Mega sporting events have a way of bringing people together. From the FIFA World Cup and Wimbledon to the Olympics and the Super Bowl, people gather in masses to cheer for their teams and watch their favourite athletes set new records.
Sporting events not only give a sense of community but also inspire people. An estimated 715.1 million people watched the final match of the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany and over 2 billion watched Usain Bolt defend his title as the fasted man on the planet with a record time of 9.63 seconds at the London Olympics.
While the ability for sport to inspire people is clear, countries do not compete to host these games out of the goodness of their hearts. Public sector authorities have recognized the opportunity of using mega sporting competitions to achieve economic development objectives, such as stimulating economic growth, social benefits, tourism, infrastructure improvements and national image.
It is undeniable that mega sporting events present great opportunities for local job creation, especially in a time of economic uncertainty. According to the British government, 50,000 to 60,000 new jobs were created as a result of the London Olympics and 3 billion euros of extra visitor spending was expected.
Governments are not the only ones who see the great prospects of these games. Corporations worldwide sponsor these widely viewed events. Sports are a great tool to inspire and influence people’s behaviour with respect to products and brands. Indeed, during the 2012 Super Bowl, NBC generated US$ 75 million for the network by selling 58 30-second advertising spots.
Yet, there are concerns with these events, such as increased taxes and cost overruns, large public debt, local disruptions and underutilized infrastructure once the games are over.
As Switzerland plans to bid on the 2022 Winter Olympics for St Moritz and Davos, and the people from the canton will soon vote on this issue during a referendum, it is the right time to consider the opportunities and costs associated with mega sporting events.
Join us for the Mega Sporting Events debate at the Open Forum 2013 in Davos on 24 January, in which panellists including Ueli Maurer, Ralph Krueger and Juergen Griesbeck will consider who benefits from mega sporting competitions.
Authors: Tiffany Misrahi is Senior Associate, Global Agenda Councils, at the World Economic Forum. Selima Benchenaa is Senior Programme Manager, Global Leadership Fellows Programme, at the World Economic Forum.
Image: A skier soars through the air in a winter competition REUTERS/Dominic Ebenbichler