Major Sporting Events: The Need for a Reassessment

This article is published in Futuribles journal no.401, juillet-août 2014

As the present issue appears, the 2014 football World Cup will be moving toward its climax, with the final set to take place at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana Stadium on 13th July. This year Brazil will be hosting the most watched sporting competition on the planet and, to do so, it has undertaken enormous building projects that have taken several years and involved substantial sums of money. Is such a financial investment for this kind of event justified, particularly in an emerging nation where a significant section of the population gains no benefit from the knock-on effects on economic growth? This is one of the central questions raised here by Jean-Jacques Gouguet and Jean-François Brocard in their deliberation on the extent to which the true interests of a country or city are served by hosting major sporting events. Taking lessons from the assessments made after various major events of the same order (Olympic Games, other World Cups etc.), the authors stress the uncertain economic impacts and the long-term financial burden that is sometimes left to be borne by the organizing authorities. They also stress how externalities get left out of account, which may be burdensome economically, socially and, going forward, environmentally. They then examine what perspectives flow from this mixed picture with regard to the future organization of major sporting events, taking into account the legacies left by these events (in terms of infrastructure and brand recognition etc.) and the way decisions are taken about them. In so doing, they stress the need to choose decision-making tools well (particularly with regard to ex ante impact studies) and the growing danger that the organization of major sporting events will no longer be possible in democratic countries on account of the sensitivity of public opinion to the proper use of public funds and the priority accorded to social and environmental aspects.
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