International sports is big business. Consider, for instance, soccer's World Cup. Broadcast rights for the 2002 tournament, in which 197 nations will participate, were purchased for $960 million by a SwissGerman intermediary that will resell the broadcasts to television companies around the world (Jones 1999). Although spectators pay to watch the athletes, the competition to host these events is equally fierce. International sporting events are major tourist attractions, and their global television audience means an event can serve as a showcase for the host city or country as well.
Do sporting events, however large they might be, matter politically? The answer, in a word, is yes. They matter both because international sporting events have tremendous symbolic significance and because they influence the allocation of scarce public resources. To illustrate, the U. S. General Accounting Office (2000) reported that various agencies of the federal government have spent roughly $2 billion to help three cities stage the 1984, 1996, and 2002 Olympic games. Of this amount, Salt Lake City alone received about $1.3 billion, with Atlanta getting $609 million, and Los Angeles $75 million (all in 1999 dollars). The bottom line is, because of the Olympics, these cities got federal money to build roads, spruce up parks, and improve security—federal funds that could not go to Dallas, Newark, or Minneapolis.
In this chapter, we address the emergence of the strategy of using mega-events such as the Olympic games to promote local economic development. Hosting mega-events has become a prominent economic development strategy in the United States because of the