Residents of previous Olympic host cities: was there as much bitching?

So London 2012 is almost upon us, and pretty much since the announcement seven years ago that the Games were coming to England, the British public and (especially) media have been bitching more or less nonstop. Among the litany of complaints: it’ll cost too much, we’ll cock it up, they should have used existing stadiums, they should have built more new stadiums, the events should have been spread around the country more, it’ll cost even more, the building work will never be finished on time, ok it might be finished on time but it’ll look a mess, the transport systems will never cope, it’ll piss down with rain the whole time, we really will cock it up you know, the terrorists will blow it up, the security is a farce, the opening ceremony will be rubbish, everything’s going to go wrong, and look at how great Beijing was, the British can’t do events like that, and did we mention it’s going to cost a bloody fortune?

Is this a uniquely British attitude, or did previous host cities suffer the same combination of apathy and defeatism prior to the games? I imagine in Beijing the media were fairly tightly controlled so such pessimism wouldn’t have been tolerated, but what about, say, Athens, Sydney, Atlanta, Barcelona? Did the public get behind the Games?

In Barcelona, most people’s plan was “leave the town ASAP, preferably before the madness begins”, but there was no doubt they were going to be The Bestest Games Ever, with The Bestest Opening Ceremony Since Time Began And Until A Year After It Ends.

Lots of grumbling about bringing in foreign tradesmen to work in a country which had a lot of unemployed tradesmen of our own (this also applies to Expo 92), lots of arguments about whether you did or did not like this or that building/tunnel/bridge, lots of “it’s Catalonia’s games” vs “the fuck they are, we’re all paying for you fucks to redecorate!”, but c’mon: La fura dels baus, Freddie and la Caballé? The only way to do it any better is if the archer had been William Tell himself :smiley:

One of my favorite TV shows of all time is The Games, a mockumentary set at the organizing committee for the Sydney Olympics. I don’t know if it represents the consensus opinion among Australians, but there was at least some ability to laugh at the pitfalls of hosting the games.

The BBC have used much the same idea for their show Twenty Twelve. Although they reject suggestions of plagiarism.

The 1976 Olympics in Montreal were pretty much a disaster for the city and widely recognized as such. Whether this was true beforehand is less clear. The mayor loudly proclaimed that the Olympics could no more run a deficit than a man could have a baby. You can imagine what the political cartoonists did with that one when the city ended up with a $1.5 billion deficit (and I think the provincial and federal governments contributed something too). It took 30 years to pay off those bonds at the which, the city now has 30 years of deferred maintenance to make up. It seems like almost every day, an underground water pipe bursts and the street above it collapses. One day, a broken sewage pipe that had been gradually moving the stones and dirt below Sherbrooke St. in front of McGill finally gave way and a hole opened up big enough to swallow a bus. It was only dumb luck that there was no bus (or anything else) on it at the time. A few minutes earlier it would have swallowed an entire parade of student demonstrators. They had to close a main thoroughfare for two weeks, which was excellent speed. But all this is reactive, not proactive.

One of the city’s writers described it as follows: “We paid for an enormous party and none of us were invited.” Any place that bids for the Olympics, their authorities should be investigated for mental illness. Or for financial interest.

Yes; I mean I enjoy the Olympics and given that they are going to take place in London anyway, I’m looking forward to them. But I never thought we should have bid for them and don’t think the cost is remotely justified. Maybe for cities looking to put themselves on the map it makes some kind of sense, but London? Already fairly well established, I would have said.
As for the other concerns in the OP, I am a tiny bit worried about the possibility of terrorism. And the ludicrous brand-enforcement Gestapo is a bit much. I think this forum is beyond the legal reach of the Olympic Delivery Authority, so can I just say that this post was brought to you by Burger King, the Olympic burger.

You’re not kidding. How to piss-off the 2012 Olympics “Brand Police”.

For the most part Colophon, I think the general public is sucked in to thinking that being the host city for the Olympics is a good thing. Like (YAY!) you’re the winner of a “25-words-or-less” competition…that it’ll cost you a hundred-and-eighty grand to enjoy your $2 prize is in the fine print of the finely printed fine print.

As far as the Syd-en-ey Limpics is concerned, nobody I knew was in favour of it - except for clients who stood to make lots of dough.

Just a snapshot for you.

I have no idea if it’s uniquely British, but your first paragraph is great british humor.

I lived near Los Angeles when the Olympic were there in 1984, and it was pretty much nonstop bitching the entire time. Too much traffic, it will be too hot, no locals can get tickets, the price of everything from food to parking will shoot up (which it did, starting two years in advance).
One interesting side effect was that because the people who came to see the Olympic games were *only *interested in the Olympic games, local tourist attractions like Disneyland suffered. No local went that summer because they thought the place would be packed, so the park was practically empty.

I’m not anywhere remotely close to Vancouver, but I live in the same country. Outside of Canada winning the good in hockey, I didn’t hear a single positive thing. The cost, the impact on the poor, natives, housing projects, the environment. I’m pretty sure a gulag would have gotten better reviews!

I thought you people were big on whinging, not bitching.

I honestly cannot stop laughing at this. “The terrorists are going to blow up the Olympics!”

So I was a tiny little tot when the Olympics were in LA in 1984, but if you ever manage to engage my dad about what city is hosting the Olympics this year, he will, as if in pain, rub his forehead and say, “I do not envy them.” He’s still suffering about this! That was 28 years ago!

I wonder: Were you in Montreal in 1976?

I was. So I remember the hoopla leading up to the games. It was a weird mixture of excitement and bitching.

Excitement because Montrealers at that time loved to be on the world stage. In school all year long we put on extravaganzas preparing for the games – special competitions, celebrations, etc.

Bitching because even then we knew that the costs were going to be bigger than expected – though how much bigger did not become clear until after the games. In the months before the games there was a series of strikes by construction workers which put a damper on spirits. (Nobody mentioned anything about traffic problems, and actually there weren’t any.)

I personally had a great time. It was easy to get tickets to everything except the most popular events. I got to see Bruce Jenner win the decathlon.

I’ve mentioned my experiences in Montreal in a previous message.

I’m probably one of the very few people to have lived in two different cities when they hosted the summer Olympics. I was living in Montreal in 1976, and in Los Angeles in 1984.

Unlike Montreal, Los Angeles was a very spartan Olympics. They built as little as possible, to keep the cost down. At the same time, the population of the Los Angeles area is much higher than that of Montreal. So the result was that it was much harder to get tickets to events in L.A. than in Montreal. That was one cause of major bitching.

The other thing was that everyone thought traffic would be terrible, since traffic in L.A. is usually bad anyway. But traffic was actually better during the games than normal.

I live in a city (and state) that got an Olympics nod–I think for '76–and the voters rejected it and said no way.

But we forget. Some current city leaders, who were living back east in '72 or else not born yet, are now actively trying for another Olympics bid.

'76 would have been a disaster here. There was no snow, and it wasn’t even very cold. I don’t know where they would have done the skiing stuff.

That must have been Denver. The Olympics were moved to Innsbruck at (nearly) the last minute.

I was a kid during the 1988 Calgary winter olympics, so perhaps my perspective is skewed, but I think the city loved it. The volunteer effort was enormous and it actually ran a surplus, which was turned into a legacy fund that still helps fund training and maintenance.

The olympic speed skating oval is still considered a jewel, the saddledome, which houses our professional hockey team is still something of a symbol of the city. Also, the athlete housing was turned into housing for students. The luge, bobsled and ski jumping facilities are a bit of a white elephant, but are still used to this day.

The only real bummer was the Canadian medal performance, which was pretty woeful for a host city.

In Sydney in 2000 everyone bitched and moaned about the Olympics right up until the day they opened:
…“waste of money”
…“just wait and see - they’ll be a disaster”
…“our incompetent state government will never get it right”
…“we’re getting out of town/going overseas to avoid the chaos”

Then the games started and there was a holiday/festal atmosphere throughout the city for the whole fortnight, crowned by a period of glorious spring weather. Everything went smoothly, and the Games were a resounding success.

So the endless moaning is not unique to London.

Even if it were unique to this iteration of the Olympics, it might not be because it’s in Britain. There’s still a lot of financial instability, and that’s probably tempering a lot of people’s excitement about the whole thing. As mentioned, it’s always a mixture of excitement and dread, and if the excitement is lower…