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July 17 2017 9:54 AM
Shane Ross thinks Ireland should bid to host the Olympic Games. Let me just repeat that. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, a senior government member and something of an expert in economics, has openly suggested that Ireland is not only capable of hosting the Olympics, but should actively pursue it.
In case you don’t believe me, here are the exact words he said at his recent department committee meeting.
“Let’s think about the Olympics, sure,” said Ross. “The sky is the limit and we should certainly be thinking that way.”
Such talk only suggests one thing – the madness of the Celtic Tiger is back, because no sooner has the economy shown signs that it’s getting back on an even keel than we’re again talking about living wildly beyond our means.
The scariest thing is that it’s not just anyone doing the talking – it’s the person in charge of billions of euros of public money
.In confusing admirable optimism with sheer lunacy, Shane Ross seems to think that a few uplifting words, setting some high goals, somehow means that he’s inspiring us all to be a better nation.
Let’s just crunch a few numbers, as Ross himself might say. The 2012 London Olympics cost about €12bn to stage. The 2016 Olympics in Rio cost nearly €18bn. By that standard, the cost of the next available games, in 2028, would be something approaching €30bn. Even if we had that kind of money, which we don’t, should we spend it on the Olympics?
Let me put it another way – have we completely lost our minds?
Aside from the bare numbers, let’s look at infrastructure. Hotels are booked out in Dublin, even when a few thousand people visit to attend a conference.
How are we supposed to accommodate the hundreds of thousands that would come to the Olympics, which will occupy not only every venue we currently have in the country, but will require dozens more to be built from scratch?
Even if you had sufficient hotel beds, how exactly would you get people from one place to the next? Our road system is woefully inadequate, our public transport system a joke.
For the past 15 years we’ve been trying to build a basic rapid rail system from the airport to the city centre, something just about every country in the developed world has, and it still hasn’t got off the ground. Ireland is smaller in population than Denmark and Turkmenistan. If either of those countries applied to host the Olympics, we’d be the first to laugh at them.
Yet here is the very person who is unable to allocate desperately needed funds for transport works but is suggesting we should spend a mind-boggling amount of money on a sports-based vanity project.
Plucking a phrase out of his beloved almanac of soundbites, Shane Ross will no doubt say we should “reach for the stars”. But Ross isn’t reaching for the stars. He’s just got his head up his backside.