home Urban Planning Do Olympic Games boost the economy of the city? Is it ingenious for the host city to consider only the long-term benefits?

Do Olympic Games boost the economy of the city? Is it ingenious for the host city to consider only the long-term benefits?

Redevelopment efforts are bustling in Stratford district, London, preparing the city to host its Olympic Games in July 2012. The $15 billion effort targets the development of Olympic Park and long term change of East London. The city after winning the bid to host the games, passed the compulsory purchase orders (CPO) to nearly 300 businesses within the Olympic Park Zone which includes 5,000 employed in Marshgate Lane industrial area and several hundred in other sites. Areas that  were regenerated  earlier were also subjected to CPO.

Olympic Park Aerial, London, 2012

Source: Olympic Park Aerial, London, 2012

Schematic View of London Olympic Park, 2012

Source: Evans, Grame (2010). JR & M GOLD (EDS)

London Development Agency (LDA) demanded the Clays Lane residents to relocate in order for the area to meet the demands of 2012 games. This area has undergone many regeneration efforts in over 10 years. The LDA has spent £ 1.3 billion, leaving an excess debt of £500 million (Evans Graeme, London 2012). ‘The irony is that, while London’s vibrant, diverse and influential culture has been promoted as a significant aspect of London 2012, the very studio complexes that have contributed to that vitality, along with other supporting businesses such as materials suppliers are under threat and some have disappeared altogether’(Millington, 2009).

Vancouver’s Olympic Village worked towards sustainable design in winter 2010.  The city took pride of its 100 acres sustainable Olympic Village and its 14 million square foot complex which accommodated 3000 athletes. Most of the Vancouver’s Olympic facilities were transformed to civic and community uses. Though the Athletic Village were readily converted  to mixed use units after Olympics, the selling price of each condos are $4.3 million in this economic downturn.

Vancouver Olympic Village, 2010

Source: City of Vancouver, The Design Observer Group, 2010

Beijing hosted the most fanciful and expensive Olympic games in 2008. In spite of whole neighborhood displacements, China spent nearly $40 billion in city wide upgrades. The Bird’s Nest and Water Cube are renowned for Beijing’s Olympic extravaganza. The city just visualized empty shells after the game. Athens estimated a budget of around $1.6 billion to host the games in 2004. It finally ended up spending $16 billion with most of its facilities being underutilized. Despite the fact that the summer events in Barcelona defined it as world class tourist destination, the Barcelona Organizing Committee broke even in 1992. Montreal faced a debt of $2.7 billion dollars after the 1976 Olympics (Zimbalist, Andrew, 2009).

Bird’s Nest Fire Works, Beijing Olympics, 2008

Source: Christophe Simon, Getty Images, Epoch Times, 2011

It is evident that the host city is subjected to redevelopment, revitalization, infrastructure improvements, create employment opportunities, attract tourists and long term economic benefits. However, the afterglow is never exciting. The cities usually under estimate the cost of hosting the games. All host cities are now asked by the government to take the Olympic Games Impact Study (OGIS). The Olympic facilities should be planned not only to meet the needs of the games but also the demands of the cities even after the game is over. Don’t know what is in stake for Rio de Janeiro expecting to have its summer games in 2016. For all the pride the host city takes in being in the international spotlight for two weeks and the money it invests to conduct Olympic Games, is there an economic boost?  Are the manpower and resources utilized efficiently? Is it ingenious for the host city to consider only long term benefits?


  • Berg, Nate (2010) ‘The Olympics and the City’, The Design Observer Group.
  • James, Brian (2009) ‘Vancouver’s Olympic Village Aims High on Sustainability Scale’, Architectural Record.
  •  Faiola, Anthony (2012) ‘Will the 2012 Olympics Revitalize East London?’ The Washington Post.
  • John R. Gold, Margaret M. Gold (2008). ‘Olympic Cities: Regeneration, City Rebranding and Changing Urban Agendas. Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


13 thoughts on “Do Olympic Games boost the economy of the city? Is it ingenious for the host city to consider only the long-term benefits?

  1. Generally, mega sporting events are a negative influence on planning and long term economic health. In Vancouver BC we are holding our breaths to see if enough of the Olympic Village condos will sell before the real estate bubble pops. Otherwise the residents pick up the huge tab for the loss – most of the social housing has already been cut. We also ended up with a $1 billion highway expansion alongside an underutilized rail line, which is of course spawning automobile dependent sprawl.

  2. Much depends upon the existing economical status of the city and other social conditions with the attraction for sports and the tourism potential of the city. Requires enough infrastructure to make the event successful. Country’s image in terms of political and cultural stability also matters a lot. CWG games in Delhi gave a lot of space and facilities to boost sports for its citizens, but on economic front it was not a big success.

  3. Driving forces are the inevitable citizen’s activities and it is the duty of the cities to find the way to meet them and mitigate their adverse impact on the citizen’s activities. cities challenge with the impact of economic crisis. It will generate a new approach to keep cities efficient. Kavaratzis (2009) define the framework of city branding in nine success factors of place marketing and branding practices. Olympic games could be as one of these factors, Place Identity and Image.

  4. Not necessarily. It depends on the investment that occurs DURING and AFTER the Olympics, Atlanta prospered but only in the central part of the city; Athens suffered greatly after the Olympic games occurred.

  5. In London, there are losers as well as winners. The site was an ugly industrial area for many years, and now as a result of the Olympics it will be a more attractive space, with open waterways and parkland.
    As with any urban development in a densely populated country, some occupiers had to be displaced as a result of the Olympic park’s creation. But there will be thousands of new residents moving in after the event, and here is an opportunity to create a new place within the urban landscape of London.
    As for the legacy of who will utilise the stadium, I think the various sporting bodies and football clubs are still fighting over it!

  6. your paper regardingOlympic Games and its relationships to the wider region in the long term put big challanges in front of the planners. I think the considerations and criteria should be to the benefits of the communities surrounding the olympic area whether they are reuse for affordable housing, social services, community institutions etc. Investing huge budgets just for a short period and not making them compatible for the generat population seems to me waste of public money.

  7. I thought studies had repeatedly shown that these sorts of efforts don’t have long-term benefits for the cities where they are located.

  8. Hello!
    Thank you for addressing that issue.. My PhD was about the tourism benefits of the 2004 Olympics for Greece, in a planning perspective.
    Athens was significantly benefited from that occasion for the period 2004-2008!
    The whole procedure revealed the power of the heritage interpretation as tool for local development

    1. This surprises me, George: “Athens was significantly benefited from that occasion for the period 2004-2008.” I had read elsewhere that the Olympics were a gigantic flop for Greece, with cost overruns for construction, etc. I guess you studied all this carefully. But did the indebtedness incurred to built all the structures, make changes to the road net, etc. help put Greece into debt that contributes to its economic disaster today?

      1. @ Marc Brenman:
        You comment: “I guess you studied all this carefully.” is insulting. My PhD took place at DPRD, UTh, Greece. I am Greek and I live in Greece!
        Please take a look at the booming numbers in incoming visitors in Athens for the period 2004-2009.
        Of course Olympic expenditure contributed to the fiscal crisis of 2010-.. But that was due to exaggerating costs connected to the internal corruption in ministries …Please try to have a clearer view for issues such as the Greek crisis when posting comments

        1. “Of course Olympic expenditure contributed to the fiscal crisis of 2010-.. But that was due to exaggerating costs connected to the internal corruption in ministries”. One point is that such very large public expenditures need to be considered in a larger context to help get a more true view of the results and state of an economy. Similarly, the tremendous amount of money the Spanish government invested in high speed rail has contributed to Spain’s economic crisis. There are benefits, and there are costs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *