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Economic and Cultural Benefits of Sports Tourism: The 2012 London Olympics Case Study

Mar 18, 2008
Sport tourism is a multi-billion dollar business, one of the fastest growing areas of the global travel and tourism industry. There is an obvious link between Hospitality, Leisure, Sport and Tourism Network. A close examination of the travel industry, paying special attention to cultural variations and sports, provides valuable insight into changing dynamics of this industry and the interplay between economy and sports.

All kinds of sports (Internet gaming, soccer, football, golf, rugby, cricket, athletics, boxing, formula one, yacht racing, poker, olympics among others) draw fanatical support both in the field and at home.

All over the world, the most influential sports rights holders, property owners, blue-chip companies, broadcasters, sports teams, venture capitalists, federations benefit from sports and sports events events.

Looking at different countries of the world, there is enough evidence to illustrate the interplay between sports and all major sectors of the economy including but not limited to sociocultural dynamics, people's health, the environment, urban development, and public policy. This means that sports as a development sector has a bright future. The symbiotic relationship between economic development and sports tourism raise prospects that are unique and more predictable than most investments. The surge in foreign take overs of English Premiership clubs is an indication of how sports has moved on from being local romantacised hobby of the past. Sporting events promote sustainable tourism and encourage preservation of our cultural inheritance too.

The economies of cities, regions and even countries around the world are increasingly relying on hosting sports events and also hosting visiting sportsmen and women and their supporters as a source of income. The intensity of sports event bidding has become more and more aggressive. London's bid for the 2012 Olympics was so fierce and it took a lot of strategising and real lobbying to beat Paris and Real Madrid.

Now the city of London is poised to change a lot as it prepares for the events. The investment is enormous and so are the returns. Here is a glimpse of what the games will do to the local economy. There will be a need for more workers before and after the games, there is an anticipated 8.4% increase in construction workers needed in Greater London (13,000 more bricklayers needed and 15,000 more plumbers are needed). A budget of 9.3 billion pounds is needed for construction, transport and regeneration. The total budget for the Olympics is about $19.1 billion! That is a mind boggling figure.

Sport tourists are a passionate, high profile, high-spending, adventure-seeking lot that often stimulate other tourism sectors. Their direct benefit to a destination is cash. Basically this is the money they spend and the money organisers spend. The other side of the coin there is an in indirect benefit whose years of effect are felt long after the sports tourists have left the scene. Think of new bridges, new hotels, roadworks, new sports arenas, water decontaminations, repainting of structures, new jobs and other long term amenities.

It is estimated that 30,000-40,000 new dwellings being built in the London Olympic Park area would go to local people. The event promises to help create 50,000 jobs. Of course there can never be a fire-walled guarantee on this. Some games around the world have led to ghost structures aptly names white elephants. These are facilities that fall to disuse soon after the games despite the fact that they cost millions to put up.

Sport tourism is now a tool to make achieve many things, make-money, create thousands of new jobs and even help change cultural perceptions. In some instances sports has been used to advance cultural and political interests. Think of apartheid in South Africa and how Cricket, rugby and football helped heal the racial divide that existed for decades.

All said and done,some sections of the community tend to benefit more than others in whatever the situation, either by omission or commission. For instance most people who will be coming for the London Olympics will almost always consider airport hotels or hotels near the sports pavilions. Many airport hotels starting with Heathrow airport hotels, will probably be the first ones to get fully booked.

Most foreign dignitaries and sports people will not want to get lost or waste time in a big city like London. They are likely to choose one of the Heathrow hotels close to the airport to avoid busy motorway traffic to and from sports events. Hotels far off from the city communication network will lose out.
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