Regional involvement with the olympic and paralympic games
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Authors: Jones, I.
© 2013 Vassil Girginov. The hosting of any Olympic and Paralympic Games throws up an interesting paradox. Bids are made by the host city, which, it is argued, will receive the majority of the benefits (particularly in terms of economic benefits and improvements to infrastructure) associated with hosting such an event, while, of course, taking most of the associated risks. As Blake (2005) has demonstrated, for example, the benefits for London would seem significantly to outweigh those benefits for the rest of the country. Such bids, however, require national government to provide support and commitment, given, as was the case with the London bid, on the basis that the Games will benefit the wider nation, a claim that does not always stand up to close scrutiny. With events of such scale requiring subsidization by governments, and with such subsidies having to be financed either out of government revenue or, as has been widely reported in the case of London 2012, reductions in other government spending, it could be argued that the Games are a mixed blessing for regions within the United Kingdom, with the exception of London and perhaps the South-East. Deccio and Baloglu (2002), however, use social exchange theory to suggest that groups will be willing to engage in an exchange with another party (allowing resources to be diverted to the host city) if there is perceived mutual benefit from the exchange. Thus, it is argued, regions outside the capital will be prepared to view the Games positively if there is some perceived gain for them. This need for regions outside London to perceive a sense of benefit has been acknowledged by the organizing bodies. As Garcia suggests, “When historians look back at these Games, they will see the most extensive commitment to nationalize an event that is often considered city based” (Garcia, 2010, p. 5). This follows a set of examples (albeit limited) of previous sporting events that have demonstrated major benefits for the wider nation, with the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa as perhaps the clearest. As Chalip notes: The Rugby World Cup came to South Africa as it was endeavouring to create national unity in the aftermath of its apartheid history. Mandela’s government recognized that the liminoid character of the event could be used to alter public perceptions of relations between White and Black South Africa. As the event approached, the government promoted the event’s “One Team, One Nation” theme. Then, in an act designed to drive home the new narrative, Mandela appeared at the event wearing a replica of the (White) South African team captain’s uniform. The effect was palpable, fostering extensive discourse about a new national unity.