Arts + Culture

The Olympics Effect

by Bob Payne

Lillehammer, Norway, Winter 1994:
The Tiny Olympics

Going for gold: Never mind that its ice-hockey arena was in a cave. Even without the help of Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, who both skated there, Lillehammer would have gotten considerable international press. Its setting was spectacular. Its hospitality was first-rate. But the world recognized too late that with a population of only 23,000, it was just too small to hold such a major event.

Tourism legacy: In the beginning, visitor numbers after the Games were up, but keeping them that way was the difficult part. Within a few years, 40 percent of the hotels in Lillehammer had gone bankrupt.

Results: Silver. Although Lillehammer put on a good show, it is unlikely that the IOC will ever again award the Games to such a small town. That did not, however, stop a village in Andorra with a population of 22,000 and another in Spain with a population of 11,000 from bidding for the 2010 Winter Games—which went to Vancouver, population of almost half a million.

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