Are the Olympics a Bad Investment for Cities?

At the end of July, on the eve of the London Olympics, The Atlantic’s Andrew Zimbalist argued that hosting the games might not be so great for cities. Zimbalist’s thesis cuts against the conventional wisdom, but does make sense. He basically says that the Olympics cause cities to over build, they don’t translate into increases in tourism, and are costly. He cites numerous examples.

Of course, this matters to Provo and Utah because Salt Lake City considered bidding for the 2022 games but then decided not too.

As I read Zimbalist’s article, I wonder if the effect of the Olympics in Utah may have been more like those in Barcelona — a rare example where the games did benefit the city, he argues — than the many less successful examples. Though certainly costly, (northern) Utah’s international profile rose considerably as a result of Olympics. And though I was not in Utah when those games took place, I was surprised at how much more cosmopolitan the state seemed in their wake.

So would hosting another set of games benefit Utah? I don’t know, but Salt Lake City already made its international debut, so to speak, and as a result the effect of another set of games might be smaller. In the meantime, I think it’s simply worth considering the wisdom of another investment in the Olympics. It’s also worth watching this hilarious Portlandia sketch about a couple of anti Olympic protesters.


1 Comment

Filed under economics

One response to “Are the Olympics a Bad Investment for Cities?

  1. Pingback: (Pro(vo)cation) Turns One! | (pro(vo)cation)

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