Slideshows | July 24, 2012

Does the Olympics make our lives better?

As an international mega-event, the Olympics is of big interest to a wide range of people from sports enthusiasts to spectators – and even economists.

Studies of trade, wellbeing and other factors have produced some fascinating insights into the growing body of research about sport and economics, we highlight four of them. 



We feel happier (but not richer)

Economic benefits are not often a product of hosting a major sports event (with high infrastructure and other costs) but a “feel good factor” can be, research finds. Major football tournaments are particularly good at giving the wellbeing boost but, for the Olympics, it seems that the joy is more closely linked to a country doing better than expected.


The home ground advantage is real

Olympics host countries typically win more medals than they usually do, according to French economists. This home advantage effect was “very strong” in 2008 in Beijing, where China won 100 medals compared with 63 in 2004 and 58 in 2000.


Even bidding may help

One economic area where hosting the Olympics does help is international exports, research finds. It shows international trade is about 30% higher for countries that have hosted the Olympics – but that effect also applies to countries that unsuccessfully bid to host the Games. The authors write that the signal sent by bidding is what matters here.


Money matters

When it comes to bringing home medals, money does matter. High-income countries tend to win Olympic medals in a greater range of sports, Australian researchers found. The authors write that this diversification in wealthy countries can be compared to trends in production (a topic frequently explored in international economics).


eZonomics team
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