Friday, April 1, 2011

Hosting Major International Sports Events: Comparing Asia And Europe

Major international sporting events have an extraordinary(特殊) capacity(容量) to generate emotionally powerful and shared experiences. Events like the Olympic Games, the Football World Cup, and other major sporting events reveal(揭示) both the appeal(呼吁)and elusiveness(难以捉摸) of sport. In the age of global television, the capacity of major sports events to shape and project images of the host, both domestically and globally, make them highly attractive for political and economic elites(精英).

The pursuit(追求) of hosting major 
(or ‘mega’) sports events has become 
increasingly popular among governments, 
corporations, and civic ‘boosters’ worldwide. 
They argue that major economic,
developmental, political, and 
socio-cultural benefits will flow 
from them, easily justifying(辩解) the costs 
and risks involved. Numerous studies fuel
the popular belief that sport is a generator
of national as well as local economic
and social development. Economically
it has been viewed as an industry
around which cities can devise(设备) urban(城市)
regeneration strategies. Socially it has
been viewed as a tool for the development
of urban communities and the
reduction of social exclusion and crime.
Most of these studies, however, have
been conducted in advance of the events
on behalf of interested parties without
adequate measurement of final and
intermediate outputs as well as inputs.
Critical post-event studies point to their
uneven impacts. Research shows that
costs have usually been underestimated
while beneficial impacts have been overestimated.

Regarding social regeneration,
there is an absence of systematic
and robust empirical evidence on the
social impacts of projects. In order to
improve research standards, participants
at the workshop ‘Hosting Major
International Sports Events: Comparing
Asia and Europe’ addressed methodological,
theoretical and empirical issues
gained from mega-event research in
specific localities and temporalities.
The papers were arranged in sessions
according to the following topics: failed
bids and successful bids; nation and
economy building; assessing the costs
and benefits for developed and newly
industrializing economies; identity politics
and political identities; evaluating
the economic and sporting impact of
sports events and promotional activities;
and case studies of impacts and outcomes.
Harada Munehiko (Osaka University of
Health and Sport Sciences) focused on
the City of Osaka’s unsuccessful bid to
host the 2008 summer Olympic Games.
He argued that failure was due to
Osaka’s minor global importance and to
external factors favoring the other Asian
competitor, Beijing. Critics pointing to
the huge costs and poor state of public
finance in Japan were silenced by the
powerful image of the Tokyo Olympics.
Harada argued that despite lack of success,
Japan’s second largest conurbation
area was able to pursue urban revitalization.
Initial losses can spur cities onto
later gains, even though delayed benefits
for communities (in terms of ‘psychic
income’) that arise from the bidding
process are difficult to measure.
John Horne (University of Edinburgh)
addressed the North American experience
of hosting major sports events to
offer a contrasting view on the over-estimated
benefits and under-estimated
costs of hosting. He suggested that
adopting ‘boosterism’ or ‘skepticism’
were difficult to avoid in assessing
impacts. Even where economic analyses
demonstrate that profits can be made on
the operational costs of sports mega
events, much of this can be accounted
for by the free labour provided by the
volunteer force enlisted to help run such
Nicholas Aplin (National Institute of
Education, Singapore) described local
sporting traditions and the influence of
former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew as
the main reasons for Singapore’s resistance
to the allure of sports mega events.
In some ways this was similar to the
People’s Republic of China’s previous
resistance to competitive sport. Yet in
Singapore, the alternative choice of a
sports-for-all policy failed to realize sustainable
mass participation rates. Yi
Jiandong (Beijing Sport University) presented
a roadmap to 2010 of sports
events’ hosting in China. Data never
seen before outside China provided
ample evidence of China’s pursuit of the
Beijing 2008 Olympics for both status
and economic investment purposes. In
discussion it was questioned how long
the investment would last and how evenly
the benefits would be spread. While
hosting certainly is popular with the
political elite, larger parts of the Chinese
people might have different ideas.
Gerd Ahlert (Institute of Economic
Structures Research, Osnabruück) outlined
a robust econometric forecasting
model that has been applied to the Football
World Cup 2006 in Germany. The
calculation based on the Sport Satellite
Account predicts huge pre-event investments
and low direct economic impacts.
But economic gains can be made indirectly
through marketing and nation
branding. Sombat Karnjanakit (Chulalongkorn
University) argued that Thailand
has already reached a saturated
level of modernity, allowing the city to
host and perform credibly in multi-sport
events, as demonstrated by the Asian
Games in 1966, 1970, 1978 and 1998.
The problem for countries such as Thailand
– already established on the global
tourist route – is the unpredictability of
economic benefits.
Salomé Marivoet (University of Coimbra)
outlined research on the European
Football Championships held in Portugal
in 2004 and introduced the mass
media into the workshop’s discussions.
Her paper considered the impact of the
mediatized event on the internal imagined
community and the way different
groups in Portugal sought to capitalize
on national identification externally. In
particular she demonstrated how corporate
nationalism was produced when
national symbols of the past were portrayed
as present-day ‘brands’ of nations
on a globally mediated stage. Xin Xu
(Olin Institute for Strategic Studies,
Harvard University/ Ritsumeikan Asia
Pacific University, Japan) also dealt with
national identity, in terms of its impact
on political relations between the ‘two
Chinas’ (the People’s Republic of China
and the Republic of China, Taiwan). He
foresaw the danger that both unifiers
and secessionists might highjack the
Beijing Olympics in 2008 for their
respective political ambitions.
Kathy Van den Bergh (Vrije Universiteit
Brussels) asked how sports events and
other sports promotion vehicles can
increase participation in sport. While it
is often assumed that there is a correlation,
it is not based on sound empirical
evidence. Van den Bergh reported on
attempts to devise and test an instrument
to evaluate sports promotion as a
means of increasing participation. She
concluded that outcomes exist but
expectations are usually too ambitious.
Sport economist Chris Gratton
(Sheffield Hallam University) argued
that only through specific studies of
major events in particular locations is it
possible to answer questions about the
economic impact and benefits or nonbenefits
of major sports events.
Research into ten events in five cities in
Britain suggest that a European model
where events are staged in existing
sports facilities is more cost effective
than the North American model of
building facilities in the hope that events
or franchises will be attracted to them.
Wolfram Manzenreiter (University of
Vienna) discussed the winners and losers
among cities in Japan that hosted
half the 2002 FIFA Football World Cup.
While the regional impact was overestimated
in most economic dimensions
and in each of the ten host regions, the
social benefits received overtly positive
appraisal. With the increase of size of
the conurbation where the hosting
occurred and its rise of importance on
the national map, satisfaction with the
impact of the multi-site event decreased.
Most participants, Manzenreiter noted,
were in favour of more transparency in
the bidding process and more research
to explore the possibilities of expanding
social benefits deriving from the megaevent
experience. Mustafa Ishak
(National University of Malaysia)
demonstrated that events such as the
Commonwealth Games in 1998 and
Grand Prix (Formula One) car racing
had put Malaysia on the global sporting
map. He argued that these events had
helped the country to acquire modern
state-of-the-art sports facilities, spurred
huge infrastructure investments and
fostered an enhanced sense of national
pride. Hence he emphasized the importance
of sport to processes of economic
development in newly industrialized
countries and nation building in multiethnic
societies. Finally Francesco
Muñoz Ramirez (Universitat Autònoma
de Barcelona, Spain) identified the
importance of place in determining success
or failure in hosting sport events.
An illustrated guide to pre-Olympic
Barcelona, Olympic Barcelona and post-
Olympic developments in the city
revealed the importance of partnerships
– public and private, and across different
sectors of public life – to create
‘transversal synergies’ and to include the
whole city in revitalisation projects.
Barcelona has benefited from continuity
in strategic thinking on revitalisation
and architecture as a means of urban
The final discussion summed up the
issues presented in the papers. First,
there was a need to distinguish more
clearly between increasingly commercial
international sport ‘mega-events’
such as the Olympics and the Football
World Cup, ‘big sports events’ that generate
large national audiences and
media audiences abroad but are closed
to competitive bidding, and other ‘major
sport events’ with different scope and
effect. Second, the dichotomies of postcolonialism
(such as ‘Asia-Europe’) were
reflected in differences in approach
towards mega-events by developed and
newly industrialised economies, established
and emerging nations. Third,
mega-events were considered of utmost
importance for the projects of modernity
as well as post-modernity, albeit with
distinctive goals. For modernizing
nations, hosting a mega-event is a clear
marker of international esteem for
developmental achievements; in postmodern
societies, events large and small
fulfill the role of image generator.
Fourthly, economic gains are less likely
than social benefits, though this kind of
legacy is difficult to plan and control.
While the subsequent direction of the
research agenda stimulated by the
papers was uncertain, participants at the
workshop stressed the necessity of
multi-disciplinary research and international
collaboration to go beyond the
limits of one’s own research perspective.
Our view was that the workshop succeeded
in that it enabled all to share
greater awareness and recognition of the
differences and similarities between the
experience of hosting major international
sports events in developing and
developed nations, modern and postmodern
cultures, and post-industrialised
and newly industrialised


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