Basically, the only economic indicator that experienced an important impact as a result of the Olympic Games were price levels. Since 1988, city price levels increased more than in the rest of the region and more than 1% over the inflation rate in Spain. In the year before the Games, prices rose more than 3% over the prices of the rest of Spain. And if we think that the city gains profit from television broadcasting rights, we should not forget that it is the Olympic Committee who collects this money. In fact, the progressive growth of this source of money has turned the International Olympic Committee into a big (and suspicious) enterprise.

"How can we understand the minute economic impact and the lack of fulfilment of expectations? We could focus on the unbridled optimism that seems to encumber the people who do the impact studies, but, especially, we should focus on the limited frame in which the investments take place. If the demand related with the Olympic Games (or any other mega-event) takes up resources that would otherwise remain unused, it would be reasonable to expect an increase in employment, as well as an improvement of the economic indicators in general. Nonetheless, demand growth related with a mega-event doesn’t produce a net income, because it is a consequence of a mere change in the direction of the resource’s flow; that is, the resources go to a specific sector or a particular place but only because they are coming from another sector or place.

"The same goes for private capital: it tends to reduce its investments in other sectors or in other spatial areas. If we pay attention to the recommendations that the economic impact studies use to achieve a real net increase in profits, for example, to make the labour market more flexible, it is clear that the aim of obtaining net profits loses part of its appeal.

"Astonishingly, even if the mega-events don’t fulfil their expectations, this is never seen as a failure. Nobody seems to care for or to be surprised by this failure and the event ends with a sense of success. If we want to understand this incoherence, we should put aside the idea of competition as a heuristic tool and focus on the fabulous opportunity for businesses that follow urban transformations related with mega-events.

"Indeed, even the need to attract tourism and the desire to improve the competitive position of the city in the urban hierarchy seems a petty and secondary question if we compare this with the local elite’s focus on an easy profit. Of course, I am not saying that urban governments don’t want to promote the image of their cities with the purpose of generating employment, attracting enterprise headquarters and so on.

"Regrettably, one of our most serious problems is that urban governments seem to be convinced that, in a globalized world, there’s no point in promoting local enterprise development. They believe that the best they can do is to turn the city into an appealing zone for foreign investments. But the weakness of some of their strategies and the blindness with which they insist that these strategies actually work, make us question their genuine interests in the city.

"In short, we cannot forget that when a mega-event is organized, the money that really flows into a city is, in the first place, public money that falls into the hands of private businessmen. That’s why it is so difficult to understand where the city expects to obtain incomes by organizing a mega-event, and how little the urban government cares.

"When asked about the profits the city of Madrid may gain from hosting the Olympic Games, a representative for the Olympic candidature discussed broadcasting copyrights (that, as I have previously stated, benefit Olympic Committee and not the city) and the tourist appeal that the city will gain. He referred to the Barcelona case as a big success and talked about the millions of tourists that have visited Barcelona in the last years as a result of the Olympic Games. What he forgot to mention is that the flow of tourists into Barcelona has not been an easy or inexpensive achievement. The strategy has only worked with the help of a continuous and huge public investment in private business, for example, in the hotel sector, dangerously close to bankruptcy –all in all, another typical episode of socialization of losses and privatisation of profits.

"However, if we consider that the investors that promoted and financed a big part of the Olympic Games budget in Barcelona were real estate and construction companies, property developers, land speculators, finance companies and hotel and catering trade firms, we will understand that, indeed, the 1992 Barcelona Olympics can be considered a success. Of course, as a result of the Olympic candidature, Barcelona witnessed a frantic building activity, an increase in the housing and land prices and a huge urban transformation that entailed the conversion of a big amount of industrial land into service or housing plots.

"In fact, urban renewal related to a mega-event is not as much a secondary effect as it is a fundamental raison d’ĂȘtre. The recent Forum Universal de las Culturas that has taken place in Barcelona this summer confirms this idea: instead of organizing a mega-event that could reuse the installations built ten years ago as a result of the Olympic Games, the Barcelona government and elite have decided to invent a new kind of event whose major aim, no one can doubt, is urban transformation. This multicultural event has proven to be an effective excuse to finally implement urban renewal in the last coastal area of Barcelona that still has a low income population. A made-to-measure operation for the private capital that has been a real fiasco for the city. "

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Don't back the bid!!!

Glasgow City Council wants to host the 2014 Commonwealth Games.


Well, they say that:
Once again, public money is spent to make the rich richer, while the needs of the citizens are actively ignored.

So if you don't back the bid, get in touch.