TIME Running

Usain Bolt Makes Olympic-Sized Statement at World Championships

(SP)CHINA-BEIJING-IAAF WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS-MEN'S 100M FINAL(CN)
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 athletics

Sebastian Coe Will Be the Next President of the IAAF

Coe won the election 115-92

(BEIJING) — Sebastian Coe has won a four-year term as president of the governing body for track and field, beating Sergei Bubka in an election Wednesday and given the mandate to restore the image of an IAAF hierarchy grappling with a doping controversy.

The 58-year-old Coe won the election by 115 votes to 92 and will replace 82-year-old Lamine Diack of Senegal, who stood down after 16 years.

Coe, a two-time Olympic 1,500-meter gold medalist, former Conservative Party lawmaker in Britain and chairman of the London 2012 bid and organizing committee, reportedly traveled 700,000 kilometers (435,000 miles) during the campaign and, unlike Bubka, had only nominated for the top job without the fallback option of vice-president.

“In the best traditions of everything we both believe in our sport, it was fought according to sound judgment throughout,” said Coe, who described his election as the second-most momentous event of his life after the birth of his children.

Ukraine pole vault great Bubka, a former Olympic and world championship gold medalist and long-time world-record holder, retained his position as a vice president in a subsequent poll.

The IAAF election, held in the lead-up to the world championships which start Saturday in Beijing, has been overshadowed by intense criticism of the world body following media reports that it has failed to act on evidence of widespread blood doping.

German broadcaster ARD and Britain’s The Sunday Times newspaper citied leaked test results from a 2011 study in an IAAF database and asserted that blood doping was rampant in the sport.

The IAAF last week denied it had tried to block publication of the study, and confirmed that 28 athletes had been caught in retests of their doping samples from the 2005 and 2007 world championships but said none of the athletes will be competing in this year’s competition.

Coe, who last week described the allegations as a “declaration of war” against the sport, has proposed a fully independent anti-doping tribunal to deal with the issues.

Diack defended the IAAF handling of doping under his watch, saying the sport’s governing body had continually introduced new measures to combat doping and was at the forefront of the anti-doping campaign in sports.

“A newspaper stole some information from our databank but our officers have reacted in an admirable way,” Diack said in his opening address at the two-day congress. “They have said, ‘This is what we have done, this is what we’re doing.'”

“We will be holding these championships in Beijing and people will say ’80 percent of the athletes are bound to test positive,’ but no, this is totally untrue,” Diack added. “We must resolve, of course, the problem of doping. All the champions must be tested regularly and each country must have its own anti-doping body.”

In other voting:

— Dahlan Al Hamad, Hamad Kalkaba Malboum and Alberto Juantorena were elected as vice-presidents along with Bubka.

— Jose Maria Odriozola of Spain was elected as treasurer.

— USA Track and Field president Stephanie Hightower topped the list of six elected as female individual council members.

Diack had not publicly endorsed either Coe or Bubka in the presidential election, but was delighted to see his successor was from “a new generation coming up and a man who has devoted his life to the sport.”

“It’s a great moment we’ve just lived,” Diack said. “We can say our sport is in safe hands that are able to carry it up to another level.”

TIME brazil

Brazilian Police Killed More Than 5,000 Civilians in Rio Between 2005 and 2014, Report Says

Brazil Beefs Up Security Ahead Of Olympic Games
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Armed officers from the Pacifying Police Unit (UPP) patrol in the Providencia favela of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Monday, June 22, 2015.

The report, by Amnesty International, also suggests killings are largely performed with impunity

A new 90-page report from Amnesty International titled You Killed My Son says law enforcement claimed the lives of 5,132 Brazilians in the city of Rio de Janeiro between 2005 and 2014, out of a total 8,466 killings in the state of Rio de Janeiro during that period.

It also makes the chilling allegation that 9 out of 10 police killings in 2014 and 2015 in one Rio favela, Acari, were “extrajudicial executions” — the intentional, illegal killing of a person after they have already surrendered or been apprehended.

Nearly 16% of Rio’s homicides in 2014 were committed by police officers, Amnesty alleges. Furthermore, the report suggests that these killings are by and large performed with impunity. Amnesty found that of 220 investigations opened into alleged police killings in Rio in 2011, “only one case led to a police officer being charged,” and that as of this past April, “183 investigations were still open.”

“The lack of adequate investigation and conviction of the perpetrators of police killings sends a message that these crimes are tolerated by the authorities, which in turn fuels a cycle of violence,” the report says.

The report comes almost exactly a year prior to the opening ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, which have attracted pre-emptive scrutiny for potential infrastructure, security and health risks.

TIME Sports

See the Controversial Drama of Adolf Hitler’s 1936 Summer Olympics

On Aug. 3, 1936, Jesse Owens won his first gold medal. But that year's Olympic Games had a sinister side, too.

It was no surprise that the 1936 Summer Olympics were going to be complicated. The wrangling had begun months before the games, as the U.S. considered whether to pull out of the games over the suspicion that Jewish athletes were not being allowed to compete for spots on teams for the host nation, Germany. By the time Hitler and the German team opened the games that August, TIME noted that the athletic events were being overshadowed by “other doings in Berlin.” (In that issue of the magazine, the Games shared space with the news that the German church was protesting Naziism and that Charles Lindbergh was in the country and meeting top Nazi officials.)

“Whether or not the Olympic Games actually serve their purpose of promoting international understanding remains dubious,” TIME commented the following week.

The bright spot was Jesse Owens. It was on this day, Aug. 3, in 1936, that Ohio’s track phenom won the gold in the 100-m. dash, after setting a new record for that race the day before. Before the week was up, he had won at the long jump and the 200-m. dash, and helped bring a relay team to first place too.

At the Owens cabana in the Olympic Village, awed rivals crowded to feel the Owens muscles, get the Owens autograph. In Cleveland Governor Martin L. Davey decreed a Jesse Owens Day. Over the radio, Mrs. Henry Cleveland Owens described her son: “Jesse was always a face boy. . . . When a problem came up, he always faced it.” Said Face Boy Owens, before his fourth trip to the Victory Stand to have a laurel wreath stuck on his kinky head, be awarded a minute potted oak tree and the Olympic first prize of a diploma and a silver-gilt medal: “That’s a grand feeling standing up there. … I never felt like that before. . . .”

Not everyone, of course, saw Owens’ victories as highlights. Hitler famously refused to congratulate him; as TIME explained in the same story, a prominent Nazi theory to explain why the U.S. was beating the host nation so much was “that Negroes are not really people” but rather an “auxiliary force” brought in by the otherwise disappointing real (white) American team. Despite the attempt to explain away the wins with such falsehoods, Owens had proved Hitler’s theories about race differences wrong.

When Owens died in 1980, TIME noted that his time on the track ended up ultimately less important than his timing in history: “At the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, which Adolf Hitler hoped would be a showcase of Aryan supremacy, Owens won four gold medals in track and field events, a feat not equaled since. The sight of the graceful American’s soaring victory in the long jump and his Olympic-record wins in the 100-and 200-meter dashes and 400-meter relay put the lie to der Führer’s simplistic myths about race.”

Read more about Jesse Owens from 1936, here in the TIME Vault: Hero Owens

TIME olympics

Beijing Wins Bid to Host 2022 Winter Olympics

The huge financial burden prompted most candidates to drop out

The final choice for the host city of the 2022 Winter Olympics was uninspiring. One candidate, Beijing, which co-bid with the lesser-known Chinese city of Zhangjiakou, spent months trying to convince International Olympic Committee (IOC) delegates that its famously bad air — not to mention lack of natural snow — shouldn’t scupper its chances.

The other contender, Almaty, boast lots of powdery stuff because of its positioning at the foothills of the Tian Shan range. (Almaty’s slogan, perhaps aimed at Beijing and its man-made snow, was Keeping It Real.) But Kazakhstan’s former capital had to overcome a serious obstacle: its obscurity, especially compared with a Chinese city of more than 20 million people.

The two candidates shared other weaknesses: neither has much in the way of global winter wonderland appeal. And both are tainted by the authoritarian governments that lead them. In recent months, China’s President Xi Jinping, who just hours before the Olympic decision appeared in a video pitching Beijing 2022, has presided over a crackdown on civil society, in which hundreds of people — such as lawyers, writers and women’s rights activists — have been detained. Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev claimed a 98% victory in this year’s polls but the long-serving leader has a habit of muzzling the media and jailing his opponents.

On July 31, at a secret vote by around 85 IOC members in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the 2022 Winter Olympics were awarded to the oddmakers’ favorite, Beijing. After all, the Chinese capital had successfully hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics. No one doubts China’s ability to build needed infrastructure within seven years. “There can only be one winner,” said IOC President Thomas Bach, in a razzle-dazzle ceremony, complete with soaring music. Xi, in his video campaign, had already projected that Beijing 2022, the 24th Winter Olympics, would be “fantastic, extraordinary and excellent.”

The K.L. polling was marred by technical doubts in which the initial vote by electronic tablet was considered possibly lacking in “integrity,” forcing IOC members to vote again by written ballots. Previous IOC ballots, including one in which Beijing lost to Sydney by two votes for the right to host the 2000 Summer Games, were marred by vote-buying scandals. The IOC vowed to root out corruption within its ranks. Late last year, the powerful group also unveiled reforms designed to limit the budget overruns that have plagued recent host cities.

The IOC was left with Beijing/Zhangjiakou and Almaty by default, after cities such as Oslo and Stockholm pulled themselves out of the race because of financial concerns. (Lviv’s bid was derailed by war in Ukraine.) Olympics may bring global prestige but they have a habit of saddling host cities with huge bills and sporting facilities that rust away after the crowds disperse. The 2014 Sochi Olympics, for instance, cost Russia an estimated $50 billion.

For 2022, Beijing and Almaty gave estimates of $3-5 billion (including some infrastructure not specifically for the Games) but Olympic cities rarely stick to their budgets. Sochi overspent by $36 billion. Earlier this week, the U.S. Olympic Committee pulled the plug on Boston’s bid to host the 2024 Summer Games, after local opposition to the potential financial burden.

In the run-up to the July 31 victory, Beijing brought out Chinese icons like towering basketball legend Yao Ming to promise that the Games would be “athlete-centered.” Other former Olympians gave assurances about Beijing’s air, which city officials said had improved by around 15% in the first half months of 2015, compared to the same period last year. “We will improve the air quality not only for the Games but also for the demand of our people,” said Shen Xue, a pairs figure-skating gold medalist, according to Chinese state newswire Xinhua. “No matter whether we win the bid or not, we will take efforts to improve the air quality.”

Chinese Olympic officials vowed that snow-making efforts would be “sustainable” in a chronically parched region. To speed the journey to the ski slopes of Zhangjiakou, which are around 200 km from downtown Beijing, city-planners have promised to build a high-speed rail system that will transport athletes in less than an hour — a third of the time it now takes. In other countries such a project might seem overwhelming. But this is a country that has already expanded its national rail network in record time.

Beijing’s 2022 bid slogan was translated in English as Joyful Rendezvous Upon Pure Ice and Snow. (It sounds better in Mandarin.) President Xi has enthused about the potential for winter sports development in his homeland — just imagine, 1.3 billion lugers, biathletes and curlers, if Xi’s estimate of future winter sports enthusiasts is to be believed. Still, sports are not integrated into daily life in China as they are in, say, Brazil or even India. Zhangjiakou, where Olympic snowboarding, biathlon and certain skiing events will take place, has developed resorts for aspiring Beijing skiers but it was traditionally better known for fur production.

The Beijing 2008 Olympics were expertly choreographed and allowed China to proclaim its rising super-power status. China won 51 gold medals, more than any other country. The medal haul was all the more impressive given that China won just five gold medals two decades before in Seoul. But the Beijing Olympics suffered from a fun deficit. Compared to other Games, there were fewer public venues where locals could gather to watch the competition on TV and rejoice in China’s sporting glory; some residents resorted to peering through a metal fence at the lavish venues. Even today, despite efforts by the government to encourage nationwide fitness, school sports remain underfunded for children who aren’t being cultivated as potential Olympians. (Chinese kids need to spend more time cramming for tests.)

The fact that China has already hosted an Olympics and made history may explain why the domestic reaction to the 2022 race was relatively muted. On Friday morning, a corruption investigation of a retired People’s Liberation Army general generated more cyberspace comment than the Winter Olympics vote. International human-rights campaigners, however, used the occasion to highlight human-rights violations in both candidate nations. “Whether China or Kazakhstan wins the honor of hosting the 2022 Winter Games, the IOC will face an extreme test of its new commitment to improve human rights protections,” said Minky Worden, Global Initiatives director at Human Rights Watch, before the final vote. “The International Olympic Committee should insist that the host country rigorously comply with the Olympic Charter and basic human rights rules — or risk losing the right to host the games.”

At least Beijing is a known quantity, even if co-host Zhangjiakou is less recognized. (Zhangjiakou progressively lost shared billing with the Chinese capital as the bid progressed.) Any guesses where the 2018 Winter Olympics will be held? That would be Pyeongchang, South Korea. Not exactly a world-famous winter retreat like Innsbruck (the 1964 Games), Sapporo (1972) or Vancouver (2010).

TIME Innovation

Boston’s 2024 Olympics Bid Could Have Been Saved

Signatures of support for Boston 2024 cover a banner on the table at a grassroots campaign in Boston on March 14, 2015.
John Tlumacki—The Boston Globe via Getty Images Signatures of support for Boston 2024 cover a banner on the table at a grassroots campaign in Boston on March 14, 2015.

It needed a bold statement of commitment to the city—not the Olympics

Boston’s pursuit of Olympic gold has been dying a slow death over the past seven months.

The final nail in the coffin came Monday, when Mayor Marty Walsh refused to sign a taxpayer guarantee as requested by the Unites States Olympic Committee (USOC), which would have taken effect in the event of cost overruns and revenue shortfalls.

As the city’s chief public official, Walsh was right to hold the line, to protect taxpayers and safeguard the future fiscal health and economic growth of the city and region.

But before the Walsh rebuff, Boston 2024 had other big hurdles to overcome. From the beginning, the bid played as a struggle between Boston’s business elite and commoners – the powerful versus powerless, the haves versus have-nots.

The Boston 2024 Olympic committee read as a who’s who of Boston corporate giants and sports celebrities. Those opposed included a collection of concerned residents, city councilors, local politicians and academics.

Boston 2024 and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) saw it necessary to alter and access neighborhoods, institutions and roads to accommodate Olympics venues, athletes and media. Those opposed said not so fast – we live and work here, want to know the true costs and would like to be included in the planning.

And tidbits such as assuring exclusive travel lanes on highways for IOC VIPs, athletes and corporate sponsors, and the high salaries and compensation for Boston 2024 staff and consultants, only added fuel to the haves versus have-nots narrative.

In the end, this narrative and, ultimately, the failed Olympic bid is unfortunate. As executive director of Wheelock College’s Aspire Institute, a social and education innovation center, I’ve seen and studied firsthand the many problems that plague Boston, from crumbling schools to endemic homelessness.

While the Boston 2024 bid raised many questions about the priorities of its backers, it also offered a historic opportunity to catalyze new development and transform the city in key ways. Boston 2024 could have been saved with only a bit more vision and a bold statement of commitment to the city – not the Olympics – by backers.

The wrong priorities

The prevailing narrative stems from the perceived sharp contrast between the priorities of the bidding committee and those of Bostonians.

At the same time as Boston 2024 proposed spending billions to construct new venues, the Boston Public Schools (BPS) announced its own 10-year Educational and Facility Master Plan.

While the former involved building an Olympic stadium, aquatics center, velodrome and an US$800 million deck over Widett Circle, the latter aimed to improve the physical condition of BPS’s 133 aging school facilities, expand early childhood programs, support dual language learners and children with special needs and promote STEM learning and technology-enhanced education.

Boston 2024 revealed slick plans for an Athletes’ Village that would be converted, post-Olympics, to 2,700 dorm beds for the University of Massachusetts’ Boston campus and 8,000 housing units nine years from now.

Yet this wouldn’t address the current housing crisis. Boston leads all of the 25 major US cities in the number of residents living in emergency shelters. Massachusetts also has one of the highest rates of family homelessness of any state in the country.

Further, Transportation for Massachusetts (a local coalition of organizations advocating for new transportation policy and initiatives) and TRIP (a national nonpartisan transportation research group) warned of the state’s huge need to invest in its system of roads, highways, bridges and public transportation in order to support economic growth, ensure safety, protect the environment and enhance residents’ quality of life.

Boston 2024 agreed that transportation enhancements were needed and critical to hosting a successful Olympics. Yet they had no plans to contribute funding to these enhancements.

Could Boston 2024 have been saved?

Whether the critiques of Boston 2024 are fair or not, the casualty of Boston’s derailed bid is the loss of a truly historic opportunity for long-term, large-scale economic and community development.

Plans included development of two new neighborhoods in currently underdeveloped, underinvested areas, as well as the creation of new public spaces and commercial areas. Lost too is the $4 billion in private investment, creation of thousands of jobs and intensified scrutiny of and urgency to improve our outdated transportation infrastructure. I concur with Boston 2024 Chairman Steve Pagliuca that this could have been “the biggest economic development opportunity of our lifetimes.”

What would have saved Boston 2024? What could have countered the anti-bid arguments and sentiments?

One bold move: Boston 2024 and the business leaders behind it should have pledged planning, support and private funding for economic community development in the city, regardless of whether Boston won the bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Such a pledge would have instantly and powerfully communicated the goodwill, commitment and intent of Boston 2024 leaders to all of Boston and Massachusetts. And this pledge could have had important, reasonable caveats.

For example, in the case of a failed bid, the pledge might be downsized to $2 billion in private investment (half of the current goal), a focus on just residential and commercial development projects and the already committed public capital funding.

Tax breaks and other incentives to developers – as proposed in the Olympic plan – would still lure private investors, and the city would still benefit from the projected tax revenue from new residential and commercial areas. Gone would be the billions in projected Olympic revenues. But the important community development would have gone forward.

Would such a pledge have been a long shot? A huge risk for business leaders? Of course, but so was Boston 2024 all along. Perhaps the risk was not having gone this far, in making this “no matter what” pledge.

As Chairman Pagliuca put it: “The riskiest move of all can be watching an opportunity slip away.”

This article originally appeared on The ConversationThe Conversation

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY Taxes

Why Boston Refused to Host the 2024 Olympics

180513422
Steve Dunwell—Getty Images

“I will not sign a document that puts one penny of taxpayers’ money on the line for Olympics cost overruns,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said.

Boston and the U.S. Olympic Committee jointly announced on Monday the ending of the city’s campaign to host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Earlier Monday, Boston mayor Marty Walsh said he would not put taxpayers at risk by signing a contract with the United States Olympic Committee and would drop the city’s bid to host the Summer Games in 2024 if required to sign on Monday.

“I will not sign a document that puts one penny of taxpayers’ money on the line for Olympics cost overruns,” Walsh said at a press conference on Monday.

Olympic organizers set a provision that requires the host city to cover any cost overruns in the lead-up to the Olympics. A $4.6 billion plan was released in late June as part of Boston’s revised bid, in which about half of the originally planned venues were changed or relocated.

Walsh also said he would have “no regrets” about Boston’s Olympic bid being pulled and that he had spoken with Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker about the possibility.

“As we reflected on the timing and the status of our bid in this international competition, we have jointly come to the conclusion that the extensive efforts required in Boston at this stage of the bid process would detract from the U.S.’ ability to compete against strong interest from cities like Rome, Paris, Budapest and Hamburg,” Boston 2024 partnership chairman Steve Pagliuca said in a release. “For this reason, we have jointly decided to withdraw Boston’s bid in order to give the Olympic movement in the United States the best chance to bring the Games back to our country in 2024. In doing so, Boston 2024 Partnership will offer our support and the extensive knowledge we have gained in developing our Bid 2.0 to any American city that may choose to participate in the 2024 bidding process going forward.”

The USOC has expressed interest in working closely with city and state leaders in an effort to help the U.S. secure hosting rights for the first time since the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. New York and Chicago failed in their attempts to secure the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, respectively.

Los Angeles, host of the 1932 and 1984 Games, may be ready to take the place of Boston as the USOC’s candidate city. National Olympic committees have until Sept. 15 to submit their candidate city selection to the International Olympic Committee.

“When Boston was selected in January of this year, we were excited about the possibility of partnering with Boston’s great universities in a bid that would take advantage of existing college facilities and spur the development of much-needed sport, transportation and residential infrastructure for the City of Boston,” USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said in a release. “The cornerstone idea behind Boston’s bid was sound. We want to compliment and thank Steve Pagliuca and his team at Boston 2024 for the remarkable work they have done in the last two months to transform a powerful idea into a fiscally responsible reality that would have benefited the City of Boston and America’s athletes for decades to come. Because of the good work of Boston 2024, we know that the Boston Games would have been good for Boston, just like the Olympic Games were good for Lake Placid, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Salt Lake City.

“When we made the decision to bid for the 2024 Olympic Games, one of the guiding principles that we adopted was that we would only submit a bid that we believed could win.”

This article originally appeared on Sports Illustrated.

TIME

Boston Mayor Threatens to Drop Olympics Bid Over Budget

at UMass Campus Center on March 22, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.
Paul Marotta—Getty Images Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh hosts a Municipal Strategies for Financial Empowerment, a public forum at UMass Campus Center on March 22, 2015 in Boston.

“I refuse to mortgage the future of the city away"

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh threatened Monday to drop the city’s bid for the 2024 Olympic Games if the U.S. Olympic Committee demands a guarantee that would require Boston taxpayers to cover budgetary shortfalls.

Walsh said that while he believes the Olympics could benefit the city, he vowed not to sign an agreement without knowing there are taxpayer protections in place, Boston.com reports.

“I refuse to mortgage the future of the city away,” Walsh said at a news conference. “I refuse to put Boston on the hook for overruns, and I refuse to commit to signing a guarantee that uses taxpayers’ dollars to pay for the Olympics.”

The host city contract with the U.S. Olympic Committee would require the city to agree to cover any financial shortfalls in building the massive infrastructure around the 2024 games. Massachusetts’ governor, Charlie Baker has also expressed skepticism of a bid that shifts the burden of paying for Olympics infrastructure too heavily on Boston taxpayers.

The USOC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

[Boston.com]

TIME brazil

These 5 Facts Explain Brazil’s Crippling Scandals

Brazil Dilma Rousseff
Giuseppe Lami—AP Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff speaks during a joint press conference with Italian Premier Matteo Renzi, at Chigi's Premier Palace in Rome on July 10, 2015.

From a tanking economy to rampant corruption scandals, the 'B' in BRICS is in trouble

There are a series of scandals growing in Brazil, Latin America’s biggest country and one of the world’s most important emerging markets. The fallout could bring down a president who was reelected less than a year ago. Here are the 5 facts that tell the story:

1. Brazil’s Economy

Scandals are most damaging when an economy is slowing down. Brazil had a $2.35 trillion economy in 2014, the seventh-largest in the world. But 2015 has gotten off to a rocky start; foreign investment is down from $39.3 billion in the first five months of 2014 to $25.5 billion this year. Overall investment in the country has fallen for seven straight quarters.

Even worse, Brazil’s currency, the real, has lost 20 percent of its value since January. This by itself isn’t a bad thing—a less valued currency should make its assets cheaper and more attractive to foreign investors. Instead, Brazil’s economy is expected to shrink 1.5 percent this year.

Political scandals, and the uncertainty they create, are helping to scare off investors. The most visible involves Petrobras, the state-controlled oil company. As the scandal has unfolded, Petrobras stock has fallen 60% over the past year, and the company has had to write off $2 billion in bribery-related costs, while grappling with low oil prices.

(World Bank, Economist, Google Finance, CNN Money)

2. Petrobras Investigation

Why is a corruption scandal involving one company causing such shockwaves? Because it implicates the country’s highest political officials. The scandal began in March 2014, when Petrobras’s chief of refining was caught in a money-laundering investigation. In a bid for leniency, he confessed that companies awarded contracts from his division had diverted 3 percent of each contract’s value into political slush funds. Most of the money went to members of the governing Workers’ Party or their coalition allies. Initial estimates value the bribes at nearly $4 billion. Over two dozen executives from Brazil’s largest construction companies have already been arrested, and more than 50 politicians are now under investigation.

(Economist, WSJ)

3. Dilma Rousseff

This scandal could reach to the political mountaintop, because current Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff served as energy minister and chairwoman of Petrobras during the years of alleged corruption. There is still no evidence that Rousseff had knowledge of wrongdoing. But given the number of politicians from her Workers’ Party implicated in the scandal, a growing number of people say she is at least guilty of unpardonable negligence. Political opponents are calling for her impeachment, and the public’s suspicion is reflected in her poll numbers. In June 2012, Rousseff enjoyed a 59 percent favorability rating; in March 2014, around the time the scandal broke, her numbers had fallen to 36 percent. Her favorability rating has now plummeted to just 15 percent, according to Brazilian pollster CNT-MDA. Nearly 63 percent of Brazilians favor impeachment. On March 15, 1 million demonstrators gathered to protest Rousseff and the corruption of her government and the worst is probably yet to come.

(Financial Times, Bloomberg (a), Bloomberg (b), Reuters (a), Reuters (b))

4. Lula

Why? Because her mentor and political patron, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, is now being investigated for influence-peddling on behalf of Brazil’s construction giant Oderbrecht. Oderbrecht’s CEO was arrested last month on charges that he paid Petrobras nearly $155 million in bribes. When Lula left office, he held an approval rating of 90 percent, and Rousseff, his chosen successor, rode his coattails to the presidency. Rousseff should be worried; if Lula is indicted, he may blame Rousseff’s government, withdrawing his support for her. If so, Rousseff defenders within the ruling party may finally turn their backs on her.

Lula isn’t the only former president being investigated over Petrobras. Fernando Collor de Mello, Brazil’s president in the early 1990s, had over $1 million is cash and vehicles seized last week while investigators determine his role in Petrobras bribes.

(Wall Street Journal, Guardian, New York Times)

5. CARF and other scandals

Petrobras has dominated international headlines, but it’s not the only corruption scandal threatening the government. The latest involves the Administrative Council of Fiscal Resources (CARF), a division of the finance ministry. It’s alleged that some of its members, tasked with resolving tax disputes filed by corporations, ruled in favor of firms in exchange for 1 to 10 percent of the saved revenue. Over the last 10 years, the government is believed to have lost tax revenue of much as $5.8 billion. That’s nearly 50 percent more than the bribery figures associated with the Petrobras case. But because this case involves mid-level bureaucrats instead of top government officials, it receives far less attention from international media.

By the way, don’t forget Brazil hosts the 2016 Summer Olympics. Brazil has budgeted $8 billion for the Rio de Janeiro games—but Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes has bragged publicly that 57% of the financing will come from private sources instead of taxpayer pockets. Given Brazil’s current political climate, this news will raise eyebrows and new questions.

(Economist, Guardian)

 

TIME Japan

Japan Cancels Plan to Build Costly ‘Bike Helmet’ Stadium for Olympics

Country will seek a more affordable design for new facility

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has canceled plans to build a large new stadium shaped like a bike helmet for the 2020 Olympics. The new Tokyo stadium, designed by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, had been criticized for its high construction cost and a design that some said clashed with traditional Japanese aesthetics.

“I have made a decision to take the plan back to square one and reconsider,” Abe told reporters Friday. He said he would seek out a new design with a lower construction cost. The bike helmet stadium had been projected to cost more than $2 billion.

The new stadium was supposed to be completed in time for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, as well as the 2020 Olympics. The project now won’t be ready for the rugby event, but Abe said he was sure the facility would be completed in time for the Olympics.

[CNN]

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