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Olympics: This ticket is crepe

The great Olympic debate has returned with the predictability of complaints about proposed rates rises.

With more than three million tickets to Paris 2024 selling in the first round, the rapid lottery sales also brought swift condemnation of the cost of attending the event.

And far from being quieted by the second tranche of sales, which kicked off earlier this month, the criticism has escalated.

“With four million in the draw for 1.5 million tickets on sale, we knew that some people would be disappointed,” Paris 2024 chair Tony Estanguet said in response to the backlash.

But it appears even those lucky enough to “win” a purchase are losing, with claims that the exorbitant prices – ranging from 24 euros [NZ$41] to 980 euros [NZ$1685] – are undermining the very cornerstone of the Paris “Games for All”.

Of the 10 million spectator spots, one million have been promised at 24 euros.

Nearly 150,000 of these went on sale in the second phase, and predictably disappeared faster than Usain Bolt, as the lottery opened to applicants in rolling 48-hour slots.

Three days after the launch of the second phase, sports fans were offered tickets at 690 euros [NZ$1186] for athletics semi-finals, and as high as 2700 euros [NZ$4641] for the opening ceremony.

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that spectators at the Olympics are now as elite as the athletes they intend to watch – and those athletes are outraged that their own families can’t afford to see them compete and have taken to social media as the harshest critics.

The ticket sales for Paris 2024 will recuperate 1.4 billion euros – a pittance compared to the estimated US$15-20 billion [NZ$24-32b] it will cost to host.

Which begs the now routine question – is the Olympics past its use-by-date?

According to independent think tank Council on Foreign Relations [CFR], during the first half of the 20th century the burden of hosting the event was manageable.

But the increasing number of events and participants meant escalating costs, leading to Denver taking the podium in the 1970s as the first and only city to reject the ‘honour’ of hosting the Olympics after voters passed a referendum refusing additional public spending on the event.

The fiscal risk of hosting was underlined four years later when Montreal’s projected US$124m [NZ$197m] cost exploded to US$1.5b [NZ$2.4b], which took three decades to pay off.

This, according to the CFR, led to Los Angeles being the sole bidder for the 1984 Olympics, which gave it huge leverage over the International Olympic Committee. There were no promises of lavish facilities, and it remains the only host city to turn a profit.

Since then, the burden of hosting, and related social and economic fallout has been well-documented, while the benefits [increased tourism] have remained a mirage – perhaps most recently epitomised in the reported 77,000 favela residents evicted for the 2016 Rio Olympics, followed by the ghost city that was the mid-pandemic 2020 Tokyo Games.

With the issue of unaffordability rearing its head, yet again, perhaps it’s time one city was picked as the permanent Games host: LA, they can afford it.

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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