Recreation and Sport Studies

Studying, Experiencing and Facilitating Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport through Wellness and Physical Activity

Evaluating the Effects of the Olympics on Host Cities

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What do you think the purpose of the Olympic games should be?

Why do you think some host cities have been more successful than others?

Should the current Olympic host process change?

The Olympic Games began as a showcase of amateur sport but have since increased to become a professional/commercial event. The focus for the host city has increasingly become to solidify the international standing of the city.

To become an Olympic host city, the winning bid has to: develop a plan that is attractive to both the International Olympic Committee and the host city and provide bid books, which document how the host city will achieve benefit and avoid excessive burden to its citizens. Thus an Olympic bid may include promises to improve life in the host city, such as the environment, the airport or transit system which is often unfulfilled. The motivation for a bid usually comes from government and businesses who view the games as a way of enhancing the global status of the city (as well as country) which can lead to; potential business opportunities, tourism increases and promotion of the city on a global scale.

Currently, the bid process has two phases: 1. Selection of candidates and 2. Selection of the host city. There are five candidate cities selected for each Olympic games. The bid process begins 9 years before the schedule games and bids are currently underway for the 2022 Olympic Games. The bid process alone can cost upward of 60 million dollars which can have a significant impact on the potential host city.

Reasons to host the games vary between city and country however the top reasons are: the chance to establish the city mega-event host and increase economic power, original purpose of Pierre de Coubertin of promoting peace, understanding and opening portals to foreign cultures. It is also a chance to rebrand the city/country, to celebrate culture and history and to develop infrastructure. Some reasons to change the hosting process include the cost of bidding, the neglect of facilities post-Olympics, questions about the social responsibility of this type of spending and negative effects on the host city (including financial concerns and stigmas from negative events).

The most financially viable games have had: Strong Arena Infrastructure, Extensive Commercial Support, Strong Volunteer Base, and Stronger Focus on “Prestige” than infrastructure (Examples:L.A. 1984, Atlanta 1996, London 2012). Negative host experiences include Montreal 1976, where Costs exceeded estimates 400 percent and nearly bankrupted the city while taking over 30 years to pay debt, Athens 2004, where the 14.4 billion dollar cost of the contributed to Greece’s financial problems today.

Alternative Host Ideas include:

  1. žFive Ring Theory:

— Five Permanent, Rotating Hosts(One for Each Ring)

  • —  Pros: Reduces spending on infrastructure, repeated host can fine-tune approach, ability to ensure hosts with track record of success
  • —  Cons: Lose variety of hosts, upgrades to facilities needed due to layoff, potential let-down if one or more cities are un-successful, questions about Summer/Winter hosts

2. Double Host Theory

 Countries would bid for back to back games ex. Bid for 2018 AND 2022 Winter Games

  • —  Pros: Reduces Spending on Infrastructure, ensures proper facilities, ability to adapt from previous event, maintains variety
  • —  Cons: Unsuccessful first event could lead to negative second, cities could splurge to upgrade from last event

3. žSingle, Permanent Host

—  Return to Greece (Summer Only)

—  Switzerland (Neutral, Support Summer/Winter)

  • —  Pros: Complete isolation of infrastructure, Olympic culture
  • —  Cons: Elimination of rotation, any issues with host could put games into jeopardy


  • Cashman, R. (2002). Impact of the Games on Olympic Host Cities. University Lectures on Olympics
  • Flybbjerg, B., & Steart, A. (2012). Olympic Proportions; cost and cost overrun at the Olympics 1960-2012. Said Business School Working Papers (University of Oxford)
  • Baumann, R., & Matheson, V. (2013) Infrastructure investments and Mega-sports Events: Comparing the experiences of Developing and Industrialized Countries

One thought on “Evaluating the Effects of the Olympics on Host Cities

  1. I really like the “Double Host Theory” because it allows for a host to learn from their mistakes and provide a better Olympics four years later. Plus it removes the “one and done” mentality. Look at how many venues have turned into white elephants once the Olympic buzz is gone? This way there is a longer Olympic buzz and allows for more opportunity for the venues once the games have finished.

    The IOC could step in if the first year was extremely poor. I realize there is a significant time constraint but the IOC could award the following Olympics to the next host. Hosts are selected seven years out I believe.

    I understand this is very different but the CIS does this with men’s hockey and I think it is very successful. Hosts get to have the event for two years allowing them to improve and provide a better event next time around. This year was a great example. Last year Saskatoon dropped the ball with hosting the CIS Championships. This year they broke attendance records and this was quoted as being one of the best hosted events for a CIS championship ever.

    Great presentation in class.




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