Arts + Culture

The Olympics Effect

by Bob Payne

Curmudgeonly contrarians may claim that the Olympics is not about sports, it's about politics. But we know better: The Olympics has always been about improving the appeal of the host city. You let cutting-edge (and sometimes over-the-edge) architects loose on projects no one would ordinarily have the courage to commission. You increase the number of hotel rooms based on a prediction you hope isn't too optimistic. You finally undertake major airport, rail, and road projects the city has needed for decades. And you do it all with the goal of attracting tourists not only during the Games but also for years to come. The process is sometimes called the "Olympics Effect," and perhaps no other host city has embraced it as fully as Beijing, which hasn't had its face so radically altered since the Great Wall was built. Here's a peek at the legacy the 2008 Summer Games may leave, and a reflection on the benefits—and in some cases, disasters—brought by the Olympics Effect to other host cities.

Published August 2008.

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