Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Olympic Games Economic Analysis

The Olympic Games are just 2 days away. I can say I'm really excited to follow all the action.

But have always asked this question: When bids are requested from cities to host future Olympic games, there is never a shortage of municipalities vying to welcome the world's athletes. The games bring prestige, but do they bring financial benefits as well?


No one doubts the fact that hosting the Olympic Games allows a city to be in spotlight of world attention for two weeks, or longer if the build-up is included. Less certain, however, is whether all that attention and elevated stature is matched by an equivalent economic boost for the region or even the country, or if in many cases the Olympics bring lots of cachet, but little cash.

One thing is clear, in the often heady days preparing for the games and then watching athletes run, jump, swim and perform feats seemingly beyond the abilities of mere mortals, the financial consequences of all that work and capital put into hosting the event appear worth it.

There are direct economic advantages to the Olympics while the games are on: tax receipts go up, visitor numbers rise and then there is the simple fact that cities get to show themselves off. But whether those benefits continue after the athletes have packed up their medals and tourists have packed their bags is less certain. The Olympics' financial record is mixed.

One thing that everyone can agree on is that hosting the Olympics costs a lot and it's getting more expensive all the time. For the games in Greece, operating costs have soared from €500 million to €2 billion. The total cost of Olympic spending is estimated to approach €10 billion. However, there was little research into the wider economic impact of the Olympics until Montreal emerged from the 1976 games with a gaping deficit of €1 billion, an amount local residents are still paying off through a supplementary tax on tobacco. Those games were funded almost entirely through public city funds, and the large amounts of money spent on infrastructure improvements and facilities construction were focused on a relatively small part of the city. Montreal 1976 is widely held up as the example not to follow, and it caused many cities to think twice about bidding for future games.

The first Olympics to turn a profit were the summer games held in Los Angeles in 1984. Since local citizens voted against public financing, those games also became the first to be almost entirely privately funded. Los Angeles marked the beginnings of commercialization of the games and the development of Olympic sponsorship deals.

In 1984, organizational and economic strategies were introduced which meant the city could hold magnificent games that wouldn't bankrupt the city, 1984 showed that it was actually worthwhile to hold an Olympics.

Since then, the summer Olympics have made money or at least broken even, according to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Seoul in 1988 was left with a positive balance, Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney in 2000 each broke even.

The 1992 games in Barcelona are held up as a good example of secondary benefits that a financially viable Olympics can bring to a city or region. The Spanish city got a massive makeover for the games: its transportation and telecommunications systems were upgraded, it got new housing and retail centers that are still flourishing 12 years later.

Germany's 1972 Munich games were similar. Although it emerged with a deficit, after the games Munich had a new tube system and much of the city had been renovated and rebuilt.

Analysts break up Olympics economics for a city into three phases: pre-game, game and post-game. During the first phase, the city can benefit from tourism and a boost in construction activity. During the games, there are Olympic jobs to be had, revenues from tickets, sponsorshops not to mention the masses of tourists that descend on hotels, restaurants and other local businesses.

It's when it's all over that the problems come. The challenge is to use all that infrastructure effectively and learn how to deal with the massive, sudden drop-off.

Massive Olympic sports arenas often remain un- or underused. Olympic villages fall into disrepair and become headaches for the city. Most cities simply do not need all the facilities.

Even Sydney has had day-after problems. It's huge Olympic Park stands mostly silent and empty, too big to be sustained by regular sporting events alone. It will require an investment of at least €15 million to turn it into the "living precinct" its designers envision.

Analysts say the evidence is just not clear on whether hosting the Olympics will bring a city an important or lasting economic boost. Thanks to new funding strategies and revenue sources, the dark high-deficit days of Montreal will most likely remain in the past. But whether the boost gained by temporary job creation and intense publicity is long-lasting is more difficult to ascertain.

I found interesting that BBC News is showing this video on their prime-time. Something to consider for the future games in 2016.
Olympic Budgets

Monday, 23 July 2012

Tour de France Gallery

Time flies. One year ago I was at the Champs-Elysees watching the final stage of the Tour de France. This year as I'm working I couldn't go but I enjoyed it as always.

I followed it on TV, on Twitter and on Facebook and I've gathered some interesting pics from this year. Some are odd some others are brilliantly taken.

These are some of the pics - 198 pics - in no specific order:

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Tour Food

During the Tours I like to see the backstages of teams. How they get recover, how they warm-up/cool down and most of all what they eat.

Last year I've met Chef Sean from Team Garmin on the start of the last stage in Paris. I've continued to follow his adventures and at the moment I've been paying attention on what he's cooking for the riders. With the help of his friendly wife Olga the riders eat delicious food to perform at their highest level.

Can't wait to go to Urus and eat their restaurant http://www.elracodurus.com/El_Raco_dUrus/Benvinguts.html

Here you get an idea on what I mean with delicious food: http://garminfood.tumblr.com/

his story on the NYTIMES. (2009 article) and if you understand French this video with some inside views of his moving kitchen:

This year I've also found some really nice food cooked by Chef Hannah Grant for Team SaxoBank-Tinkoff and her food here: http://dailystews.wordpress.com/

Also some good quality from Chef Soren Kristiansen for Team Sky in his twitter: https://twitter.com/teamskychef

The common thing in the 3 teams and I guess in all the teams in the Tour the dinner is composed of lots of veggies, fruit, carbohydrates (lots), protein (lots) and some fat. For those who don't know they spend the whole day riding their bikes from 4 to 7 hours and burn from 2500 to 5000 calories a day.

Everyday I get an idea of the riders eat and get some ideas for my next meals. Maybe one day I'll be helping as a cook apprentice in the Tour.

Diets and food - My experience

When I was young I've played a lot of sports. From judo to swimming and soccer I can say I was an active kid. However after swimming I always had a big ice cream or a croissant or after judo or during school time I was eating pizzas, hamburguers and chips. I could say my only proper meal was sometimes in the school canteen and my mom's dinner.

And yes it's true I can say I was fat.

But during my teenage years I've moved to Brussels and lived there for 3 years. I've moved to the country of chocolates and waffles but surprisingly I've grown up and with this my attitude towards food and exercise have changed. I wanted to change my body so I've started running and riding my bike 3 to 4 times a week. I had a dessert once in a while and decided to eat less and better quality food.

But I was just 15 years old. I didn't know how to cook and some foods affected better my health than others.

In 2008 I've started triathlon. I've started training regularly but soon I found I could improve some things in my life. One of them was the way I ate.

I've started reading a ton of material on the internet. (I will write my next post about the amount of information available on the internet). I've read books about nutrition and how it was related with training.

First the high-carbohydrate diet, the most common diet in sports. Then the low-fat diet with little to no fat. 

Then ahead of the Tour de France in 2008 I've read some interviews with Dr. Allen Alim and how he introduced a gluten-free diet to the Garmin-Team riders. They have noticed a big difference in performance so I did the same. It was hard because I thought most carbohydrates came in form of bread or pasta.

After a while I decided that I needed to change my diet (again). So I've started to read on websites and found a diet that was manly focused on fats. Small amount of carbohydrates and a bigger amount of nuts, seeds and oils.

I've learnt a lot with these diets. Most of all how to eat and how to cook. And most of all to differentiate food eaten for performance and food for everyday life. Much different.

Now I am very really careful on what I put in my body. I eat fresh, more organic, I balance my carbohydrate intake with duration and intensity of workouts and I pay a lot of attention on recovery timing.

Now I don't like to call diet. I eat to stay healthy and time my food for pre, during and after workouts. Carbohydrates are not only pasta and bread but can be rice, quinoa, oats, buckwheat, sweet potato etc. Fats come from seeds and nuts and oils (incl coconut oil, olive oil etc.) but because they are very calloric I try to restrict the amount I eat. Proteins come from fish (salmon, sardines, tuna, mackerel, sea bass, etc.) eggs and meat (horse, deer, venison, chicken, turkey, etc.) and dairy. Then the biggest amount of my daily food comes from vegetables.

Now I can cook my own food and I do it everytime I'm at home not that I don't like my mom's food but my mom's food continues to be just an high-glycemic bomb like in most of Portuguese houses with white bread, pasta and rice (only after training).

It's a balance of diets like that I can stay healthy and perform well everytime I would like to.

Like a coach said to me: "Nothing fancy, no shortcuts - simply lots of quality training balanced with appropriate recovery and high quality nutrition."