Good morning, readers. At the same time, good night, citizens of Tokyo. Presumably, you’ve spent yesterday and today celebrating your city’s selection as host of the 2020 Olympics, but starting tomorrow, you have several years of hard work ahead of you.
The International Olympic Committee clearly the made the right choice in choosing Tokyo over Istanbul and Madrid. Neither of those two cities should ever have been expected to shoulder the costs of hosting the Games, given the global economic climate and the fact that large sporting events tend to contribute little to a city’s economy. Matthew Yglesias writes, “With the exception of the Barcelona and Athens games, hosting the Olympics almost invariably proves to be costly with economic benefit projections coming in far short of what’s promised.” Some in Tokyo are hoping for $30 billion in economic activity as a result of their city’s selection. They’re likely to be disappointed.
Still, the city is well prepared to host the Games. It has, as Jeré Longman writes, “a sense of economic security in a time of global political and financial uncertainty, a $4.5 billion guaranteed war chest, plenty of hotel rooms for visitors and a dependable transportation system.” That said, I hope the trains will run 24 hours a day, at least during the Olympics. When I was there, I had to spend the night in one of the city’s full-service reading rooms for comics nerds, where the cubicles have padded floors and are rented hourly through the night, after my train disgorged its passengers promptly at 1 a.m.
People in Istanbul and Madrid are likely to be disappointed, but the I.O.C. did what was best for them in the long term. It is true that according to science, people really are measurably happier after a major sporting event in their neighborhood. Yet the selection for the 2020 Olympics was a special case because of the economy. Protests have continued all summer in Brazil, and one complaint is that the government’s spending on preparations for next year’s World Cup has taken the place of support for public services. Just yesterday, police were attacking demonstrators with tear gas, and one group forced a military parade to a halt. Unrest has already challenged the Turkish and Spanish governments, and neither was in a position to spend large amounts on projects that will not directly benefit their citizens.