Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


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Olympic legacy? What legacy?

UnknownSupporters of big events like the world cup or the olympics try to justify the obscene amounts of public money spent by claiming that there will be a legacy for future generations.

What a load of rubbish. Since the 2012 London olympics – which cost £9.3 billion – more than 2,500 sports facilities including athletics tracks, playing fields and swimming pools have been closed.

There are 1,729 fewer tennis facilities, 3,180 fewer sports grounds, stadiums and pitches but 323 more riding schools and2,226 more gyms, sports halls or leisure centres.

Sport England, the government quango which is supposed to encourage grass roots sport, disputes the figures – naturally. They say there are more sites and facilities than there were 4 years ago and they verify these annually – not just using maps.

The research was carried out by a digital mapping company using ordnance survey data and looked at both public and private facilities. It found 78,720 sporting facilities in Britain, 2,672 fewer than in 2012.

Yorkshire athletes did so well in 2012 that they would have been 12th in the medal table if they had been an independent country.

Yet its the Yorkshire and Humber region which experienced the biggest drop in facilities of 7%. 386 fewer sports grounds, stadiums and pitches and 160 fewer tennis facilities.  And Sheffield has demolished the 25,000 seat Don Valley stadium to save money.

It seems the only people who benefit from these extravaganzas are the well-paid athletes, Sport England quango staff who get paid regardless of what they achieve, and people like Seb Coe and the olympic family of hangers-on who enjoy 5 start treatment and perks wherever they pitch up,

And the in the case of the London olympics West Ham United football club who got a brand new stadium for peanuts subsidised by the tax payer.

It’s not the first time I’ve posted about this scandalous waste of money but if you criticise it some people think you’re being disloyal.

It’s the same with the World Cup in football. Locals rarely benefit from the investment.

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Football & happiness – a game of 2 halves 

 brazil_flag_with_soccer_ball_1600_wht_2747Now the 2014 World Cup is underway again there will be much speculation about the impact it will have on the host country.

After the last one there was quite a bit of research which showed that such events did have positive outcomes.

We’ll have to wait and see if the same thing happens this time round in Brazil.

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Fans celebrating the upcoming 2010 FIFA World ...

Image via Wikipedia

Football can make people happier. Two economists tried but failed to prove that football was good for a country’s economy. But when they looked at national pride and happiness they got better results.

They looked for changes in life satisfaction in 12 European countries over 30 years up to 2004, and especially looked at how people felt following Olympic, World Cup, and European Cup competitions.

They were interested in whether or not teams doing better than expected had a positive effect on people from that country and whether countries hosting the competitions benefitted.

There was no evidence that performing better than expected had any real effect on people’s life satisfaction scores. Nor did planning to host such an event make people any happier.

But there was strong evidence that actually hosting an event did make people happier in that country. In fact it made people 3 times happier than if they had gained a higher level education, 1.5 times the happiness boost associated with getting married, and nearly large enough a difference in happiness to offset the misery of a divorce!

Sadly 1 year later the happiness effect had worn off. Whereas being married keeps you happier longer.

So perhaps the secret is to live in a country hosting such an event to get the short-term happiness boost and get married in the following 12 months for a longer-lasting effect!

FYI Married people are happier than single people (of course it could be that happy people get married more easily). And the 30% improvement in spousal happiness even counteracts all the negative affects of unemployment.

Greater Manchester Police reported an increase in domestic abuse the day England were knocked out of the World Cup. It was the largest number reported since New Year’s Eve and 16% up on the same time the previous year.

Updated 10 July 2010: The World Cup seems to have had a unifying effect on the rainbow nation, perhaps even more than the 1995 Rugby World Cup. And if the government figures are correct South Africa will break even on its investment in airports, motorways, and high speed rail links.

There has been a show of unity, pride and patriotism and the crime rates have been low despite South Africa’s reputation as one of the world’s capitals in murder and rape.

So maybe the economists have got it right. Apparently psychiatrists are concerned that South Africans will experience a post event depression when the World Cup finishes. Let’s hope it’s 1-0 to the economists.

And a 40 year research project in America reported in New Scientist (10 July 2010) shows that when local college football teams did well in the 2 weeks before an election the sitting party won more votes than when the team lost. So if you want to stay in power make sure your local team plays well!

Updated 20 September 2010: Despite concern that South African policemen are too fat to chase criminals – the police minister said they shouldn’t be “massaging beer bellies” – it seems that the get-fit boot camps put in place for the World Cup may have paid off. (This in a country, similar to USA and Germany, where 60% of the population are overweight or obese).

Despite SA having the highest murder rates in the world, outside war zones or countries with drug cartels like Mexico and Columbia, the World Cup showed what could be done. There has been a sharp decrease in murders (down almost 9%) and violent robberies for the first time since nation-wide records were first collected in 1995-6 (when there were 27,000 murders compared to 17,000 this year).


Big Sport doesn’t come cheap

brazil_flag_with_soccer_ball_1600_wht_2747Big events like the Olympics and the World Cup are promoted as being good for the host countries despite evidence to the contrary or at only of a short-term impact.

The organisers behind these events do very well thank you as they bask in sponsorship and tax-free arrangements.

The truth is often different for the host country. There are serious doubts about the 2016 Olympics in Brazil  after the head of the Olympic public authority resigned and the Chief Operating Officer has revealed a  shortfall in the $2.8 billion operating budget for the games.

Even the mayor of Rio de Janeiro has said it’s a pity that they’re hosting the Olympics as the Brazilian government is unprepared and they have “… to handle the legacy of the games

And it seems that five of the six stadia will not be completed in time for the 2014 World Cup despite spending $8.5 billion on the competition.

The re have beenriots in protests about the lavish spending ,when public services are underfunded, corruption, high crime rates and police brutality. Thousands of people have been relocated to make room for the infrastructure required by the Olympics and the World Cup and they say they haven’t been compensated properly. The safety of tourists has also been questioned.

Football fans be warned!


South Africa’s World Cup anniversary

Last June I posted about the outcomes that might be expected for South Africa or any country that hosted a large international competition like the World Cup or the Olympics.

The evidence from economists was that people would be happier – but only for about a year after the event and psychiatrists were concerned that there would be a post-event depression.

Immediately after the World Cup in South Africa it was thought that the government would break even on its investment in airports, motorways, and high speed rail links but not as many visitors arrived as were expected and budgeted for. Nevertheless the improved infrastructure will probably have long-term benefits, as long as it is well-maintained.

It was generally agreed that there had been a show of unity, pride and patriotism at the time and the crime rates improved – a decrease in murders and robberies – despite South Africa’s reputation as one of the world’s capitals in murder and rape.

Now a year later questions are being asked. According to the Times there is a big debate in South Africa about what the benefits really were and who actually benefitted. There is a belief that there has been a transformation in the way the country is perceived and although only 2/3 of the visitors expected actually arrived they had a positive experience. That has resulted in an increase in tourists from the USA of nearly 20%.

South Africa has said it is not going to bid for the 2020 Olympic games but wants to: “focus on the delivery of basic services to all South Africans”. And that’s the crux of the argument for a country with a 25% unemployment rate and with half its population living below the poverty line. Recent demonstrations about lack of clean water, toilets and electricity (so-called “service delivery protests”) were met with deadly force when an unarmed protestor was shot dead (the police responsible are now awaiting trial as it was caught on camera).

One writer described the World Cup as “the greatest hoax played on the African continent since the World Bank promised development” and another critic condemned the £9 billion spent as a crime against poor South Africans. £1 billion of that was spent on the new stadia that FIFA insisted on rather than improving existing grounds. Attendance at football matches has reportedly increased by 8% but the ticket prices have been doubled to help pay the World Cup bills.

So has anyone come out of it better off? Well FIFA made a tax-free profit of almost $700 million.