Unwanted facilities, debt: Why cities are growing reluctant to host the World Cup and mega events

There is growing public ambivalence to such spectacles because of debacles like the Athens, Sochi and Rio Olympics, and the South Africa and Brazil World Cups.

Getting ready to welcome millions of visitors – as Russia is now doing in Moscow, Sochi and other cities in advance of the 2018 World Cup soccer tournament – takes years of planning and lots of construction. It’s also expensive: building 12 stadiums in 11 cities cost Russia an estimated $11 billion.

When these big events are underway, they always seem worth the money and the trouble. Having worked at three World Expos, attended the Olympics twice and gone to a Tour de France and an Australian Open, I have personally experienced the palpable excitement they offer. But I have also done enough research to see that international extravaganzas don’t always benefit the locals in the long run.

I’m on a team at Michigan State University’s mega-event planning research group that identifies what works and what may prove disastrous.

Here’s what we’ve learned.

Local priorities

An overarching challenge we always see is that the organisations running big events and the public have different priorities. One side mainly cares about boosting its brand through the one-time spectacle’s success. The other wants to raise its profile and acquire new buildings, roads and other infrastructure that will improve the local quality of life in the long run – without breaking the bank.

In my view, both FIFA, the global governing body for soccer, and the International Olympic Committee, which organises the Winter and Summer Games, need to reconsider their business models and start doing more to meet the needs of host cities. Metropolitan areas that successfully host these big events make them a means to an end: becoming better places to live.

Sometimes building what it takes to host a World Cup or other big events dovetails with a city’s ambitions. More often, the extensive preparations distort local priorities. Since the World Cup soccer tournament requires world-class stadiums that some host countries lack when they win the honor of hosting it, a construction frenzy ensues when a metropolitan area has the honor of hosting one.

That was certainly the case with Brazil’s 2014 and South Africa’s 2010 World Cups, when the host countries built several stadiums that soon proved unnecessary.

Likewise, the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro looked great on TV, but left behind many venues that quickly became a shambles following a process riddled with corruption that displaced thousands of people.

Public ambivalence

Despite promises by event organisers and local bid committees, and expectations by the public that the event will solve some of their daily urban problems, host cities often end up with unwanted or unused facilities and saddled with debts that will take decades to repay.

The Olympics, which tend to be concentrated in a single metropolitan area, also often require oddball venues like baseball and beach volleyball stadiums in Athens or Rio’s Whitewater Stadium for canoeing and kayaking that may never be used again because the facilities are not maintained or no one plays that sport in the area.

There is growing public ambivalence to mega events because of debacles like the Athens, Sochi and Rio Olympics, and the South Africa and Brazil World Cups. Of the six finalists for the 2022 Winter Games, four withdrew: Stockholm, Sweden; Krakow, Poland; Lviv, Ukraine; and Oslo, Norway due to public backlash and cost concerns. That only left Almaty, Kazakhstan, and the eventual winner, Beijing.

Boston and the German city of Hamburg withdrew their 2024 Olympic bids because of the public’s objections. Similarly, Vancouver backed out of the running to host the 2026 World Cup. When local leaders simply express an interest in holding one of these big events these days, a rapid and vocal questioning of the benefits of a bid usually ensues.

Four years before Qatar gets to host the 2022 World Cup, it already promises to serve as another example of what not to do. Hundreds of workers have died from doing dangerous construction related to the event, according to Human Rights Watch, in a process reportedly marked by corruption.

Better options

But to be sure, there are some success stories.

When countries largely have had all the venues they needed, such as the World Cups held in France in 1998 and Germany in 2006, the investments required are more reasonable and practical, since the new venues are sure to be used.

And Los Angeles led the way in 1984 toward finding more efficient ways to host the Olympics by using existing venues and donations for facilities. As that same city plans for the 2028 Olympics, it may once again get a chance to illustrate how cities can up their Olympic game by insisting on construction and other public works that will benefit their communities in the long run.

Mark Wilson, Professor and Program Director, Urban & Regional Planning, School of Planning, Design and Construction, Michigan State University

This article first appeared on The Conversation.

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The next Industrial Revolution is here – driven by the digitalization of manufacturing processes

Technologies such as Industry 4.0, IoT, robotics and Big Data analytics are transforming the manufacturing industry in a big way.

The manufacturing industry across the world is seeing major changes, driven by globalization and increasing consumer demand. As per a report by the World Economic Forum and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd on the future of manufacturing, the ability to innovate at a quicker pace will be the major differentiating factor in the success of companies and countries.

This is substantiated by a PWC research which shows that across industries, the most innovative companies in the manufacturing sector grew 38% (2013 - 2016), about 11% year on year, while the least innovative manufacturers posted only a 10% growth over the same period.

Along with innovation in products, the transformation of manufacturing processes will also be essential for companies to remain competitive and maintain their profitability. This is where digital technologies can act as a potential game changer.

The digitalization of the manufacturing industry involves the integration of digital technologies in manufacturing processes across the value chain. Also referred to as Industry 4.0, digitalization is poised to reshape all aspects of the manufacturing industry and is being hailed as the next Industrial Revolution. Integral to Industry 4.0 is the ‘smart factory’, where devices are inter-connected, and processes are streamlined, thus ensuring greater productivity across the value chain, from design and development, to engineering and manufacturing and finally to service and logistics.

Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, artificial intelligence and Big Data analytics are some of the key technologies powering Industry 4.0. According to a report, Industry 4.0 will prompt manufacturers globally to invest $267 billion in technologies like IoT by 2020. Investments in digitalization can lead to excellent returns. Companies that have implemented digitalization solutions have almost halved their manufacturing cycle time through more efficient use of their production lines. With a single line now able to produce more than double the number of product variants as three lines in the conventional model, end to end digitalization has led to an almost 20% jump in productivity.

Digitalization and the Indian manufacturing industry

The Make in India program aims to increase the contribution of the manufacturing industry to the country’s GDP from 16% to 25% by 2022. India’s manufacturing sector could also potentially touch $1 trillion by 2025. However, to achieve these goals and for the industry to reach its potential, it must overcome the several internal and external obstacles that impede its growth. These include competition from other Asian countries, infrastructural deficiencies and lack of skilled manpower.

There is a common sentiment across big manufacturers that India lacks the eco-system for making sophisticated components. According to FICCI’s report on the readiness of Indian manufacturing to adopt advanced manufacturing trends, only 10% of companies have adopted new technologies for manufacturing, while 80% plan to adopt the same by 2020. This indicates a significant gap between the potential and the reality of India’s manufacturing industry.

The ‘Make in India’ vision of positioning India as a global manufacturing hub requires the industry to adopt innovative technologies. Digitalization can give the Indian industry an impetus to deliver products and services that match global standards, thereby getting access to global markets.

The policy, thus far, has received a favourable response as global tech giants have either set up or are in the process of setting up hi-tech manufacturing plants in India. Siemens, for instance, is helping companies in India gain a competitive advantage by integrating industry-specific software applications that optimise performance across the entire value chain.

The Digital Enterprise is Siemens’ solution portfolio for the digitalization of industries. It comprises of powerful software and future-proof automation solutions for industries and companies of all sizes. For the discrete industries, the Digital Enterprise Suite offers software and hardware solutions to seamlessly integrate and digitalize their entire value chain – including suppliers – from product design to service, all based on one data model. The result of this is a perfect digital copy of the value chain: the digital twin. This enables companies to perform simulation, testing, and optimization in a completely virtual environment.

The process industries benefit from Integrated Engineering to Integrated Operations by utilizing a continuous data model of the entire lifecycle of a plant that helps to increase flexibility and efficiency. Both offerings can be easily customized to meet the individual requirements of each sector and company, like specific simulation software for machines or entire plants.

Siemens has identified projects across industries and plans to upgrade these industries by connecting hardware, software and data. This seamless integration of state-of-the-art digital technologies to provide sustainable growth that benefits everyone is what Siemens calls ‘Ingenuity for Life’.

Case studies for technology-led changes

An example of the implementation of digitalization solutions from Siemens can be seen in the case of pharma major Cipla Ltd’s Kurkumbh factory.

Cipla needed a robust and flexible distributed control system to dispense and manage solvents for the manufacture of its APIs (active pharmaceutical ingredients used in many medicines). As part of the project, Siemens partnered with Cipla to install the DCS-SIMATIC PCS 7 control system and migrate from batch manufacturing to continuous manufacturing. By establishing the first ever flow Chemistry based API production system in India, Siemens has helped Cipla in significantly lowering floor space, time, wastage, energy and utility costs. This has also improved safety and product quality.

In yet another example, technology provided by Siemens helped a cement plant maximise its production capacity. Wonder Cement, a greenfield project set up by RK Marbles in Rajasthan, needed an automated system to improve productivity. Siemens’ solution called CEMAT used actual plant data to make precise predictions for quality parameters which were previously manually entered by operators. As a result, production efficiency was increased and operators were also freed up to work on other critical tasks. Additionally, emissions and energy consumption were lowered – a significant achievement for a typically energy intensive cement plant.

In the case of automobile major, Mahindra & Mahindra, Siemens’ involvement involved digitalizing the whole product development system. Siemens has partnered with the manufacturer to provide a holistic solution across the entire value chain, from design and planning to engineering and execution. This includes design and software solutions for Product Lifecycle Management, Siemens Technology for Powertrain (STP) and Integrated Automation. For Powertrain, the solutions include SINUMERIK, SINAMICS, SIMOTICS and SIMATIC controls and drives, besides CNC and PLC-controlled machines linked via the Profinet interface.

The above solutions helped the company puts its entire product lifecycle on a digital platform. This has led to multi-fold benefits – better time optimization, higher productivity, improved vehicle performance and quicker response to market requirements.

Siemens is using its global expertise to guide Indian industries through their digital transformation. With the right technologies in place, India can see a significant improvement in design and engineering, cutting product development time by as much as 30%. Besides, digital technologies driven by ‘Ingenuity for Life’ can help Indian manufacturers achieve energy efficiency and ensure variety and flexibility in their product offerings while maintaining quality.


The above examples of successful implementation of digitalization are just some of the examples of ‘Ingenuity for Life’ in action. To learn more about Siemens’ push to digitalize India’s manufacturing sector, see here.

This article was produced on behalf of Siemens by the marketing team and not by the editorial staff.