TIME Running

Usain Bolt Makes Olympic-Sized Statement at World Championships

Wang Lili—Xinhua Press/Corbis Jamaica's Usain Bolt celebrates after winning the gold medal in the men's 100m ahead of United States' at the World Athletics Championships at the Bird's Nest stadium in Beijing on Aug. 23, 2015.

A photo finish victory over American Justin Gatlin proves that Bolt is far from finished

Mark it on your calendars now: August 14, 2016, Sunday night in Rio, the date of the 100-meter final of the Olympic Games. If this Sunday’s world championship is any kind of teaser, it could be one of the most riveting ten seconds in the history of sports.

Usain Bolt, winner of the 2008 and 2012 Olympic golds in the 100, on Sunday beat American Justin Gatlin, who took the event at the 2004 Games in Athens, by one one-hundredths of a second at the Bird’s Nest in Beijing, site of Bolt’s word-record setting performance at the 2008 Olympics. Bolt would later top that 9.69-second time at the 2009 Worlds, when he ran a 9.58, and at the London Games, when he set a new Olympic record of 9.63 seconds.

This was Bolt’s third World Championship victory. And though it seems far-fetched to label any Usain Bolt victory an upset, this was drenched in surprise.

That’s because Gatlin, a controversial figure in track circles who served a four-year doping ban from 2006 through 2010, hadn’t lost in 28 races, since September 2013. He was the fastest man in the world in 2014 and 2015. Critics have called the success of Gatlin, 33, bad for the sport, since he’ll always compete under a cloud of suspicion. As Great Britain hurdler Dai Greene told the BBC last year, speaking about Gatlin’s quick times:

It shows one of two things: either he’s still taking performance-enhancing drugs to get the best out of him at his advanced age, or the ones he did take are still doing a fantastic job. Because there is no way he can still be running that well at this late point in his career.

After having years on the sidelines, being unable to train or compete, it doesn’t really add up. 9.77 is an incredibly fast time. You only have to look at his performances. I don’t believe in them.

Meanwhile, Bolt had struggled coming into the World Championships. He had foot surgery in 2014 and pulled out of a pair events his season with a leg injury. His fastest 100-meter time this year was 9.87 seconds, blazing for most humans, a summer slog for Bolt.

But as usual, Bolt peaked when he needed to. He and Gatlin cleared the field for the last 30-meters or so, but Gatlin tightened up: a last lunge gave the Bolt the photo-finish win.

The good (Bolt) vs. evil (Gatlin) storyline going into this race was irresistible, yet oversimplified. Gatlin has paid his debt, and minus fresh evidence that he’s cheating, you can doubt him, but you can’t dismiss him.

Bolt’s final act is way more compelling. This is a man with nothing else to prove, who’s the greatest sprinter of all time. He’s been hurt, has every excuse to lose motivation, get distracted, and fade. And yet he summons, on command, breathtaking performances time and time again.

“This is Usain Bolt’s best race ever” American sprint legend, and BBC commentator, Michael Johnson said afterwards. When it comes to Bolt, that’s a familiar refrain. Seven years after shocking the world at the Beijing Olympics, the best could still be ahead of him.

See you next August.


TIME College Sports

Here’s the Road Ahead for College Athletes After Union Setback

College Athletes Union northwestern
Jeffrey Phelps—AP Northwestern football players gesture during practice at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside campus on Aug. 17, 2015, in Kenosha, Wi.

Anti-trust case are now the clearest path to reform

Back in April of 2014, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in D.C. granted Northwestern University’s request to review what seemed like a landmark decision in college athletics.

A regional NLRB director ruled that Northwestern football players were indeed employees under federal labor law, and thus had a right to unionize and fight for better health protections, compensation and other benefits at the collective bargaining table.

For a good 16 months now, all stakeholders in college athletics, from players to school and NCAA administrators, to coaches and students and alumni, waited for the NLRB to make a call on Northwestern.

Many labor scholars expected a win for college athletes. They figured that the five-member panel in D.C. would uphold the decision in Chicago, which seemed entirely logical: since Northwestern players dedicated some 50 to 60 hours of their weeks to football, an activity entirely separate from studying in class, sports is indeed a full-time job.

What almost nobody expected: the NLRB spending 16 months to decide not to make a decision.

But that’s exactly what the agency did. Call it a punt, call it an abdication of responsibilities, call it cowardly. On Monday, the NLRB declined to assert jurisdiction in the Northwestern case, simultaneously refusing to address the central question — are big-time college athletes, who in many cases generate millions of dollars for their schools, employees? — squashing the Northwestern union effort, and explicitly leaving the door for other union challenges down the road.

“No legal scholars I’ve talked to over all these months predicted this outcome,” says Warren Zola, sports law expert at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management. “It took them over 500 days to reach a conclusion they could have reached in hours. It seemed like they shirked their duties.”

Definitely call it a setback for college athletes, and a strange one at that. The NLRB concluded that making a decision in this case would “not serve to promote stability in labor relations.” But doesn’t the NLRB exist because labor relations are inherently unstable, since employers and employees have such competing interests?

The NLRB decided to pass on this case in large part because of the structure of college athletics. Northwestern University may be a private institution — and thus under NLRB jurisdiction, which oversees the private sector. But all of Northwestern’s “primary competitors” in the Big 10 conference are public institutions, and thus subject to state law.

In fact, of the roughly 125 institutions that compete in top-tier Division 1 football, all but 17 are public schools. Since the NRLB can’t regulate all schools, it won’t regulate Northwestern.

William Gould, emeritus professor at Stanford Law School who chaired the NLRB from 1994 to 1998, isn’t buying this conclusion. “The point about collective bargaining is that it enhances stability,” says Gould. “This decision assumes immaturity on the part of all parties.”

So where do college athletes go from here? While Ramogi Huma, president of the College Athletes Players Association–which organized the Northwestern union efforts–remains surprised and disappointed in the NLRB decision, he doesn’t plan to stop fighting. “There’s no reason to give up,” he insists. “This decision does not set a precedent. We still have an opportunity to unionize college sports.”

Huma won’t specify where and when his next unionization push will take place, because he fears that coaches and administrators will urge players not to organize; Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald, for example, publicly said it wasn’t in his players’ interest to unionize. “Anything we telegraph will be crushed,” Huma says.

The NLRB non-decision will make private university unions more difficult for athletes, but not impossible. The NLRB, for example, noted that “in all our cases involving professional sports, the Board was able to regulate all, or at least most, of the teams in the relevant league or association.” So athletes from an entire conference of private schools within the NLRB’s jurisdiction — say, men’s basketball players from the Big East, which includes strong revenue-producing programs like Georgetown and Villanova — would seem to have a stronger case.

Also, some states laws offer potential openings for public school unions. In fact, Huma might want to visit UCLA, his alma mater, where he played football in the 1990s. In California, the student employee test asks if the services rendered are related to the student’s educational objectives. Since scholarship football players aren’t spending those 50 extra hours studying, athletes at UCLA and other California state schools could lay claim to employee status.

Still, states like Ohio and Michigan have already preemptively struck down college athlete unions in the wake of Northwestern’s effort, by passing statutes specifying that scholarship athletes are not employees. Other states limit, or prohibit, public employees from unionizing altogether: college athletes at the University of Alabama, for example, have no constitutional or statutory right to collectively bargain. So a mass push to unionize athletes at public schools isn’t entirely practical.

Another avenue for athletes is Congress. Federal lawmakers can lift the compensation and benefits restrictions that the NCAA places on its member schools. But Congress is unlikely to rewrite NCAA regulations anytime soon, especially after six Republican lawmakers who help oversee the National Labor Relations Board submitted a brief in the Northwestern case knocking the regional director’s decision.

“Scholarship football players are not and should not be treated … as employees,” wrote the lawmakers, which included Rep. John Kine (Minn.), chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

So the best bet for athletes are the courts. “The action is going to shift to anti-trust,” says Gould, the law professor. Players have already achieved a victory in the O’Bannon case, which permits schools to cover the full cost of attendance for men’s basketball and football players and to set aside deferred payments, capped at no less than $5,000 per year per player. The NCAA is appealing that case.

Even more promising for college athletes — and scary for schools invested in the status quo — is a class-action anti-trust claim, brought forward by famed sports labor attorney Jeffrey Kessler, that seeks to lift all NCAA restrictions on compensation.

“The NLRB decision in the Northwestern case just underscores how important the anti-trust cases are for the players in basketball and football in Division 1,” Kessler says. “Because the anti-trust laws apply fully to all the schools, whether or not they are public institutions. The anti-trust cases are really at the moment the only legal road that players have to try to vindicate their rights. If our case is successful, it will let a market develop where schools or the conferences themselves decide how they want to do this. And we think they’ll make good decisions.”

A hearing for class certification in Kessler’s case is set for October 1. He hopes the case is ready to go to trial by the end of 2016.

“The Northwestern decision is a major setback for college athletes,” says Gould. “But this is just the beginning of this sort of litigation.” College sports is still shifting. Despite the labor board’s pass.


TIME Winter Olympics

Which Cities Even Want the Olympics Anymore?

More democracies are taking a pass

For fans who love a cozy, idyllic Winter Olympic site—in a place without a tainted human rights record—the host city selection for the 2022 Games wasn’t an inspiring bake-off. On Friday in Kuala Lumpur, the International Olympic Committee awarded the Games to Beijing over Almaty, Kazakhstan; Beijing becomes the first city in history to host both a summer and winter Olympics. The Bird’s Nest, where Usain Bolt thrilled the world with his record-breaking sprints, will host the opening and closing ceremonies, like it did in the summer of 2008. The nearby Water Cube, where Michael Phelps won eight golds, will freeze over and host curling.

The win is yet another symbol of China’s clout. Beijing has little snow and few mountains? So what: organizers say they’ll create enough snow, and build a high-speed rail line to Zhangjiakou, 90 miles (145 km.) outside the city and host of mountain events. Worried about Beijing’s air pollution? Well, the city controlled its smog during the 2008 Olympics. “It will be sunshine and white clouds,” said a Beijing 2022 communications official. China put on a great show in 2008, and will likely do the same in 2022.

But what does Beijing’s win say about the Olympics? Winter wonderlands like Oslo and Stockholm dropped out of the 2022 bidding, concerned about the costs. The Sochi Olympics, whose tab ran to over $50 billion, was the most expensive ever. The International Olympic Committee is pushing something called Agenda 2020, which emphasizes lowering the price tag for staging the Olympics. But any good intentions can’t curtail the costs, as organizers of the Boston bid found out the hard way earlier this week. The public, increasingly wise to the dismal economics of sporting events, decided the party and publicity wasn’t worth the cost and hassle. The city dropped its bid.

Academic studies are conclusive: for cities and regions, sports investment rarely delivers its financial promise. Just ask Athens, where the 2004 Olympics cost taxpayers billions. After taking on the 2014 Winter Olympics, Russia is hosting the 2018 World Cup. In 2022 Beijing, with its ill-fitting climate, will host the Winter Olympics. Qatar, with its 100-plus degree temperatures, is slated to stage a World Cup. Sense a pattern? Autocratic regimes, with a history of human rights abuses, are taking hold of the world’s sporting carnivals. More and more democracies, pressured by their outspoken opposition movements, simply don’t want them.


What the NFL’s First Female Coach Thinks About Tom Brady and Life in the Locker Room

Jen Welter talks to TIME about her coaching philosophy, the challenges ahead, and the league's latest controversy

The Arizona Cardinals introduced Jen Welter this week as a preseason and training camp coaching intern for the team’s inside linebackers, making her what is believed to be the first woman to hold any kind of coaching position in the NFL. Welter is used to breaking barriers: In 2014, she became the first woman to play a contact position in a professional men’s game, when she suited up at running back for the Texas Revolution, a team that plays in the Champions Indoor Football League.

Welter, 37, played 14 seasons in the Women’s Football Alliance, won two gold medals with the American team at the International Federation of American Football’s Women’s World Championship. She was linebackers and special teams coach for the Revolution last season.

TIME spoke to Welter on Tuesday from the Cardinals practice facility.

It’s 2015. The NFL has been around for a long, long time. What took so long for there to be a female coach?
How many times have we heard that the final frontier of women in sports is football? It really has been that gladiator sport, that last bastion of women don’t go there. It is a game where people believe that you have to be big and tough and strong and to have played the game and been in the trenches. And the truth is that women haven’t been playing football nearly as long as men. And the history of women in football is relatively short. So it’s understandable that it would take time.

But now we’re getting into the days when I had the longevity, because the sport was around enough, to have played for 14 years. You start to say, “Hey, wait a minute. These girls aren’t going anywhere.” And it took that credibility of guys seeing you be in the game for that long, and being dedicated and realizing that you do know it, you do love it, and you’re not just around it for the wrong reason. To start to put women in positions where they could contribute to football. And I think that that’s the blessing. It’s not going to change overnight. But it takes a history.

Given that football, as you say, has that gladiator, macho culture, and is the ‘last bastion of women don’t go there,’ why do you think NFL players will listen to you?
It’s not about what I think. It’s that I’ve been in this situation before. I have coached guys before. It wasn’t that I went in day one and tried to change them in football. I was there, I was consistent, I added to their game when I could. I took a lot of time to get to know what the needs of the players were. And once I saw the needs of the players, I would step in and help them. Some of the moments were more on the sports psychology side to be honest. Telling him how to be that ‘it’ player, or if you did this after the play, you know that message it would send. It’s just getting one or two of those guys to listen and buy in. Then when somebody sees that happening and they get better, oh my goodness it gets to be really competitive. Everybody wants that.

We had a joke—it wasn’t a joke, it was a very known secret I guess, on the defense that caught on was ‘Coach Jen’s Notes.’ I started with the linebackers but as the season went on I ended up working with the d-line and linebackers. And the guys were like, ‘hey, don’t you have notes for us?’ And I said, ‘you want my notes?’ They said, ‘yeah coach’. And I feel like, and I say this very jokingly, but it was serious cause at first it was almost like they didn’t want anybody to know they were getting notes from me.

And yet by the end of the season I had players who were leaders on my team, when a new guy came in, they’d be like, ‘listen, you need to give your email to coach Jen. She does the game breakdowns, her notes are the best, and you need to look at them.’ And it became an expectation. But it takes those leaders to really buy in.

I’m patient. I’m not going to jump up in anybody’s face and make them try and listen to me. As a player I would have respected that. So I think having that background as a player and knowing what I would look for and how to be respected, I think that that’s what these guys will respond to. At least I hope so.

Is your goal to be NFL head coach?
If that is the direction is where God puts me on this path, that’s what I will do. I lovingly say that I believe God put blinders on my life in terms of what I could accomplish and be capable of, because if I would have looked up and said to somebody, “I was going to do this,” they would have told me I was crazy. As soon as I started playing football, I knew it was my destiny. I couldn’t ever picture it.

As somebody who has a doctorate in psychology, people hire me all the time to talk about goal setting and breaking things down step by step. I couldn’t see this goal to have it. I just had to literally put my head down and trust the path, and do the right things everyday to be successful. And trust that process. And so if in doing this, that’s the path I’m meant to be on, then that’s exactly where I’ll go. But I can’t see that yet.

What do you anticipate being the toughest part of the job?

The toughest part, I think, is really guys knowing how they can act around me. Yesterday somebody said, “Come on gentlemen, let’s go.” And they were like, “Oh my gosh Jen, we’re so sorry.” And I said, “Just say guys it works for everybody.”

I’m used to rolling with the punches. I’ve been around guys in professional football for two years now. I’ve had friends in it forever. But it takes times for guys to see that and know it. And I laugh a lot. I smile a lot. I love those moments. I know they’re challenges to most people and they’re scary, but to me those are the priceless moments. I think it was a big turning point for the guys when I played. We were with the running backs and the coach was like, “Hey running backs, do you have your balls?” And one of the linebackers said, “Yeah, all but Jen.” And I looked at him and I said, “That’s okay, baby, when I need ’em I’ll get yours from your wife’s purse.” And just that moment of not being offended, of rolling with the punches and laughing, it opened up so many. Because they realized that they didn’t have to not be guys around me.

I don’t want to change who they are. I don’t want them to be like, “Oh my gosh coach, blah blah blah.” My guys would get protective at times. If I walked into a conversation they’d say, “Earmuffs, coach.’ I’d be like, “Okay.” And we would joke about it. On the outside, dealing with those issues is a horrible challenge and we don’t know how people are going to do it. Or deal with it. But when you do it, and you get through those moments and you share that laughter, those are the things that truly bond your team and are priceless. Those are the moments you love and you cherish and you laugh about years and years later.

Now that you’re in the NFL, I have to ask: what do you think about this Tom Brady ruling?
You can’t ask me about Tom Brady and want me to say anything about him other than I think he’s an absolute phenomenal player. … And he’s such a humble, good guy that loves the game of football. I hate to see anything tarnish that reputation. I can’t speak to a ruling like that. And I think that there are so many things in football that need to be fixed, that we’re spending, and pardon the pun, but I really am tired of hearing about Tom Brady’s balls. I’d rather move on.

It is kind of serendipitous though or funny or God’s irony that the same day we announce a woman coach in the NFL, we can’t get off Tom Brady’s balls.

Do you think it’s unfortunate that it kind of overshadowed you?
It’s those things that happen years later. Hopefully people will forget about Tom Brady’s balls long before they’ll forget that a girl is coaching in the NFL.

What got you into coaching football in first place?
It was actually former Dallas Cowboy (and first-year Texas Revolution head coach) Wendell Davis who approached me initially about coaching. We met and sat down and had a conversation. He knew I had played for the team the year before. He was just trying to get an understanding of the team, asking me a lot of questions about how things were and what was good, what was bad. As we started talking he started grilling me about football ins and outs, Xs and Os. Like, “What, am I being tested right now? All right. If you’re going to put me on the spot right now, I’ll step up.” And we really got into some great football talk.

Two days later he said, “You know Jen, in the car ride when we left”—and he was with his defensive coordinator at the time—he said, “all we could talk about was how we needed you to coach our football team. How she’d be fantastic.” And I told him, “No. Oh no.” And he was like, “Well, why?” And I said, “I still might play and I might do this.” He said, “Jen, I’m going to be perfectly honest with you. You’re not going to get this opportunity from another guy. So you need to just step up and take it. There’s never been a girl who’s coached before and you’re the right one so do it.” And Wendell just has this way about him. I did turn him down on that phone call but on the next one, he broke me down and I said yes. He really twisted my arm, but he was right. And I’m very thankful for that.

What do apply from your psychology doctorate into coaching?
Everything. My masters is in sports psychology. My doctorate, though it’s in general psychology, we focused entirely in sports. I took everything I learned, cause I was playing, I took everything I learned in psychology and looked for an application to sports and to athletes in general. And I think the biggest thing that most people don’t realize is that athletes are humans too. We see them as players, but we tend to be very bad at looking past the helmet and seeing the people. And a lot of the challenges I saw with my players last season were less about the Xs and Os, and more about life. And I hope, as a coach, that I can help these guys be better men, not just better football players. That’s the goal.

San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon just won a summer league championship. You’re the NFL’s first female coach. The U.S. women’s soccer team captivated the nation, Serena Williams is going for a Grand Slam. Do you think women and sports are having a huge moment, and if so, what long-term can come out of it?
I think the difference with women’s sports now is that people are finally paying attention. Women have been talented athletes and very powerful in sports for a very long time. But they haven’t had the support around them. You know, my first Super Bowl check [Welter refers to the titles she won in the Women’s Football Alliance as Super Bowls] was for 12 dollars. I had to fundraise $3,000 to represent my country as a pioneer as a woman in football. And we thought when we won gold medals we were changing the world for women’s football. We got back and no one even knew what we did.

It takes the support. It’s not just the talent. The talent has been there, there have been amazing women in sports for so long. Unfortunately no one knew they existed. And what’s changing now is that people are getting excited about women in sports. And they realize that for our girls to grow up, and grow up into very strong, successful women, they need to see positive role models. Not just Instagram pictures.

This interview has been edited and condensed.


‘Here’s Why Deflategate Is Still Ridiculous’

Four takeaways from the latest Deflategate news

Not-so-great news, football fans: as training camps kick off this week, pressure gauges and needles are still a hot topic. Did you ever think, upon waking up the morning after the AFC championship game in January, a Patriots romp over the Colts, and hearing about New England possibly deflating footballs, that a few months later this silly-sounding scandal would result in the NFL suspending its Super Bowl MVP, best player, and biggest celebrity for a quarter of a season? That NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would hand down the original four-game suspension to Tom Brady back in May, refuse to recuse himself as appellate judge, and uphold his original ruling upon appeal? That the story of the 2015 NFL season now involves injunctions and smashed cell phones and lawsuits?

Seemed ridiculous at the time. But then again, the NFL seems to specialize in off-field rumpuses. Below are four takeaways from the NFL’s decision to uphold Brady’s suspension.

1. The NFL Created This Mess. Fundamentally, the NFL volunteered to make this a scandal. First off, if mucking with air pressure gives a player a competitive advantage—as Goodell’s decision released Tuesday afternoon contends—then why didn’t NFL rules dictate that someone keep a close eye on the game balls before kickoff? (The NFL is correcting the flaw this year, an acknowledgement that the old policy made little sense).

As Ted Wells’ Delfategate report points out, the Colts gave the NFL office a heads-up about their suspicions that the Pats were deflating footballs. So why didn’t the NFL issue the Pats a warning, or more closely watch the Pats ball attendants to prevent them from allegedly cheating in the first place? And third, why did someone, presumably from the NFL camp, leak PSI information—which turned out to be wrong—to the media in the first place, helping propel the scandal in the Super Bowl walkup?

2. Roger Goodell Says Deflation is Like Taking Steroids. To justify the length of the four-game suspension, Goodell likens deflating footballs to inflating your body via steroids, since both presumably offer a competitive advantage. Yes, he went there, comparing shooting yourself up with body-altering substances to letting some air out of a football.

Goodell also notes that, under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, “the first positive test for the use of performance enhancing drugs has resulted in a four-game suspension.” So, Brady’s alleged attempt to cheat should also warrant four games. But where’s the positive test in Brady’s case? Goodell is basing his punishment on circumstantial evidence, but no accepted smoking gun like a positive test. The NFL can punish PED users without a positive test—a so-called non-analytical positive—but this is rarely done. In 2007, New England Patriots safety Rodney Harrison admitted to using a banned substance and was hit with a four-game suspension. But Brady is not admitting to anything. Is this a fair standard for the Pats QB?

3. Tom Brady Needs A Better Cell Phone Plan. In his decision, Goodell said Brady destroyed his cell phone right before investigators interviewed him, so they could not look at potentially incriminating texts. This looks ridiculously suspicious, and will help plenty of fans conclude that Brady is guilty. Brady also said that he regularly smashes phones, and this particular destruction just happened to coincide with the date of the Deflategate interview. This stretches credulity. From the beginning, the NFL has said it offered Brady the chance to cherry-pick any correspondence from his phone to hand over investigators. So why destroy it in the first place?

4. Tom Brady Needs A Grip. One of the weakest parts of the Wells report was its incrimination of Brady based on his mere texts, phone conversations, and meetings with ball attendants after Deflategate broke. Brady wouldn’t communicate directly with them after any other game: suddenly, they’re in constant contact. Must be getting their stories straight, right? That conclusion, however, never felt convincing. If you’re in Brady’s shoes, and you’re a superstar whose clean-cut image is taking a beating because you allegedly cheated, you might be talking to ball attendants more than usual just to find out what the heck is going on. However, according to Goodell’s decision, Brady suggested that they were talking about the upcoming Super Bowl. “I think most of the conversations centered around breaking in the balls,” Brady testified.

Brady turned a weak portion of the Wells report into a strength for Goodell. The commissioner could now say that if breaking in the balls was so important, why didn’t Brady conduct such communication during other regular season or playoff games? Sure, the Super Bowl is important. But it seems off that Brady would suddenly be so fanatical about the grip of the football, to the point that he had to huddle with ball attendants pronto.

Neither the NFL nor Brady did themselves huge favors in this whole appeals process. And it doesn’t look like this story is going away. Where’s Week 1 when you need it?



Boston Will Be Better Off Without Olympics

The gamble just wasn't worth it

The people got this one right. Boston’s Olympic bid, which came to an abrupt end on Monday, never attracted high enough approval ratings in Beantown. Both the United States Olympic Committee and Boston’s political leaders realized that moving forward in the face of widespread public opposition to the bid would embarrass everyone long-term. Might as well cut bait now. It was a mess, but at least now it’s over.

Boston joins cities such as Oslo, Stockholm, Lviv, Ukraine and Krakow who have all recently reconsidered Olympic bids — and then dropped them. (These international cities all bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics, which will be awarded on July 31 to either Beijing or Almaty, Kazakhstan). Many people, it seems, have wisened up to basic sports economics: the Olympics are just as likely to produce eye-popping cost overruns as they are canoeing medals.

“There’s a lot of evidence that people are Olympics and World Cup weary,” says Andrew Zimbalist, author of Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting The Olympics and World Cup. The book includes ample academic research showing the gamble, indeed, is a losing one. “Billions of dollars are spent on a giant party, and the public gets nothing back,” says Zimbalist.

Zimbalist studied the Boston bid, and is convinced that both the city and state of Massachusetts are better off without it. “I don’t think it made a lot of economic sense,” Zimbalist says. Other cities will still compete with one another to convince the International Olympic Committee to award them the 2024 Summer Games: Hamburg, Rome, Paris and Budapest have all announced intentions to bid. Toronto, fresh off hosting the Pan American Games, may jump in.

Will another U.S. city emerge to replace Boston by the Sept. 15 bidding deadline? All eyes are now turning to Los Angeles, a city with a built-in advantage: L.A. has hosted the Olympics twice before, in 1932 and 1984. In ’84 Los Angeles did not have to dazzle the International Olympic Committee with a sparking, and expensive, bid book. Tehran dropped out, so L.A. had enormous leverage since the city was essentially bidding against itself. According to Zimbalist’s book, the ’84 Games produced a $215 million surplus (and not coincidentally, landed the organizer of those Games, Peter Ueberroth, on the cover of TIME as 1984 Man of the Year). The city’s existing Olympic infrastructure could defray some of the cost. “It’s not unthinkable that Los Angeles can do it the right way,” says Zimbalist.

Still, predicting the cost of an event that will place almost a decade from now is a very tricky business. If recent history is any guide, Los Angeles should take a pass too. It’s already got plenty going for it. Why bother with such a gamble? If a city like Paris feels the need to go all in, well…Paris sounds nice enough in summer.



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