The Olympic Games have long conjured images of sportsmanship, grit, national pride and, of course, talent. Whether it’s the Summer or Winter Games, the Olympics have a long history of simultaneously stirring international unity and competitive spirit for participants and fans alike. Not to mention pressure – especially for the host country.
When embarking on such a huge undertaking as hosting the Olympics, both the risk and rewards can be immeasurable. Those cities that can even consider the opportunity to host face a great debate: Is hosting the Olympics a privilege or an inconvenience? (This question has taken on new significance lately given coronavirus risks and constraints currently on display in China and enforced during the previous summer games in Tokyo).
Here are three pros and three cons of hosting the Olympics:
Hosting the Olympics benefits the hosting city and country
The city experiences the Olympics’ positive values
The modern Olympic Games pay homage to ancient Greek civilization, which is considered the cradle of Western civilization, including its liberal values. The Olympics celebrate history and the values of freedom, equality, globalism and peace. As the Olympics are about this very spirit — and not about money — promoting these values should be the first consideration for hosting, not money. A host city not only identifies and supports these values but gets the honor to promote them locally and globally. Hosting is also a great opportunity for cities to introduce themselves to the rest of the world – as future travel destinations. Such a positive environment (not to mention infrastructure) will remain even after the Olympic Games end.
The Olympics help promote sports and health in the host country
Sports are an important social institution. They promote identification and attachment to society while teaching values, like resilience and determination. Sports also promote a healthy society: an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence suggests that engaging in sports activities can prevent chronic diseases and keep people healthier.
The Olympics promote sports in the host city and country. During the Olympics, athletes who are usually unknown are put in the spotlight, are widely recognized, and can even become international heroes. This can encourage local kids and athletes to follow their athletic dreams. Moreover, hosting the Olympics increases the importance of and participation in sports – not to mention new sports facilities being built (or old ones being renovated) that will remain after the Games for local use. The combination of these factors leaves a long-lasting positive impact on the host city. Therefore, hosting the Olympics contributes to a more sports-oriented and healthier society on a city and national level.
It makes people happy
Researchers have found that hosting a huge sporting event increases life satisfaction. The long-term research aimed to find whether a country`s good athletic performance made people happier. Eventually, the researchers found that, yes, hosting such sporting events made people in the host city happier. In fact, they were three times happier than if they had gained a higher education and that the positivity was nearly large enough to even offset the misery triggered by divorce.
Hosting the Olympics doesn’t benefit the hosting city and country
The Olympics are not economical
Setting up for the Olympics costs money. A lot of money. Countries invest billions of dollars in building and improving infrastructures, like highways, airports and sports venues. Although the vast investment benefits local residents, the Olympics are rarely considered profitable. Therefore, a huge question arises: If the money invested in setting up for the Olympics would have been invested differently, would it benefit local residents even more? Some suggest that an investment in social issues, such as education and health care, is a better way to promote and achieve the general good.
Challenges the city faces
Hosting the Olympics can place a real strain on daily lives for the host city’s residents. First, there is an ongoing security threat over the city, resulting in large-scale security arrangements, including military power that often strengthens the Olympics’ security staff. Seeing military forces around the city can provoke unpleasant feelings and even anxiety for some of its residents.
Second, when the coronavirus isn’t an issue limiting spectators and crowds, the host city is normally packed with tourists during the Olympic Games. Many more people are present in public spaces, making it less comfortable for locals. And, of course, there is the traffic issue — tourists and locals travel a lot between the sports venues, which makes public transportation too crowded.
Hosting the Olympics doesn’t enhance a country`s reputation
The large-scale attention of hosting the Olympic Games is usually presented to a potential host city and country as one of the main advantages of doing so. However, this attention can work both ways: Unexpected incidents and misconduct can cause serious damage to the reputation of the host city and country. For example, the enduring image of the 1972 Munich Olympics is a man in a ski mask. Additionally, the 2004 Olympic Games in Greece (which is considered an economic failure) is portrayed as the main reason for the country`s ongoing economic crisis. Recent studies actually suggest that hosting the Olympics has little, if any, influence on a country`s reputation. Australian researchers found little change in perceptions towards Australia following the Olympics. Not to mention, the games can serve as an excuse for others to protest the host country for unrelated issues (e.g., global protests of the Beijing Winter Olympics because of China’s record of human rights abuses).
The Bottom Line: Hosting the Olympics can be a privilege or an inconvenience, mostly depending on the level of planning and the level of existing sports facilities in the host city. Would you want your city to host the next Olympics?