Are the increasing costs of “mega-event” games preventing host cities from applying?

With the increasing popularity of global mega-events, such as the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, many are beginning to wonder if hosting such a large-scale event is worth it. While these mega-events have been cited as providing an economic boosts to host cities, recently the negative after-effects have been greatly publicized—overpromising of benefits, underestimating costs, and using public resources for private interest. In the end, the building of new infrastructure comes at a significant cost to those in the surrounding communities, in addition to long-term negative effects on both people and the environment.

As Martin Muller of the University of Zurich writes in the Journal of the American Planning Association (Vol. 81 Issue 1, 2015), money needed for these ventures can now, “command a price of over $10 million,” as well as force the relocation of citizens to accommodate guests. Actions such as those often turn mega-events into obstacles, rather than benefits to urban development. This results in oversized or obsolete infrastructure that the public is forced to pay for. He suggests that a greater focus be placed on the long-term effect of mega-events. In addition to the incremental changes needed to improve the outcome, Muller’s research recommends implementing radical change in how mega-events are “planned, awarded, and governed.”

Mueller’s research advocates for:

  • No longer tie mega-events to large-scale urban development;
  • Avoid higher risks that create cost overruns;
  • Event-hosts should bargain with event-governing bodies for better conditions;
  • Earmark and cap public sector contributions.

An unforeseen side effect is the recent lack of host cities vying for upcoming mega-events. This includes the 2022 Winter Olympics, were a number of potential hosts either refrained from submitting a bid or withdrew. Muller believes that the best way to reduce a negative outcome is to, “avoid cost overruns, inefficient allocation of resources, and oversized infrastructure.” Ultimately research shows that change will not occur without pressure from the public.

To read the full report, click here.

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