Think teams are the only ones who can win or lose at the FIFA World Cup or the Olympics? Think again. The sporting events can be a mixed bag for the cities that host them.
Sure, with millions of fans around the world tuning in to watch, hosting mega events like these can elevate the profile of the country. With proper planning, they can spur the construction of useful infrastructure, too. The 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, which are often credited as playing an important role in making the city the modern metropolis that it is today, are held up by many as the example to follow.
But the events require the host city to invest an enormous amount of money that perhaps could be spent better elsewhere, like on education and health. People in Brazil, where the 2014 FIFA World Cup is currently underway, have protested the tournament for that very reason. There's also a real risk that the investment won't pay off, and the once shining venues might one day end up decaying and abandoned.
This can make reporting these events a complicated and sensitive affair. Two researchers from the Graduate School of Design and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University are trying to make it a little easier.
The pair have launched a new website, Sport Better Cities, dedicated to explaining the good and bad of the World Cup and Olympics from the city's perspective. The site packages information from media, academic and other sources into neatly compiled lists and posts, such as “Getting Realistic About the Economic Benefits of Hosting” (spoiler alert: the miracle economic boost customarily predicted before each event doesn't happen).
The researchers assure that they aren't trying to knock sports. “We love football,” the site explains:
We want to make it easier for journalists, sports, city and other enthusiasts to see the 2014 World Cup in its urban infrastructural and historical context. We hope that this will help stimulate more conversation about how sport can lead to better cities.
They eventually hope to “make the long-term urban development and infrastructural needs of host cities as much of a priority as hosting the Beautiful Game.”
Have some information worthy of sharing on the impact of hosting these events? Sport Better Cities is accepting submissions.