Mark Lamster Thinks Dallas Should Host the Olympics Because Parties Are Fun

Judging from an altogether odd post to The Dallas Morning News's Center Stage blog, the newspaper's architecture critic, Mark Lamster, has apparently decided that those "progressive types" who might be a little wary of the city's bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics are just Debbie Downers who don't know the value of having a good time.

Yes, he briefly nods at the many potential pitfalls facing hosts -- like the potential for massive, catastrophic overspending and the way the games practically invite corruption and graft -- before sweeping those worries aside.

Lamster wants the Olympics because Dallas will be left with some "new urban toys," and everyone will, probably, have a really good time. He doesn't tell you the inevitable cost of those baubles, or what a hellscape the city will turn into for the months and weeks before and after the shindig.

According to a 2012 study by University of Oxford's Said Business School, cities hosting the Olympics in the last half century have gone over budget 100 percent of the time. An average Olympics is 179 percent over budget, a figure that, combined with the pressure to makes each games bigger and better than the one before it, can saddle cities with billions of dollars in unexpected debt.

Sometimes, the effect of the debt causes more embarrassment than long term harm. Beijing's National Stadium, the iconic Bird's Nest, is an architectural marvel. Now, it's largely a relic. It has no regular tenant and sits empty for most of the year. The Bird's Nest fate, or something worse, could easily befall any newly constructed stadium for a North Texas Olympics. Atlanta was lauded for its conversion of its 1996 Olympic Stadium into a stadium for the Braves following the games. Now, the Braves are moving to the suburbs and the stadium's being demolished.

None of which compares to the fate that befell Greece after Athens hosted the 2004 Summer Games. Greece spent, in 2014 dollars, $11 billion on its Olympiad, more than double the games' original estimated cost. In the decade since, the 2004 Games have come to be viewed as, if not a root cause of Greece's economic meltdown, the most glaring emblem of that crisis. Stadiums sat deserted and fenced-off for years, patrolled by private security, albatrosses that the games left behind.

It's impossible to know now whether the games would, as Lamster suggests, actually give the city "an opportunity to move forward with transportation and development projects (especially housing) that would be difficult to achieve absent some outside force pushing things along" or prove to be, at best, a hopeless boondoggle from which Dallasites' best possible outcome will be to lurk around the periphery of a party that will "give [them] something to dine out on for the rest of [their] days."

Maybe it'd be worth it to see just how big that check will be before doing anything rash.

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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young

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