The summer Olympics has now come and gone, and it will certainly be a memorable one. People from around the world cheered on their fellow countrymen, and women, as they put their hearts on the line in pursuit of gold and glory. However, now that the Olympic Games have concluded what happens to Rio de Janeiro? Will the country experience a boost in tourism or economic activity? Or, like our recent obsession for all things gymnastics and swimming, will Rio be forgotten with time?
In 2009, the Olympic Committee announced that Rio de Janeiro, Brazil would host the 2016 Olympic Games. At the time, the country and its leaders were ecstatic - officials even declared it a holiday for city and state employees. Brazil became the first South American country chosen to host the Olympic Games and many in Rio saw the Olympics as an opportunity to show off the city and country. Brazilian officials intended to use the Olympics as a way to boost tourism, trade, and spending. However, hosting an Olympics costs taxpayers billions of dollars, and studies have found that it may not have a positive effect on the host nation or city.
In 2004, Athens, Greece as more than excited to welcome the Olympic Games back to its original “home.” The country was so excited that it spent more than $11 billion on the games, making it the most expensive Olympics in history up to that point. While Greece did welcome many visitors during the games, the country did not experience a significant increase in tourism in the years that followed. Instead, Athens experienced an economic downturn in the wake of the Olympics, which has caused some to wonder whether or not it was triggered by spending for the Olympic Games.
Another example is the 2000 Olympic Games in Australia. A study conducted after the 2000 games aimed to find out whether or not the Olympics would have a positive impact on the country’s tourism. Researchers surveyed individuals from countries around the world to see whether or not the potential traveler’s perceptions of Sydney had been affected by the games. The answer? Most travelers had no change in perception, while some actually said they were less likely to travel to Sydney now. Negative imagery and the Olympics are nothing new, and they can damage a country or city’s reputation, potentially hurting tourism.
Which brings us back to the current Olympic Games taking place in Rio de Janeiro. Not since the 1972 Munich Games has a country received so much negative attention during the event. News reports of sewage in the streets, rampant crime, and crumbling infrastructure has left few people rushing to pack their bags to head down to Rio on vacation. Coupled with the fact that Brazil has spent up to $25 billion in the run-up to this Olympic Games, it is likely that the country will experience the same let-down that many other host countries have experienced before them.
While we all love watching the games, it is easily forgotten that the taxpayers are typically on the hook for hosting the events. Those lobbying for the right to host the Olympics claim that the Games will bring with it an economic boost to a host country; however, the evidence overwhelmingly shows that hosting the Olympics leads to no real change in economic activity.