To Bid Or Not To Bid: Making Global Events Work For City Development

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In 2012, London became the first city in the modern era to host the Summer Olympic Games for a third time; it had also hosted the Games in 1908 and 1948. But only 30 years earlier, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had expressed concern that not enough nations and cities were applying to host the Games: through the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, the right to host the Olympics was not so keenly contested, and few of the leading international cities of the era bid for the Games or hosted them.

This all changed with the 1992 Olympics, when Barcelona spectacularly used the Games to reintroduce itself to the world and to decisively accelerate a programme of major urban redevelopment. Since that time, many of the world’s most successful cities have bid to host the Summer Olympics, including Beijing, Buenos Aires, Chicago, Istanbul, London, Madrid, Moscow, New York City, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, and Tokyo. The Olympics once again are seen as an event to bid for and to be a part of. The Olympic Games have been reinvented as a tool for long-term urban development and city positioning.

At the heart of the dynamic increase in cities and nations competing to host events lie major questions and challenges. Will the costs of bidding for or hosting an event ultimately be justified by the advantages and benefits that the chosen city accrues from doing so? Will the profit-and-loss account of the event be black or red? Can the likely outcome, whether net positive or net negative, be known in advance? And, perhaps most crucial, can the bidding city do anything meaningful to increase its benefits or reduce its costs?

To Bid Or Not To Bid: Making Global Events Work For City Development re-examines the key challenges involved in deciding whether to bid, how to bid, which events to bid for, and how to make the most of such opportunities.


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