Going for gold

Local Development Benefits from Staging Global Events
Two major international sporting events take place this summer, with the Olympic Games in Beijing and the European football championships in Austria and Switzerland. The question on many policymakers’ minds will be less about medals on the track or pitch, but whether holding such major events can make or break the cities that host them?
For many, the answer depends. Events can be risky affairs, with the huge expense of holding some of the biggest events making them affordable to just a handful of global cities. Even big cities can find the burden hard to bear, such as the 1976 Montreal Olympics, which left the city with expensive facilities that have no use, and a big bill to pay into the future.Still, the competition to host them is as intense as the event itself. Just look at the battle royal between Paris and London to host the 2012 Olympic Games. China’s bid to organise this year’s summer Olympics committed the country to one of its most ambitious construction projects since the building of the Great Wall two millennia ago, with a massive investment of $20 billion in environmental and infrastructure improvements. In soccer, South Africa hopes that being the first African country to host the World Cup, in 2010, will give the country a showcase and an economic boost.Sport is not the only hook for major events. There are also WTO summits, the Bali meeting on Climate Change, or a major fashion week in Paris or Tokyo. These mega events are not entirely gilt-edged, and merely bidding for the Olympic Games or other such events is a costly exercise.Still, for the OECD report, Local Development Benefits from Staging Global Events, revenue from the event is not the only goal, but also innovation and community development. Organising an event can create solidarity and purpose, building confidence, advertising and more. Kiev, for instance, which was the venue for the Eurovision Song Contest in 2005, used the occasion to promote Ukraine’s European identity.There are long-term spin-offs that make the enterprise worthwhile. Take the Turin winter Olympics in 2006. The city in northern Italy used the games to jettison its industrial city image and rebrand itself as a vibrant cultural capital. It now attracts more international gatherings, including the 2007 Winter Universiade.Staging a mega event is not all fun and games, not only because of the risk of losing money but also the political stakes. Security measures add to a venue’s cost, especially when it brings political protests, like Seattle’s WTO meeting in 1999 or indeed the tussles over the Olympic torch as it passed around the globe in 2008. Returns are possible, of course. The Scottish government estimated the cost of holding the G8 summit in Edinburgh in 2005 at £60 million, but the value of worldwide media coverage was assessed at over £66 million.ISBN 9789264042063©OECD Observer No 267 May-June 2008

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