A Washington Post article comes out in the past week poo-pooh-ing efforts to start a bid for the 2024 Olympics to be hosted by Washington, D.C. Oddly enough, the topic of mega-events like the Olympics, World Cup, or other international-level games with tens of thousands of visitors and their effects on their host cities was a topic I took on in my history of urban planning course. (Aside: my professor for that course had an unabiding love of Barcleona, much like I do.)
What I found in terms of books, monographs, and papers in English were mostly related to academic research on the preparation toward the 2012 Olympics after London won the bid or in the run-up to London’s then-successful bid to host the Olympics. Some books covered the topic from a general perspective looking at mega-events in general and what success they had for their cities, beyond the recognition of being an Olympic host city. Some also looked at the effects of individual mega-events. Most of these articles and books could only show costs of the Olympics — facilities, operating costs, etc. There was very little statistical or economic effect that could be seen from these costs.
The WAPO article does a good job of sumarizing the points that seemed to come up throughout my reading:
1) There’s little evidence that hosting the Olympics will boost your economy.
2) Mega-sports events like the Olympics tend to have spiraling costs.
3) The infrastructure benefits are often oversold. Matt Yglesias discusses that possibility here.
4) There are only a few cases where hosting the Olympics appears to have been broadly beneficial.
5) That said, even if hosting the Olympics isn’t economically valuable, it might make locals happier.
6) Also, all things considered, it’s probably better if a rich country hosts the Olympics than a developing nation.