International Handbook on the Economics of Mega Sporting Events
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International Handbook on the Economics of Mega Sporting Events

Edited by Wolfgang Maennig and Andrew Zimbalist

From the Olympics to the World Cup, mega sporting events are a source of enjoyment for tens of thousands of people, but can also be a source of intense debate and controversy. This insightful Handbook addresses a number of central questions, including: How are host cities selected and under what economic conditions? How are these events organized, and how is local resistance overcome? Based on historical and empirical experience, what are the pitfalls for the organizers of these events? What are the potential economic benefits, including any international image effects? How can the costs be minimized and the benefits maximized for host cities and countries? How do these mega events impact the challenges of globalization and what is their environmental legacy?
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Chapter 2: What is a Mega Sporting Event?

Wolfgang Maennig and Andrew Zimbalist


Wolfgang Maennig and Andrew Zimbalist According to Webster’s dictionary, ‘mega’ is a prefix meaning large or great. It follows that a mega sporting event is a large or great sporting event. Just like beauty, what is great is subjective – it is in the eyes of the beholder. It would be folly to pretend that there is a clear line that demarcates great from normal or ordinary; rather, the magnitude of a sporting event likely falls along a continuum of size, reach or significance. What are some of the quantifiable indicators that might distinguish a mega from a typical sporting event?1 The number of participating athletes might be a first criterion to identify a mega sporting event. If the number of athletes is used, the world’s largest city marathons with easily more than 25,000 participants are of unique impact. In fact, even according to other criteria mentioned below, the marathons of Boston, New York City, London and Berlin might qualify as mega events.2 Two commonly considered standards are attendance at the event and television viewership of the event (Horne and Manzenreiter, 2006). Each standard, in turn, has multiple dimensions: first, the number of attendees and viewers; second, the share of attendees and viewers who come from outside the host metropolitan area (and/or the host country); and, third, the number of TV transmission hours or a combination of transmission duration and spectatorship. Further, to the extent that such information is available and reliable, one might also want to consider the...

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