Wir wollen die Spiele? Wem will die Spiele?!

As I sit in my apartment, I gaze outside my window to see a rather charming horizon. To my right is the Nikolaikirche, one of the oldest buildings in the city. Straight ahead I see the Rotes Rathaus, a magnificently large building of bureaucracy and governance. And to my left, reaching high into the sky, I see the Fernsehturm, lit and piercing the fog like a lighthouse whose guiding beacon provides a safe discourse for drunken backpackers to find their hostels. But what is this alongside the tall, Soviet phallus? Why, through the wonder of technology, words are being projected! What do they spell[1]? “WIR WOLLEN DIE SPIELE”? “We want the Games”? Whatever could it mean?

Yes, it would seem that there is a campaign for Berlin to host the 2024 Olympic Games, and they are asking for the help and support of all Berliners. This comes as a particularly interesting idea as Germany has not hosted the Olympics since 1972 in Munich[2], and before that Berlin itself hosted in 1936[3]. Berlin did do fairly well in their hosting of the 2006 World Cup, and the infrastructure to hold the sudden influx of spectators. In fact, Berlin would likely be able to build the facilities for the Games pretty easily as well. So is it a good idea?

No. Absolutely not. It is a terrible, terrible idea.

A lot of the support comes from trying to get people to forget the previous Olympic Games hosted in Germany, which also brings a large opposition. In fact, that’s the reason why many expect the referendum to be shot down by Berliners[4]. Probably the only reason why it has gained any support at all is to take Hamburg out of the running. But that’s not why it’s a terrible, terrible idea, nor does it have to do with any sort of revisionist history of forgetting the time the Nazi’s ran the previous Games.

Berlin is massively in debt. In 2006, it was estimated to owe about $80 billion. A walk into any neighborhood will find abandoned buildings (though admittedly, not as much anymore) and the East has plenty of old Soviet flats just dying to be renovated[5]. That’s not to mention that Germans in other cities still pay a “reunification tax”, the bulk of which goes to Berlin. And in 2013, the German census showed that about .2 million Berliners actually weren’t there, meaning .2 million fewer taxpayers.

So what, you might say? Berlin is poor, but sexy! Even Wowereit knew this!

But there’s a reason why barely anyone wants to host the Olympics– it’s insanely expensive. As it turns out, those facilities that they build specifically for the Games don’t really every get used again, and the budgets are almost never accurate. We probably all recall the fiasco with the Sochi Olympics and how close to the deadline they were[6]. But what you might not know (or more likely guessed) is that the remaining facilities are empty, desolate wastes[7].

Yes, this is excluding the fact that the major tourism industries will still benefit significantly. It is also excluding other “success” stories where cities broke even/profited a little. But the truth still remains that “Berlin is poor, but sexy”, and that the Olympics will likely be a great strain on the city. So do I think that Berlin should ask to host the Games, despite the fact that the building around the corner from me is getting DDR asbestos removed? I can’t tell you, because I’m coughing so much from the DDR asbestos.


[1] “Don’t forget to drink your Ovaltine”?

[2] Did not go so well.

[3] Also did not go so well.

[4] Plus, who wants that many tourists wandering through the streets, enjoying the non-existent open container laws and shouting in English?

[5] Lichtenberg!

[6] How about now? Or now?

[7] It does pain me to use a Daily Mail link, believe you me.

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