Fair Games ? – IELTS Reading Passage 2

FAIR GAMES?

For seventeen days every four years the world is briefly arrested by the captivating, dizzying spectacle of athleticism, ambition, pride and celebration on display at the Summer Olympic Games. After the last weary spectators and competitors have returned home, however, host cities are often left awash in high debts and costly infrastructure maintenance. The staggering expenses involved in a successful Olympic bid are often assumed to be easily mitigated by tourist revenues and an increase in local employment, but more often than not host cities are short changed and their taxpayers for generations to come are left settling the debt.

Olympic extravagances begin with the application process. Bidding alone will set most cities back about $20 million, and while officially bidding only takes two years (for cities that make the shortlist), most cities can expect to exhaust a decade working on their bid from the moment it is initiated to the announcement of voting results from International Olympic Committee members. Aside from the financial costs of the bid alone, the process ties up real estate in prized urban locations until the outcome is known. This can cost local economies millions of dollars of lost revenue from private developers who could have made use of the land, and can also mean that particular urban quarters lose their vitality due to the vacant lots. All of this can be for nothing if a bidding city does not appease the whims of IOC members – private connections and opinions on government conduct often hold sway (Chicago’s 2012 bid is thought to have been undercut by tensions over U.S. foreign policy).

Bidding costs do not compare, however, to the exorbitant bills that come with hosting the Olympic Games themselves. As is typical with large-scale, one-off projects, budgeting for the Olympics is a notoriously formidable task. Los Angelinos have only recently finished paying off their budget-breaking 1984 Olympics; Montreal is still in debt for its 1976 Games (to add insult to injury, Canada is the only host country to have failed to win a single gold medal during its own Olympics). The tradition of runaway expenses has persisted in recent years. London Olympics managers have admitted that their 2012 costs may increase ten times over their initial projections, leaving tax payers 20 billion pounds in the red.

Hosting the Olympics is often understood to be an excellent way to update a city’s sporting infrastructure. The extensive demands of Olympic sports include aquatic complexes, equestrian circuits, shooting ranges, beach volleyball courts, and, of course, an 80,000 seat athletic stadium. Yet these demands are typically only necessary to accommodate a brief influx of athletes from around the world. Despite the enthusiasm many populations initially have for the development of world-class sporting complexes in their home towns, these complexes typically fall into disuse after the Olympic fervour has waned. Even Australia, home to one of the world’s most sportive populations, has left its taxpayers footing a $32 million-a-year bill for the maintenance of vacant facilities.

Another major concern is that when civic infrastructure developments are undertaken in preparation for hosting the Olympics, these benefits accrue to a single metropolitan centre (with the exception of some outlying areas that may get some revamped sports facilities). In countries with an expansive land mass, this means vast swathes of the population miss out entirely. Furthermore, since the International Olympic Committee favours prosperous “global” centres (the United Kingdom was told, after three failed bids from its provincial cities, that only London stood any real chance at winning), the improvement of public transport, roads and communication links tends to concentrate in places already well-equipped with world-class infrastructures. Perpetually by-passing minor cities creates a cycle of disenfranchisement: these cities never get an injection of capital, they fail to become first-rate candidates, and they are constantly passed over in favour of more secure choices.

Finally, there is no guarantee that an Olympics will be a popular success. The “feel good” factor that most proponents of Olympic bids extol (and that was no doubt driving the 90 to 100 per cent approval rates of Parisians and Londoners for their cities’ respective 2012 bids) can be an elusive phenomenon, and one that is tied to that nation’s standing on the medal tables. This ephemeral thrill cannot compare to the years of disruptive construction projects and security fears that go into preparing for an Olympic Games, nor the decades of debt repayment that follow (Greece’s preparation for Athens 2004 famously deterred tourists from visiting the country due to widespread unease about congestion and disruption).

There are feasible alternatives to the bloat, extravagance and wasteful spending that comes with a modern Olympic Games. One option is to designate a permanent host city that would be re-designed or built from scratch especially for the task. Another is to extend the duration of the Olympics so that it becomes a festival of several months. Local businesses would enjoy the extra spending and congestion would ease substantially as competitors and spectators come and go according to their specific interests. Neither the “Olympic City” nor the extended length options really get to the heart of the issue, however. Stripping away ritual and decorum in favour of concentrating on athletic rivalry would be preferable.

Failing that, the Olympics could simply be scrapped altogether. International competition could still be maintained through world championships in each discipline. Most of these events are already held on non-Olympic years anyway – the International Association of Athletics Federations, for example, has run a biennial World Athletics Championship since 1983 after members decided that using the Olympics for their championship was no longer sufficient. Events of this nature keep world-class competition alive without requiring Olympic-sized expenses.

Questions

Questions 14–18

Complete each sentence with the correct ending, A–K, below.
Write the correct letter, A–K, in boxes 14–18 on your answer sheet.

14.    Bids to become a host city
15.    Personal relationships and political tensions
16.    Cost estimates for the Olympic Games
17.    Purpose-built sporting venues
18.   Urban developments associated with the Olympics

A.    often help smaller cities to develop basic infrastructure.
B.    tend to occur in areas where they are least needed.
C.    require profitable companies to be put out of business.
D.    are often never used again once the Games are over.
E.    can take up to ten years to complete.
F.    also satisfy needs of local citizens for first-rate sports facilities.
G.    is usually only successful when it is from a capital city.
H.    are closely related to how people feel emotionally about the Olympics.
I.     are known for being very inaccurate.
J.    often underlie the decisions of International Olympic Committee members.
K    are holding back efforts to reform the Olympics.

Questions 19–25

Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage 2? In boxes 19–25 on your answer sheet, write


TRUE    if the statement agrees with the information
FALSE    if the statement contradicts the information
NOT GIVEN    if there is no information on this

19.    Residents of host cities have little use for the full range of Olympic facilities.
20.    Australians have still not paid for the construction of Olympic sports facilities.
21.    People far beyond the host city can expect to benefit from improved infrastructure.
22.    It is difficult for small cities to win an Olympic bid.
23.    When a city makes an Olympic bid, a majority of its citizens usually want it to win.
24.    Whether or not people enjoy hosting the Olympics in their city depends on how athletes from their country perform in Olympic events.
25.    Fewer people than normal visited Greece during the run up to the Athens Olympics.

Questions 26 and 27

Choose TWO letters, A–E.
Write the correct letters in boxes 26 and 27 on your answer sheet.

Which TWO of the following does the author propose as alternatives to the current Olympics?

A.    The Olympics should be cancelled in favour of individual competitions for each sport.
B.    The Olympics should focus on ceremony rather than competition.
C.    The Olympics should be held in the same city every time.
D.    The Olympics should be held over a month rather than seventeen days.
E.    The Olympics should be made smaller by getting rid of unnecessary and unpopular sports.

ANSWERS

Questions 14–18

14. E

  • The information can be found in paragraph 2: “… while officially bidding only takes two years (for cities that make the shortlist), most cities can expect to exhaust a decade working on their bid from the moment it is initiated to the announcement of voting results from International Olympic Committee members.”
  • This means that the total length to complete a bid is a decade, starting from the beginning of the process to the final announcement.
    •  ten years = a decade
  • The answer is E – can take up to ten years to complete.

15. J

  • The information can again be found in paragraph 2: “…All of this can be for nothing if a bidding city does not appease the whims of IOC members – private connections and opinions on government conduct often hold sway (Chicago’s 2012 bid is thought to have been undercut by tensions over US foreign policy).
    • personal relationships = private connections
  • Therefore, for a city to win a bid, there must be good personal relations between it and some IOC members.  Also, tensions over things like unpopular government policy could affect the bid of a city – Chicago in 2012 is used as an example.
  • Thus, the answer is J – often underlie the decisions of International Olympic Committee members.

16. I

  • The information can be found in paragraph 3: “As is typicalwith large-scale, one-off projects, budgeting for the Olympics is a notoriously formidable task. Los Angelinos have only recently finished paying off their budget-breaking 1984 Olympics; Montreal is still in debt for its 1976 Games (to add insult to injury, Canada is the only host country to have failed to win a single gold medal during its own Olympics). The tradition of runaway expenses haspersisted in recent years. London Olympics managers have admitted that their 2012 costs may increase ten times over their initial projections, leaving tax payers 20 billion pounds in the red.”.
    • estimating the costs = budgeting
  • The paragraph gives examples of how numerous countries have failed to estimate the accurate cost for hosting the Olympics and usually end up exceeding the expected budget.
  • The answer is I – are known for being very inaccurate.

17. D

  • The information can be found in paragraph 4: “Despite the enthusiasm many populations initially have for the development of world-class sportingcomplexes in their home towns, these complexes typically fall into disuse after the Olympic fervour has waned.”
    • never used again = fall into disuse
  • This means that sporting venues (=complexes) built only for the Olympics are often never used again once the excitement of the gamesis finished.
  • The answer is D – are often never used again once the Games are over.

18. B

  • The information can be found in paragraph 5: “Furthermore, since the International Olympic Committee favours prosperous “global” centres (the United Kingdom was told, after three failed bids from its provincial cities, that only London stood any real chance at winning), the improvement of public transport, roads and communication links tends to concentrate in places already well-equipped with world-class infrastructures.”
  • This means that as only the most prosperous centres like London have had the chance to host the Olympics, poorer cities will not benefit from the developments in public transport, roads and communication.  However, they are the ones who need it, and not cities which are already developed and wealthy.
  • The answer is B – tend to occur in areas where they are least needed.

Questions 19–25

19. TRUE

  • Key words: residents, host cties, little use, full range, Olympic facilities
  • Paragraph 4 deals with the sporting facilities/infrastructure left behind after the Olympics.  “The extensive demands of Olympic sports include aquatic complexes, equestrian circuits, shooting ranges, beach volleyball courts, and, of course, an 80,000 seat athletic stadium.  Yet these demands are typically only necessary to accommodate a brief influx of athletes from around the world.  Despite the enthusiasm which may populations initially have for the development of world-class sporting complexes in their home towns, these complexes typically fall into disuse after the Olympic fervour has waned.”
  • Some of the facilities are listed in the passage.  However, in the host cities, the local population/residents do not use them much – they fall into disuse.  Therefore, the answer is TRUE.

20. NOT GIVEN

  • Key words: Australians, not paid, construction, Olympic sports facilities
  • The part that mentioned Australia is in paragraph 4: “Even Australia, home to one of the world’s most sportive populations, has left its taxpayers footing a $32 million-a-year bill forthe maintenance of vacant facilities.”
  • However, this sentence only mentioned that Australians have to pay 32 million dollars to maintain the facilities, but the information about Australia not paying the construction fees is not mentioned.
  • The answer is NOT GIVEN.

21. FALSE

  • Key words: people, far, host city, expect, benefit, improved infrastructure
  • The information can be found in paragraph 5: “Another major concern is that when civic infrastructure developments are undertaken in preparation for hosting the Olympics,these benefits accrue to a single metropolitan centre (with the exception of some outlying areas that may get some revamped sports facilities).”
  • This means that developments in infrastructure are only enjoyed by the host cities and some surrounding areas, not those which are far away from the host city.
  • The answer is FALSE.

22. TRUE

  • The information can be found in paragraph 5: “…Perpetually by-passing minor cities creates a cycle of disenfranchisement: these cities never get an injection of capital, they fail to become first-rate candidates, and they are constantly passed over in favour of more secure choices.”
    • small = minor
  • This means that small cities are usually not chosen to host the Olympics, so they do not receive investment, without which they cannot develop and cannot become strong candidates to host the Olympics. Therefore, it is not easy for small cities to host the Olympics.
  • The answer is TRUE.

23. NOT GIVEN

  • Key words: city, makes an Olympic bid, majority, citizens, want to win
  • Paragraph 6 does mention the high approval rates (support) of people in Paris and London for their Olympic bids.  However, we are not told if this is true for all cities that make Olympic bids: “Finally, there is no guarantee that an Olympics will be a popular success.”
  • The answer is NOT GIVEN.

24. TRUE

  • Key words: whether or not, enjoy hosting, depends on, how atheletes perform
  • The information can be found in paragraph 6: “The “feel good” factor that most proponents of Olympic bids extol (and that was no doubt driving the 90 to 100 per cent approval rates of Parisians and Londoners for their cities’ respective 2012 bids) can be an elusive phenomenon, and one that is tied to that nation’s standing on the medal tables.”
    • depends on = tied to
  • This means that the number of medals which a nation wins is an important factor in determining whether the local people enjoy hosting the Olympics or not.
  • The answer is TRUE.

25. TRUE

  • Key words: fewer people, visited Greece, run up, Athens Olympics
  • The information can be found in paragraph 6: “Greece’s preparation for Athens 2004 famously deterred tourists from visiting the country due to widespread unease about congestion and disruption”.
    • run up = preparation
  • This means that disruption in Athens before the 2004 Olympics discouraged people from visiting the country.
  • The answer is TRUE.

Questions 26 and 27

26.&27. A;C (in either order)

  • The information about alternatives for the current Olympics can be found in paragraphs 7and 8.
  • “There are feasible alternatives to the bloat, extravagance and wasteful spending that comes with a modern Olympic Games. One option is to designate a permanent host city that would be re-designed or built from scratch especially for the task. Another is to extend the duration of theOlympicsso that it becomes a festival of several months. Local businesses would enjoy the extra spending and congestion would ease substantially as competitors and spectators come and go according to their specific interests. Neither the “Olympic City” nor the extended length options really get to the heart of the issue, however. Stripping away ritual and decorum in favour of concentrating on athletic rivalry would be preferable.”
  • “Failing that, the Olympics could simply be scrapped altogether.  International competition could still be maintained through world championships in each discipline”.
    • cancelled = scrapped
    • sport = discipline
  • B is not correct, because the writer is in favour of focusing on athletic rivalry, not ‘ritual and decorum’.
  • D is not correct, because the writer suggests that the Olympics could be held over several months, not one month.
  • E is not correct, because the writer does not refer to unpopular sports.
  • A is correct: one option is to hold the Olympics in the same city every time – that city will be the permanent site.
  • C is correct: the writer suggests that the Olympics could be abolished in favour of world championships in each sport.
  • The answers are A and C.

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