The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Economic Impact of the Olympic Games

  • Andrew Zimbalist
Reference work entry


The Olympic Games are among the largest and most visible sporting events in the world. Every two years, the world’s best athletes from some 200 countries come together to compete in lavish new venues in front of thousands of spectators. Hundreds of millions of sports fans worldwide watch the Games on television. Although Pierre de Coubertin, who founded the modern Olympics in the late 19th century, may have had altruistic, idealistic notions of pure amateur competition, unsullied by financial motivations, the Olympic Games have become a big business. The participants are effectively professional athletes; the organizers are highly compensated, professional bureaucrats; hosting the Games involves huge construction and renovation projects that take nearly a decade to complete, and these expenditures are usually justified by claims of extraordinary economic benefits that will accrue to the host city or region as a direct result of hosting the Games. This article examines the financing of the Olympic Games, explores how the awarding of the Games has become a high-stakes contest, and analyzes the costs of running the Games and their economic impact on the host city and nation.


Economics of sport International Olympic Committee (IOC) Major events Multiplier Olympic bid Olympic Games Sport finance Sport infrastructure 

JEL Classifications

L31 L83 L88 R1 
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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew Zimbalist
    • 1
  1. 1.