Despite the growing body of literature examining the economic cost of hosting major sporting events, the list of countries seeking to host the Olympic Games continues to grow. Already Wikipedia pages exist for the 2024 and 2028 Summer Olympic Games and list the potential host cities. The latest to add their name to the list was the Hungarian capital Budapest.
Andrew Zimbalist’s recently published Circus Maximus is a must-read for all would-be hosts. The book explains in detail the pros and cons of mega sporting events, the success stories, and the big failures.
While winning the right to host the Olympics Games (Summer or Winter) has become an achievement in itself, this was not always the case. Zimbalist explains how the city of Los Angeles was approached by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) prior to hosting the 1984 Summer Olympic Games, as no bids were placed to host the event. The success of Los Angeles, primarily due to the fact it held sway over the IOC, encouraged others to follow suit. The Olympics it seemed was the way to economic enrichment.
Barcelona 1992, and to a lesser extent London 2012, are used as examples of success stories. Barcelona used the event to upgrade much of the city’s aging transport infrastructure that was neglected during the Franco regime. The Games were hosted as a wider plan for the city's redevelopment. Others have been less fortunate. Greece, in particular, are paying the price of past excesses. The 2004 Games in Athens left very little legacy and cost the state between €6 - €8 billion. Much of the Olympic infrastructure now lies idle.
If Budapest do bid, they need to be more like Barcelona and less like their Greek friends to the south.