Olympic hangovers

March 1, 2018

What happened?

Now that the 2018 Winter Olympics are almost over, Korea will start to assess the costs and benefits of hosting the Games. The Games were supposed to elevate the rural county Pyeongchang from a small-scale mountain resort to a popular winter sports destination, but it is questionable whether the potential benefits justify the USD 13 bn investment. Cost overruns and gravely disappointing returns have plagued almost all Olympic hosts and it proves increasingly difficult for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to find candidate cities for future Games.

What does this mean?

Traditionally, the Games have been a means for nations, dictators and ideologies to show the world how well they fared. Over time, they have become more and more a means to spur economic development through infrastructure investments and global visibility. Consequently, cost-benefit analyses have become more important than national pride. Looking back, however, the economic arguments do not hold up and cities are left with an Olympic hangover of unused venues and billions in debt.

What's next?

There is no immediate shortage of Olympic hosts, but the IOC already has fewer cities to pick from. Paris and L.A. were awarded the ’24 and ’28 Games, simply because there were no other candidates. Moreover, with sports viewership declining, the outlook for the Games can only deteriorate. Future Games are thus likely to be more modest, with existing or smaller venues and possibly with fewer sports. Other cities looking for global attention will turn to smaller, and cheaper, events with global visibility such as the Tour de France, Formula One, or single sports’ World Championships.

Series 'AI Metaphors'

1. The Tool
Category: Objects
Humans shape tools.

We make them part of our body while we melt their essence with our intentions. They require some finesse to use but they never fool us or trick us. Humans use tools, tools never use humans.

We are the masters determining their course, integrating them gracefully into the minutiae of our everyday lives. Immovable and unyielding, they remain reliant on our guidance, devoid of desire and intent, they remain exactly where we leave them, their functionality unchanging over time.

We retain the ultimate authority, able to discard them at will or, in today's context, simply power them down. Though they may occasionally foster irritation, largely they stand steadfast, loyal allies in our daily toils.

Thus we place our faith in tools, acknowledging that they are mere reflections of our own capabilities. In them, there is no entity to venerate or fault but ourselves, for they are but inert extensions of our own being, inanimate and steadfast, awaiting our command.
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2. The Machine
Category: Objects
Unlike a mere tool, the machine does not need the guidance of our hand, operating autonomously through its intricate network of gears and wheels. It achieves feats of motion that surpass the wildest human imaginations, harboring a power reminiscent of a cavalry of horses. Though it demands maintenance to replace broken parts and fix malfunctions, it mostly acts independently, allowing us to retreat and become mere observers to its diligent performance. We interact with it through buttons and handles, guiding its operations with minor adjustments and feedback as it works tirelessly. Embodying relentless purpose, laboring in a cycle of infinite repetition, the machine is a testament to human ingenuity manifested in metal and motion.
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About the author(s)

Fascinated by the interplay between technology and society, Sjoerd has studied the role of different actors in the innovation and implementation of new technologies throughout his career. At the thinktank, he is mainly involved in research and consultancy projects for clients, and strategic and thematic research for sister company Dasym. Among other themes, Sjoerd frequently writes and speaks about the power and danger of digital technology, as well as sustainability in both technological and institutional innovation.

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