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Mid-America Blog

The Olympic Games - Helpful or Hurtful?

Written by Peter Scannell, Vice President

As the world turns its sporting attention to the spectacle that is the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, I can’t help but think back 8 years ago when our city, Chicago, was elbow-deep in trying to secure this monster. For many of these non-traditional sports, the Games represent their “World Cup” opportunity to showcase their talents, and with heavy weight sponsors (Visa, McDonald’s, etc.) the media build-up is unmatched. Notwithstanding the recent health and security concerns surrounding Rio, these Olympics appear to have most enthusiasts ready to wave their flags & support their athletes.  On the surface, this 4-year coming together of nations & athletes to compete in the name of sportsmanship checks all the boxes of national pride. However, if you look a little closer, the Games and the International Olympic Committee that “award” the venues have a far more damaging effect on the host nations, both in terms of humanity and equality.

From an economic standpoint, I never fully understood the “economic boom” that is promised to the resident nation. Certainly the 2-4 weeks surrounding the actual Games provide increased activity & spending from visitors around the globe, however, when the bills come due and the venues turn off the lights, who’s really stuck with the check?  On one hand you have countries that can “afford” to spend this kind of money (London, Atlanta, Sydney) without putting many of the residents at risk for cutbacks in social spending. It’s quite another story when Athens and Rio are involved. A large majority of people in these cities need the money (wasted on this circus) to help aide in the quality of their lives. This prerequisite seems to be lost on city officials and the specifically the IOC.

From a human rights standpoint, it’s not debatable what transpires when construction of an Olympic “village” commences. In Rio alone, thousands of underprivileged people were pulled from their homes, many without compensation, to make way for the wrecking ball. Not to say the “favela” these residents were living in was anything to preserve, but forcibly displacing this many local residents without somewhere for them to relocate defies any human decency. On the construction side of the ledger, you don’t have to be “in-the-know” to hear about the living conditions, wages and work safety that is being afforded to laborers in Qatar and Beijing, all in the name of the Olympic spirit. Exploitation of human workers has always been accepted in these counties, however, basic human standards should be mandated here and given the backdrop.

As far as the athletes are concerned, I’ve lost track of the number of countries involved with organized doping programs, athletes being “reinstated” following infractions just in time for the Games and medals being stripped from as far back 2010 based on “new” evidence. With such a high price placed on winning, I’m sad that this is simply more acceptable in the sports world. It’s unfortunate that we can’t appreciate the truly remarkable accomplishments of the majority of these athletes without the hint of scientism creeping into your mind. I do applaud the fellow competitors who “call out” cheaters by name, though. Seems to me this has the potential to be more effective than waiting on some testing lab 4 years from now to catch up with the violators.        

One athlete that has done it right is our own Natalie Sims. Natalie is the daughter of Mike Sims, Principal/Director of Tenant Representation in our Minnesota office.  Natalie was born missing part of her right arm.  She began swimming six years ago, and in 2013 she qualified for the U.S. Paralympics Swimming Emerging Team.  This year, Natalie is competing on the U.S. Paralympic Swimming Team in Rio and we couldn’t be more proud. Misgivings about the Olympics aside, it would have been nice to welcome Natalie to Chicago this week.


Peter Scannell | Vice President
Mid-America Real Estate Corporation
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