Losing Olympic bid could mean gold
In addition to the polarizing debate over whether or not Boston can and should host the 2024 Summer Olympics, there’s more than a few people on both sides wondering what actually prompted the bid.
There’s the side that says Boston’s a world-class city with the wherewithal to be a successful host and stake a claim to being one of the best places on the planet to live, work, visit, learn, and play. Those opposing say all that is true but we don’t need to spend billions to prove it.
Those same naysayers claim the list of host cities that poured buckets of money down the drain into winning the bid and then creating the needed stadiums, housing, and infrastructure diverted money from more important issues while the Olympiad champions say a city like Boston needs more housing and updated transportation infrastructure anyway, making it a win-win because that new construction will benefit the city’s residents for decades to come.
Some say it would boost tourism not only in the Hub of the Universe but around the region while others say it would drive away tourists who would come anyway.
“Countries that host the Olympics experience a significant increase in trade, according to a 2009 study by Andrew K. Rose, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, and Mark M. Spiegel, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco,” Applebaum writes. “But their research determined that this was also true of countries that made losing bids for the Olympics – spending tens of millions rather than billions. The benefit, in other words, came from the signal that a country was open for business, not from the spending itself.”
That may explain why Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, initially cool to the idea that is being driven by construction magnate John Fish and other major players, has semi-embraced the bid, if not the winning. If you can get the same results for a fraction of the cost, why not?
Applebaum shows that Los Angeles and Barcelona were two of the few cities that benefitted from hosting the Olympics, L.A. because they had many venues already in place, and Barcelona because it was already undertaking a major renaissance and redevelopment after emerging from the shadow of the Franco years and the Olympic construction just accelerated it.
The jury is still out on Brazil which just got done hosting the World Cup and is readying for the 2016 Olympics, a dual effort to highlight its emergence as a world economic power. But Applebaum notes other cities such as Bejing and Athens have cobwebbed-filled stadiums while cities such as London are still tallying the ledger but taking note of the loss of tourists that would otherwise have been in the old city.
The piece also makes a point about perception, offering the results of a study done in four countries before and after the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The study found that the view of the Australian city of those surveyed in the US, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and South Africa was pretty much the same one year before and after the Games, with one caveat: South Africans had a negative view of the Land Down Under because of the way the treatment of Aborigines was portrayed in the South African media, a reminder of their apartheid past. How many stories do you think would be written about busing and Boston’s racial history?
But all that said, there is still the case the economics itself may not be the sole reason to chase a bid.
““It’s like a wedding,” Victor Matheson, an economist at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, tells Applebaum. “It won’t make you rich, but it may make you happy.”
— JACK SULLIVAN
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