Academic journal article Proceedings: International Symposium for Olympic Research

Going for Gold: Explaining Motivations for Olympic Games Bidding

Academic journal article Proceedings: International Symposium for Olympic Research

Going for Gold: Explaining Motivations for Olympic Games Bidding

Article excerpt

"Beijing, you are a host to the present and a gateway to the future," (1) International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge remarked in a speech given at the opening ceremony of the Games of the XXIX Olympiad on August 8, 2008. A remarkable showcase condensing 5,000 years of Chinese history into a four-hour display marked the end of an incredible process and the start of Olympic competititon. These opening ceremonies and the Games that followed drew the attention of the international community and provided China and Beijing with a unique and unsurpassed experience as the center of the world's focus.

Newspapers reporting on the festivities surrounding the opening of the Olympic Games identified the event as an attempt by Beijing to bolster its position in the international community. The Sydney Morning Herald reported: "... the Bird's Nest national stadium was a kaleidoscope of color, a blitz of high-pace, high-tech action" marking China's "emergence as a member of the world community." (2) The Washington Post found the ceremony exulted Beijing's "newly recovered status as a world power." (3) Canada's Clobe and Mail wrote, "After decades of isolation, followed by years of uncertainty and timidity on the world stage, this was the moment China had been waiting for, the moment when the eyes of the world" were turned upon Beijing, "legitimizing its new power." (4) In a similar fashion, many reports called the Games a moment of great national pride irrespective of the international community's reaction. The New York Times reported "the astonishing ceremonies of the 2008 Olympic Games lavished grand tribute on Chinese civilization and sought to stir an ancient nation's pride," as well as an attempt for the Communist party to "inspire national pride within China and bolster its own legitimacy in the process." (5) "Across Beijing, the public rejoiced. People painted red Chinese flags on their cheeks and shouted, 'Go China!' long after the four-hour opening had concluded." (6) Were Games organizers interested in the meaning the Games would have for the city in its global relationships, or more focused on elevating China in a nationalist sense?

This essay will attempt to explain why cities and countries seek the opportunity that the Olympic Games provide through two hypotheses. The first hypothesis suggests that Olympic bids are driven by a desire to improve the city's standing in the international community, using the Games as a springboard to the global stage. This hypothesis maintains that city organizers are motivated to bid in order to become or remain a "global city." The second hypothesis approaches bid motivations from the perspective of the host country, suggesting governments encourage Olympic bids through a host city with the hopes of increasing nationalist sentiment within the population. What was the underlying motivation leading up to the 2008 Summer Olympic Games' opening ceremony--a chance to elevate Beijing as a city worthy of international recognition, or a desire to increase feelings of nationalism within the Chinese population? The ultimate aim of this essay is to uncover which of these deciding factors precipitated the creation of the Olympic bid, not only for Beijing, but for unsuccessful bids produced by other cities competing to host the Games in 2008.

The City and the Mega-Event

Mega-events are those events considered beyond the scope of traditional events, defined by Roche as "large-scale cultural (including commercial and sporting) events which have a dramatic character, mass popular appeal and international significance." (7) A high-profile event such as the Olympics, widely considered to be the most coveted of all mega-events, is believed to deliver promising returns to Games' hosts in the form of international attention, sponsorship and Olympic-related revenue, and prestige for the host city.

The mega-event strategy, or pursuing major international events as a means of achieving policy goals, can be connected to a host's desire to increase tourism, revitalize its image, and engage in urban redevelopment. …

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