Love watching the Olympics! - especially the winter version. Though USA is not doing as well as expected, its no less fun to watch the games. The Olympics have brought tens of thousands of visitors to Pyeongchang, who are taking in Korean culture and seeing the attractions. Hosting the Olympics brings a great sense of pride to the host community. But does it result in economic gain?
The Olympic debate has been raging for years and is especially interesting because of the high cost of hosting. South Korea is spending around $13 billion, significantly higher than the original $7 billion budget. Ticket sales have been light, perhaps due in part to the recent rancor between North Korea and the U.S. South Korea will not recoup its investment from event revenues and visitor spending during the games, and studies of previous Olympics do not bode well for lasting economic benefit from Pyeongchang 2018.
Some cities are grappling with this same question: are large events worth the cost and effort of putting them on? Besides the monetary cost, which sometimes is borne by the city, there are inconveniences caused by increased traffic and limited access to otherwise public spaces. A New York Times Magazine article on the subject noted how traffic was down at the popular Adelphi Theatre in London’s West End and the British Museum in 2012, the same year that city hosted the summer Olympics.
Large events, whether they are the once in a lifetime Olympics or World Cup variety, or those that occur annually, can enhance the brand of a community. Besides brand, the same studies that show the dismal economic impact of the Olympics, can’t deny the psychological benefit to the citizens of the cities that host them. It makes them proud of their city, and happier.
Large events are like parties, you may not make money on them, but everybody has fun.
Rob Bacigalupi helped build one of the premier downtowns in the Midwest