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article imageOp-Ed: The Olympic Games can be good for some cities

By Ryan Hite     Jul 9, 2014 in Sports
The Olympic Games have been a game of hit-or-miss for cities around the world since the beginnings of the modern Olympics. Many do not see the benefits, but it may actually be valuable for some cities.
The Olympics are about competition, heroics, and national pride. They are also about big business and, more recently, big spending. Host cities invest deeply in the games. The price tag of the Sochi Winter Olympics is estimated to have been about $50 billion with the hope of reaping those gains for the local and national economy through tourism, marketing, and other means during and after the games. So what have we learned about hosting the Olympics and the “bottom line,” and is it really worth it? I think that it largely depends on the city and situation.
Of course, it’s often hard to discern what the hard facts are amid all the media around such global sporting “mega-events.” Long after the crowds vanished, it turns out that some host cities and countries, like Sochi and Montreal, ended up taking large net losses on their investments. Others have seen better outcomes; the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, 1996 Atlanta Olympics, 1992 Barcelona Olympics, and 2002 Salt Lake Olympics are sometimes cited as models of reasonable success. The analysis of the 2012 London Olympics suggested there was some benefit to some degree.
Scholars have long been refining theories relating to how to estimate the benefits in advance and how to properly capture all of the true returns over time after the events, but they are hard to measure. There are many “intangibles,” as some researchers put it, that need to be taken into consideration. Beijing’s astonishing new building and infrastructure for the 2008 summer games hasn’t worn well; and that’s a familiar fate in other host cities of the older days of the Olympics. Some cities have benefited from them and other cities have not.
In light of the cost of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia and controversy around President Putin’s decisions around the event’s operations, security, promotion and legal restrictions, there are some cities that will continue to benefit from hosting the games. The games can be sustainable as long as cities are ready for them and cities can benefit from them.
I believe that there are ten factors that most successful Olympic cities have had in common that continue to benefit them as communities today.
1. A need to redevelop or rebuild existing sports stadiums - Atlanta and London are prime examples of that. They both needed new and renovated stadiums and the Olympics have been a good excuse to do that.
2. Existing transportation infrastructure - Much of the cost of Sochi came from the development of transportation and that is a must.
3. Need for housing - Housing is another major factor that organizers must take into account because there will be a ton of new housing at the end of the Olympics.
4. Uses for every stadium - Every single piece of infrastructure must have some sort of use that should be noted after the games are over.
5. Existing tourism infrastructure - An Olympic city must be popular already with tourists because it will allow IOC inspectors to better assess the impacts of a major sporting event and there may be transportation and lodging infrastructure already in place.
6. Least amount of new construction possible - A successful Olympic games has very little new construction involved, especially given the funds and the costs of new stadiums.
7. Popular support - Support for the games falls to the communities as well. If people are behind hosting the event, then they are more likely to contribute funds and sponsor support. The community is important in the success of this major event.
8. Clear marketing theme - It may sound strange, but Olympic games with unique marketing positioning tend to do better because it is easier for major sponsors to get behind and for people to associate with.
9. Subsequent large events - They may not be of Olympic caliber, but hosting other large events after the Olympics will help the city and country get the money back that was initially invested.
10. Good financial backers - If people trust that the Olympics will be successful, then more money will be donated and resources will be better used. A stable country that is growing will earn the trust of more people. It all falls to good planning and execution.
Olympic cities have won in the past and they can still win. They just have to be the best fit for the conditions at the time. With the 2022 Olympic bid coming up in 2015. Beijing has the best chance because it meets much of the criterion. Oslo may be a good natural choice as well if they can build more popular support.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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