Whether it is worth spending efforts on hosting major sports events such as for example the Olympics and the most prestigious international championships seems to be a never-ending issue. Over the years, the popularity of such events has varied. In the 1970s and 80s, several cities were unwilling to apply for the Olympics.
One reason for this was the poor economic results for the host cities, but also political controversies. The 1972 Munich Olympics and the 1976 Montreal Olympics both turned out as financial failures for the host cities (Preuss, 2004). The 1980 Olympics in Moscow were boycotted by many western nations because of the Soviet’s invasion in Afghanistan. Many cities were unwilling to apply for such events because of these experiences.
The 1976 Winter Olympics, which initially were awarded to Denver, Colorado, were later moved to Innsbruck, Austria after local residents in Denver voted against hosting it. The city of Los Angeles was the only serious bidder for the 1984 Olympics.
Since then, however, the pattern has changed. One reason for this was that the Los Angeles Games made a significant profit. This again triggered the interest for the events among cities. The 2012 Olympics, with five of the foremost cities in the world (London, Paris, Madrid, New York and Moscow) competing fiercely for the host position, represented an appropriate illustration.
Throughout 2014 and 2015, however, the pattern once again changed. Residents in Munich (Germany), Krakow (Poland) and St. Moritz / Davos (Switzerland) voted against applying for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Additionally, Stockholm (Sweden), Lviv (Ukraine) and Oslo (Norway) also withdrew their applications. Oslo even withdrew their application after the IOC had elected the city as a candidate city. In November 2015, the city of Hamburg (Germany) withdraw their bid for the 2024 Olympics . Similar attitudes were observed in Brazil prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Their hosting caused severe opposition among residents, despite that Brazil traditionally has been considered as one of the leading (if not the leader of) football nations in the world.
One reason for this resistance was the cost overruns of mega events, which has been documented in the literature (Molloy & Skeath, 2015; Andreff, 2012; Baloyi & Bekker 2011; Flyvbjerg & Stewart, 2012; Gaffney, 2013; Müller, 2014).
However, despite these experiences, the awarding of such events has usually caused joy and celebrations in the winning cities and nations. Academic research has also shown that the support among local residents tends to increase during the preparations (Preuss & Solberg, 2006). However, much is unknown concerning the reasons people have for welcoming the events. Is it because of the possibilities to watch competitions of top quality in their own backyard?
Is it because of their value as a social happening? Is it because they expect the events will generate economic benefits for the destination and themselves? Alternatively, are there other reasons?
This article will address this issue by means of an empirical survey from Norway.
Do local residents wish to host major sports events in their own backyard? If so, what are the main reasons for doing it? What do people want to achieve from the events? To what degree do they have different attitudes towards different events? By investigating these and related questions, this research can give politicians information regarding what kind of events that are worth supporting.
The survey was partly related to the 2011 FIS World Skiing Championship, which was hosted in Oslo three months before the survey. In addition, the survey also focused on the attitudes towards mega-events, with the Winter Olympics and UEFA’s Championship for national teams presented as hypothetical cases.
The respondents were asked to imagine that Norway considered applying for these events, and were asked if they would have supported the application in a hypothetical referendum. The questionnaire did not indicate where the events would be hosted, only that they would be in Norway.
This allowed us to compare their attitudes towards an event that recently had been hosted with hypothetical events that could be hosted in the future. Norway has twice hosted the Winter Olympics.
Additionally, the Norwegian Football Association applied for the 2008 UEFA Championship together with the other Nordic countries, but this event was awarded to Austria/Switzerland. In addition, the Norwegian and Swedish football associations prepared to apply for the 2016 Championship, but withdrew the applications when the governments in both countries were unwilling to support the event financially.
The next section first provides a literature review. This is followed by a discussion of theoretical perspectives of relevance for the research issue. Next is overview of data collection and methods. Then follow presentations of the results and findings. The final section discusses these findings and concludes.