IFE Presents "Hosting the Olympic Games: Blessing or Curse?"

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What drives such a high number of cities to bid for hosting the Olympic Games? Why did Rome’s recent bid for the 2020 Games fail?

Lawrence Bartolomucci, who teaches economics at JCU, and Entrepreneurship Institute Director Silvia Pulino welcomed a faculty-led group of over 30 Rotterdam University students, as well as several members of the JCU community for a topical and informative lecture on the costs and benefits associated with hosting the Olympic Games.

In light of Rome’s recent bid for the 2020 Games, which was scrapped by Prime Minister Mario Monti on economic grounds, Professor Bartolomucci looked at what drives such a high number of cities to bid for hosting what is defined as a “mega-event,” i.e. a major, one-time or recurring event of limited duration yet extraordinary scale and cost. Among the main reasons, he cited such factors as the desire to “put a city on a map” and build an image, to enhance social capital, increase economic activity, open up to tourism and trade, and also the potential of the Olympics to become a catalyst for urban renewal, naming Barcelona 1992 and London 2012 as prime examples of the latter. In short, hosting the Olympic Games is possibly the most visible and grand “place marketing” strategy.

Even so, one only needs to look at the Athens case in 2004 to see how often the long-term effects of the Olympics had a negative impact on the host country’s economy. In fact, Professor Bartolomucci argued that managing the legacy of the Games should be by far the most important aspect of a bid, and that the net benefits must exceed those from alternative use of funds in order for it to make economic sense.

With this in mind, he looked at the Rome bid, which he deemed as weak and flawed. On the one hand it is true that Rome has a long history of hosting major events, and goals of urban renewal and potential re-use of several venues would in theory require less investment than other cities might need. But Professor Bartolomucci argued that the Rome Olympic Games Economic Evaluation Committee failed to consider long-term effects in its budgeting. In addition, the proposed budget was heavily reliant on public as opposed to private spending, leading him to suggest that those funds could be better spent in other areas. Finally, the proposed “Millennium Project” of urban renewal, improved transport links, and new cultural and sports centers appears vague and should arguably be implemented regardless of the Olympic Games.

Both JCU and Rotterdam University students raised further questions during the Q&A which followed the lecture, which managed to shed further light on a fascinating topic.

Read Professor Bartolomucci’s recent article on Rome’s Olympic bid in Lavoce.info.