READING THE OLYMPIC GAMES
With the worldwide media attention, visiting dignitaries, and the rhetoric of “welcoming the world” and staging the “best games ever, ” it is easy for city leaders to get caught up in the grand images of an Olympic dream. As the experiences of Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Salt Lake City show, however, the realities of governing urban America make the materialization of Olympic dreams anything but a straightforward proposition. The Olympic games can be an exciting spectacle, but are they good public policy for the cities that host them? That question is at the heart of our concerns, and in this chapter we draw upon the experiences of our three Olympic cities to assess the broader meaning of urban mega-events as public policy.
U. S. cities have come to put greater emphasis on consumption-based development. As public policy, the activities that constitute this form of economic development, such as building convention centers, sports facilities, and entertainment complexes, indicate how globalization and changes in federal policy permeate cities and how cities respond to these changes. Yet the sameness of these urban experiences means that city leaders must rely on place marketing to project a unique image that will bring visitors and investors to their city. As cities seek to differentiate themselves, the Olympic games offer a golden opportunity for city leaders to pursue a growth-oriented policy agenda. Efforts to attract mega-events are thus part of a deliberate