Michael Houston

Usually sport acts as the breads and circuses to all of our day-to-day troubles in life, acting as that distraction from the "real issues".

Thousands of fans flock to stadiums in the United Kingdom every weekend to watch their favourite football club play, regardless of the result, and others are religiously working their schedules around the Formula One calendar to catch it live.

After a season-changing 3-0 victory over Rangers in February, Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou summed up the connection between people and sport perfectly.

"We had 60,000 [fans] in tonight," he said post-match in a press conference.

"I'm sure a lot of them walked in with probably some problems in their life. 

"I think for this 95 minutes we made them forget that and feel good and that's something special."

For every controversy and moment of discontent from the public, it usually withers away once the Games get underway and the public get caught up in the spectacle.

Yet, this has not been a good week for the Olympic Movement.

Haruyuki Takahashi is embroiled in a bribery scandal related to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics ©Getty Images
Haruyuki Takahashi is embroiled in a bribery scandal related to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics ©Getty Images

For example, it seems money indeed talks when it comes to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics - allegedly.

Tokyo 2020 Board member Haruyuki Takahashi is facing multiple charges after claims he accepted bribes from companies, who coincidentally became Tokyo 2020 sponsors. As a result, it leaves the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in a tough position for the 2030 Winter Olympics, which looked to be going the way of Sapporo.

Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto abruptly cancelled a trip to the IOC headquarters, which IOC officials told the city would be "ill-timed", according to Asahi Shimbun.

COVID-19 showed the public can turn against a Games under a rallying cry of putting the people first - an Asahi Shimbun opinion poll two months before the Games took place showed 43 per cent wanted the event cancelled and an additional 40 per cent wished it would be delayed again.

These rallying cries for decisions to be made in the interest of the public are only increasing during this cost of living crisis.

Greed from energy companies and landlords has turned public opinion in the United Kingdom against the traditional values of their parties.

Two weeks ago, a YouGov poll found that 53 per cent of 2019 Conservative voters supported the renationalisation of energy companies - a stark contrast from the party's belief in the private market.

Latest figures say 61 per cent of the British public supported this.

Similarly, an Ipsos Mori poll from June found 72 per cent of people surveyed in England supported rent controls, defiantly against the current housing status quo across the UK.

And these sentiments have bled over across the world with several nations facing their highest inflation in over 30 years. 

To put it simply, people are suffering at the expense of profit. 

Brisbane was awarded the 2032 Olympics last year, and that could have an effect on the housing market ©Getty Images
Brisbane was awarded the 2032 Olympics last year, and that could have an effect on the housing market ©Getty Images

There are still 10 years until the Brisbane 2032 Olympics, yet we are already seeing the housing market there rise higher than the national average. 

Yesterday I wrote about rented apartments in South Brisbane - where people have been living for years - being vacated because the landlord wants to make more money doing short-term lets on Airbnb, which is an Olympic sponsor.

South Brisbane Greens Member of Parliament Amy MacMahon said this would only worsen the closer we get to the Games.

According to the Brisbane Times, Brisbane's rent increased by its highest margin ever over the past 12 months with a rise of 16.9 per cent for houses and 12.5 per cent on units, with the average being 14 per cent across the country on houses.

People are biting back against these systems as things stand - Airbnb's stock price hit its lowest-ever at the start of July - with survival being in the public conscious more than it has been any time this century.

Anti-Olympic groups pop up locally as soon as a host city is announced, but the same concerns over gentrification, moving out local people from their lifelong neighbourhoods and the impact on housing is a particular issue in Los Angeles, six years away from welcoming the sporting world to the American city.

LA is regarded as the ninth least affordable housing market in the world, meaning 63 per cent of houses in the city are rented by tenants. Vancouver, which is looking to host the 2030 Winter Games, was third on the list compiled by Demographia's 2022 Housing Affordability Report.

The housing crisis particularly affects cities like Los Angeles ©Getty Images
The housing crisis particularly affects cities like Los Angeles ©Getty Images

The IOC has successfully stifled these groups through the way it conducts its bidding process. If you hold a referendum, you might as well kiss goodbye to hosting the Games these days.

Only two successful referendums have led to Olympic bids - Salt Lake City 2002 and Vancouver 2010 - while recent bidders have strayed away from giving the public a say.

Sapporo said it would not hold a referendum, as did Milan Cortina before being awarded the 2026 Games. To the surprise of no-one, there was no democratic process prior to Beijing applying to host the Olympics. Boston and Hamburg pulled out of the 2024 bid process due to public opposition, as did Vienna for 2028 and a few European interested bidders for 2022.

With less focus on a bidding race for future Games per se - the last three Summer Olympics have been awarded unopposed - this provides a degree of security for the IOC, that a host will always be available. 

However, it does not take the pressure off the Organising Committees, who are having to be more involved with the local communities to protect their neighbourhoods, while bringing benefits. 

Paris 2024 has promised 4,000 social houses to the Seine-Saint-Denis department, one of the most deprived places in the whole of France.

Yet, history shows that promises are not always fulfilled. Successive Mayors of London have cut back on guaranteed social housing in the British capital and 10 years on from the Olympics, far removed from Ken Livingstone's pledge of 4,500 affordable houses in 2005. In 2022, fewer than 200 had been built at the cheapest rate of rent.

Vancouver is looking to put indigenous people at the heart of their consultation process in their 2030 bid - a black mark against them when hosting the 2010 Games - as another example of trying to remedy social issues that come from hosting these events.

The Olympics will not die anytime soon, it continues to turn a profit for the IOC and cities are interested in hosting, but as people struggle, unrest comes. 

Organisers must continue to engage with its local communities, respect their wishes and do more beyond delivering the sport without rolling out the exhausting "legacy" banner at every occasion. As every Games comes along, more will be expected from them to keep the masses content.

New builds, trendy restaurants and state-of-the-art facilities mean nothing if the local people struggle financially and socially at their expense. That is a legacy worth forgetting.