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The Olympic Effect: Will Sochi Really Benefit?

The Olympic Effect: Will Sochi Really Benefit?

Studies show clear benefits from hosting the Olympic Games.

With all the negative news in the overture to the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, the Russian government is probably hoping for a flawless running of the event. Major sports events seem to be one of the best city marketing strategies. The connotation of heroic achievements, camaraderie and excitement is the ultimate promotion for any city in the world.

The Winter Olympic Games were first held in 1924, in Chamonix, France, and have returned every four years, with exception of the period of the Second World War. According to the Olympic Creed, the goal of the games is: “[…] not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”. However, next to this Olympic Creed, there is also an Olympic Effect. Hosting the Games is not only about ‘taking part’, but also about triggering that boost for the economy, the tourism sector and improving the image of your city.

Several studies have examined the influence on a city of hosting a mega-event. First, a research from 2011 published in The Economic Journal shows that after the event, trade is over 20% higher for host countries. And even more interesting is that an unsuccessful bid to host the Olympics can also have a positive influence on exports. The mere connotation of hosting the Olympics, seems to be beneficial for the economy.

Next to a stimulus for the economy, the Olympic Games also prove to be a good marketing strategy. The image of a city usually benefits from hosting a mega-event. As a study in the Journal of Urban Affairs exemplifies, major events like the Olympic Games are often used to promote local development, which has beneficial impact on the way the city is perceived. Furthermore, as a Dutch study from last year shows, these events may increase the knowledge of people about the specific city and therefore stimulate positive feelings about the city. Nevertheless, these effects only last if the positive perceptions are sustained after the actual event has taken place.

However, as another study on the popular perception on the Winter Games in Sochi shows, tourists may flood the Olympic city, but not all citizens perceive the games as a positive development. Negative impacts from the preparations prevail in the public opinion, although there certainly is a sound support for the event, though this is mostly found among non-Russians, younger people, and people with good knowledge of the preparations. It thus seems that the more informed people are, the more positive they are about the effects of the event.

Even though the Western media make it seem like Sochi is heading for disaster, judging by their tweets and critical articles, studies tell us that there definitely is the possibility to improve. The coming two weeks of intense media coverage will be the touchstone of the impact of the Olympic Games. But research shows that there is indeed no such thing as bad publicity.

References:
Photo: Flickr, Sweet Rose

Rose, A., & Spiegel, M.M. (2011). The Olympic Effect The Economic Journal DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0297.2010.02407.x

Müller, M. (2012). Popular perception of urban transformation through megaevents: understanding support for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 30 (4) DOI: 10.1068/c11185r

Gelder, D., & van Zuilen, B. (2013). City events: short and serial reproduction effects on the city’s image? Corporate Communication: An International Journal, 18 (1) DOI: 10.1108/13563281311294155

Andranovich, G., Burbank, M.J., & Heying, C.H. (2002). Olympic Cities: Lessons Learned from Mega-Event Politics Journal of Urban Affairs, 23 (2) DOI: 10.1111/0735-2166.00079

sochi, olympics, winter games, benefits, city marketing, image

Korea.net / Korean Culture and Information Service (Photographer name) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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