The Olympic Games: a double-edged sword

The 6th July 2005, every French citizen was disappointed by the loss of the Games. London had been preferred and selected by the International Olympic Committee as the host city. However, Paris was widely seen as the favourite. As a consequence, and to ward off bad luck, Paris has announced in 2014 its will to organise the 2024 Olympic Games. And this time, the French capital counts on winning them. Nevertheless, is it always good news for a country?


The news is just in: your country has won the Games! In the host city, everybody is happy and excited. The organisation of the Olympic Games is, most of the time, seen as something good for the economy of the country. Indeed, to receive the athletes and their staff, the host city – or sometimes the whole country- has to build or to renew lots of infrastructure.  The Games require some stadiums, swimming pools or tennis courts with particular dimensions. For instance, the swimming events cannot take place anywhere. The Olympic swimming pool is generally oversized to match with the length of the courses, which is 50 metres. In London, construction for the Games involved considerable redevelopment, with an emphasis on sustainability. The main focus was a new 200-hectares Olympic Park, built in a former industrial site at Stratford, East London.

The Games are like an incantation: during 2 weeks, we all live in a country without problems

If the economic impact is easy to see before the Games, it is also considerable during the Games. For example, the host country improves its tourism: people are curious to discover another country during this specific event. Moreover, people keen on sports take advantage of the Games to combine sport and tourism. So we can say that the host country benefits from the Olympic Games before the event, with the infrastructure to be built, and during the event, with the tourists to be welcomed. After the Games, some people are always interested in discovering the stadiums to be part of the Olympic dream. In Beijing for instance, the Bird’s Nest is still seen as a curiosity for tourists. You cannot leave the Chinese capital without passing through the stadium.

Furthermore, the Games enable the union of citizens. Before the Games, we are all together to have them and during the event, we are so proud to receive athletes from every country that we forget the economic problems, the unemployment rate and the fall of wages. The Games are like an incantation: during two weeks in August, we all live in a country without problem.

However, for the host country and even more for the host city, the Olympic Games are a real burden: two weeks of happiness for almost ten years of problems. When the International Olympic Committee gives the Games to the country, the city allows a budget for the redevelopment of stadiums and the construction of the Olympic Village. Nevertheless, the country spends always more money than anticipated. Athens 2004 was – and still is – a burden for the Greek finances. Some experts explain that Greece’s fall into deep recession was partly due to the Games. It was impossible for them to repay their loans because the Games were a money pit. They had bled the country with renovations and constructions to receive athletes, staff and tourists. In Sochi 2014, while originally budgeted at $12 billion, various factors caused the budget to expand to over $50 billion, surpassing the estimated $44 billion cost of Beijing 2008, which was, before Sochi, the most expensive Olympics in history.


The Games are the best example of the country, and its values. In Beijing 2008, the Chinese government totally cleaned the Temple of Heavens, the Forbidden City and the Tiananmen Square to show to the world that Beijing was not the dirty, polluted city depicted before the Games. In addition, the Chinese government prohibited road traffic a month before the event to purify the atmosphere and to put its detractors in awkward position. Unfortunately for Beijing, the world is no sucker.

The biggest criticism of the Olympics is that the IOC selects cities almost ten years before the Games, but who is able to say what the host city and country will be like in ten years? For instance, Paris faced terrorist attacks in 2015, but every French citizen hopes that this situation will soon improve. Unfortunately for Paris’ application, it may carry weight in the IOC’s decision. They may prefer another city with fewer terrorist threats. Moreover, the economic situation of the country may improve or collapse, and then it cannot renew or build  the required infrastructure.

Consequently, as a French citizen, I will be glad if Paris has the Games in 2024, even if I am not convinced that France has the means to fulfil its ambitions.



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