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LatestNews
August4,2016in#EvictionsWatch//TheLegacyofOlympicEvictions:AMultitudeintheHandsofthe
Militias
August7,2016in#Rio2016//DebunkingtheMythofanEconomicLegacyfromtheGames:Lessons
fromCircusMaximus[BOOKREVIEW]
August6,2016inbyInternationalObservers//RiosOtherBayDemandsEnvironmentalRemediation
AmidstOlympicsFocusonGuanabaraBay
August5,2016in#Rio2016//FromBarcelona1992toRio2016:ATaleofTwoOlympicCities
August4,2016in#Rio2016//TwoTorchesPassedthroughRiosBaixadaFluminense,OnewithPride,
theOtherwithRubberBullets
Home#Rio2016DebunkingtheMythofanEconomicLegacyfromtheGames:LessonsfromCircus
Maximus[BOOKREVIEW]

Debunking the Myth of an Economic Legacy from the Games:


Lessons from Circus Maximus [BOOK REVIEW]

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Aheadofthe2016RioOlympics,organizersandcityofficialstoutedtheGamespotentialpositiveeconomic
impacts.TheseOlympicswerepromisedto:
HaveagrosseconomicimpactontheBrazilianeconomyofUS$51.1billion(UniversityofSoPaulo
study,commissionedbytheMinistryofSportin2009)
EnticedirectinvestmentofR$30billionbetween2009and2016,withanadditionalR$90billionin
indirectinvestment
Alongwiththe2014WorldCup,createabout120,000jobsperyearuntil2016,and130,000jobsperyear
from2016to2027(MinistryofSport)
Alongwiththe2014WorldCup,growtheyearlynumberoftouriststoRiofrom1.4millionto3.3million

Accelerateneededinfrastructuredevelopmentandboostthecitysglobalreputationinthewaythe1992
OlympicsarecreditedwithboostingBarcelonasrevitalization
Inshort,theRio2016Committeestatedin2009,studiesshowedtheGameswillbringsignificantbenefitsnot
onlyforthecityseconomy,butalsoforthestateandcountry.
InCircusMaximus,economicsprofessorAndrewZimbalistdissectstheassumptionsand(mis)calculationsthat
sustainthemyththatmegaeventsguaranteeeconomicbenefitsforthehostcityorcountry.Heshowshow
consultingfirmsemployedbyhostcitiesandcountriesoftenarriveatvastlyinflatedandunrealistic
estimate(s)thatmakeforexcellentWorldCupandOlympicsmarketing,whileindependentacademicstudies
findanabsenceofconclusiveevidencethatmegaeventsbringpositiveeconomicimpacts.

Playing with numbers

Zimbalistexamined19independentacademicstudiesthatlookedat26mega
events.Hefoundthatinsixteencases,theGameswerefoundtohavenostatisticallysignificanteffecton
employmentorincome,insevencasesamodestpositiveeffectonincomeorshortrunemploymentwasfound,
andinthreecasesanegativeeffectonincomewasfound.Wheretherewasamodestshorttermpositive
employmenteffect,itwasineachcaseafractionoftheofficiallyprojectedeffect.
SohowdocityofficialsandGamesorganizersarriveatsuchoptimisticprojections?Zimbalistexplainsthatthey
usuallyusepredictivemodelsthatrelyonassumptionsabouthowonecomponentoftheeconomywillrespond
tochangesinanother.Oftentheseassumptionsareverygenerous.Forexample,thepeoplecrunchingthedata
mightassumethattouristsspendingstaysinthelocaleconomy,butthisisincreasinglyunlikelywiththe
prevalenceofinternationalchainsinthehospitalityindustry.Thedatacrunchersmayalsoconveniently
forgetthatforalltheincomingmegaeventtourists,othertouristswhowouldnormallyvisitthehostcityor
countrychoosetogoelsewhere.EvensomelocalresidentsopttoleavetoavoidthehecticGamescrowdsand
prices,sotheirmoneyleavesthelocaleconomytoo.
Atthesametimeastheyuseexaggeratedmultipliers,reportsthataimtopromotemegaeventsdrastically
underestimatethecostsofhosting.Thisonetwopunchsetsuparosyvisionofpositivetransformationsthatis
destinedtoberupturedbyreality.
Ratherthanrelyingonpredictivemodels,Zimbalistandtheacademicsheciteshaveexaminedtheactualdata
frommegaeventhostcitiesbefore,during,andaftertheGames.Thisapproachallowsacademicstoobserve,
forexample,thatthemodestincreaseintouristrevenuearoundAtlantas1996Olympicsstemmedfrom
increasedhotelrates,ratherthananincreaseintouristnumbers.

Looking for legacy


HostingtheOlympicshasbecomesoexpensivethatZimbalistarguesanyshorttermeconomicbenefitscannot
possiblycompensateforexpenditures.Hewritesthatanyeconomicjustificationforhostingthecompetition
mustbefoundinthelongrunorlegacybenefits,buthisresearchshowsthecommonlyclaimedlongterm
benefitsmustbeapproachedcriticallytoo.
The tourism myth
Zimbalistdebunksthenotionmegaeventsalwaysincreasetourism.Megaeventsdisplacetouristswhowould
comenormally,butwhoaredeterredbycrowds,construction,andhighprices.Tourismfortheyearofthe
OlympicsactuallyfellcomparedtothepreviousyearinBeijingin2008andLondonin2012.Unlikeregular
tourists,Olympictouristsarelesslikelytovisitthecityspermanenttouristsites,butprojectionspreeventfailto
takeintoaccountthedifference.
IncreasedattentiononthehostduringtheGamesdoesnotnecessarilyresultinhighertourismintheyearsafter
theeventeitheraftertheSydneyOlympics,forexample,tourismtoAustraliafelloverthenextthreeyears.
Analyzingstudiesofothercities,Zimbalistfindsthat,withtheexceptionofBarcelona,therewaslittletono
longtermimpactontourism.Furthermore,foreignerswatchingtheOlympicsathomeonTVseeacertainside
ofacountry.Ifaneventencounterstrouble,suchassocialunrestandstudentprotestsatthe1968MexicoCity
Games,terrorismatthe1972MunichGames,ormorerecently,mismanagementandreportingonsubpar
conditionsintheOlympicVillageatthe2014SochiGames,thespotlightcouldaffecthowpeopleperceivethe
hostfortheworse.

The trade and investment myth


TheIOChasassertedthatincreasedtradeandinvestmentareamongthemanylegacybenefitsofhostingthe
Olympics.Zimbalistdrawsoutwhytheassertionisnotsosimple.Aswithotherclaimedresultsofhostinga
megaevent,itishardtoshowthathostingitselfcausesincreasedinvestment.Itmaysimplybethatacityor
countrysignalstotheworldthatitisopentoforeigninvestmentbybiddingtohost,notbyactuallyhostingthe
Olympicsitself.ForeigninvestmentdoesnotalwaysincreaseduringandaftertheOlympicseither:inLondon,
foreigninvestmentfor201213wasalmosthalfofwhatitwasfor200507.Otherfactors,likeglobalrecessions
andfinancialcrises,havemoreimpactthanmegaevents.
The Do it like Barcelona myth
ThemostcommonlycitedexampleofacitysuccessfullyhostingtheOlympicsandseeinglongtermbenefit,
includingtourismgrowth,isBarcelonain1992(andeventheseOlympicslegacycanbedebated).Zimbalist
takespainstoexplaintheuniquecircumstancesthatmadeBarcelonassuccessespossibleandwhythose

circumstancesaresodifficulttoreplicate.NeglectedwhileFrancowasinpowerinSpain,Barcelonawasa
hiddenjewelthathadhugepotentialtourismgrowth.Thelocalgovernmentbegancomprehensiveurban
planningthatconsideredanOlympicbidinthelate1970s,butdidnothostuntil1992.WhiletheOlympicsdid
helpcatalyzechanges,manyofthedevelopmentsinBarcelonaincludingevenrefurbishedstadiumswould
havegoneonwithouttheGames.
AffirminganowfamousquotefromBarcelonasOlympicsmayorPasqualMaragall,Zimbalistwrites:
BarcelonausedtheOlympicstheOlympicsdidntuseBarcelona.RiosMayorEduardoPaeshasalsoechoed
thismantra,assertingrepeatedlythatRioisusingtheOlympics.Whilemanycitieshavetriedtoemulate
Barcelonasformula,manyfactorsarealmostimpossibleforcitiestointentionallyduplicate.Comingoutofa
periodofsloweconomicgrowth,OlympicspendingwasneededstimulusinBarcelona.Mostcities,including
Rio,bidtohostwhentheyareinaperiodofeconomicgrowth,inwhichcaseOlympicspendingcanstoke
inflation.PotentialhostscanlearnfromBarcelonasexample,butcopyingitprovesextremelydifficult.
The infrastructure argument
Zimbalistsuggeststherewillalwaysbesomeinfrastructuredevelopmentsthatthehostcityanditssupporters
canpointtoasexamplesoflongtermlegacies.Buttheeconomisthasacoupleofsimplequestionsinresponse:
Whycouldntthesepositiveinvestmentshavebeenmadewithouthostingthegames,andwhywas
itnecessarytospendtensofbillionsofdollarstohosttheeventinordertogetseveralhundred
milliondollars,orevenabillionormoredollars,ofworthwhileinfrastructuralinvestments?
AcrossaseriesofdeterminedopinionpiecesinEnglishlanguagemedia,MayorPaescontinuestoarguethe
Olympicshavebeenanopportunitytoattractinvestments,addvaluetothecitysbrand,improvingservices
andattractingglobalattentionandvisitors,andbuildalastingandbetterplaceoncetheathletesgohome.He
highlightstransportationinfrastructureandrevitalizationprojects,claimingthatRioissuccessfullyfollowingthe
Barcelonamodel.Zimbalistsbookraisesredflagsaroundalltheseclaims,andprovidesaconvincingset
ofevidencethat,withmegaevents,wemustapproachlegacypredictionsdisguisedasfactswithcaution.
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Atlanta
Barcelona
Beijing
bookreview
economy
internationalcomparison
legacy
legacymyth
London
marketing
MegaEvents
Olympics
researchfindings
tourism
ThisarticlewaswrittenbyCerianneRobertson,LauraBachmann,andpublishedonAugust7,2016.
in#Rio2016,BookReviews,byInternationalObservers,Research&Analysis
Tosearch,typeandhitenter

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