Economic growth and autocracy make Olympic bids more likely


Photo: Colourbox


By Stine Alvad
Certain economic and socio-political tendencies are determinant factors when countries bid for an Olympic Games, says a statistical study showing that long-term economic growth, long-term history of autocracy or prioritising of health are among the decisive factors.

Specific effects and factors characterise nations that bid for an Olympic Games, says a paper that looks into what these factors are.

The study, which is authored by German economists Wolfgang Maennig and Christopher Vierhaus from the University of Hamburg, Germany, has defined 132 economic, political, social, touristic, infrastructural and sport factors that can say something general about whether a country bids for an Olympics.

The paper focuses on the bidding for eight Olympic Games between 1992 and 2020 and includes all countries with a National Olympic Committee eligible to bid for an Olympics in the period. This results in 1,477 cases examined.

Who wants to host the Games?
Countries with a minimum of 5% growth rate over the past ten years are more likely to bid for an Olympic Games, says the report and also finds long-term positive development in economic globalisation to be a factor. Trade and financial openness are also deternined to be factors that favour a bid when such a development has been going upwards on a long-term basis.

Another factor that has shown to be positively correlated with bidding for an Olympics is if a country has a high number of international tourists. If a country is dependent on tourism, hosting an Olympic Games is seen as a way to improve this profile, says the report. An improved standard of health is also among the factors that raise the probability of bid.

A country’s political environment also has a say. The paper concludes that non-democratic countries are more likely to put in a bid and that a long-term restricting of political and civil rights increases the correlation between a country and a bid for the Olympics. The chances of a bid also rise if political competition has been reduced since the country’s latest election.

The paper also shows, however, that short-term improvements in political and civil rights increase the odds of a nation bidding as does an increase in the political participation. From a social perspective, the analysis shows that a majority of the countries that have bid have improved their social conditions before bidding and that there has often been an increase in personal contacts, information flows and cultural proximity.

Three recommendations
Concluding the analysis, Maennig and Vierhaus present three areas in which the International Olympic Committee (IOC) could focus more in order to increase the number of bidding nations in a period of time when the number of countries interested in hosting an Olympics is declining.

Most of the bidding countries are in the run because they “seek a global stage for presenting their liberalization, globalization, and development”. Therefore, the authors recommend that the IOC focus more on promoting both bidding and winning nations on a continuous basis.

Another move that could help increase the number of bidding nations would be to “vary the host city selection criteria”. This could be achieved by ‘refuting the myth’ that new hosts need to be from a different region than the previous. Finally, the IOC could “specifically invite and select” a number of smaller countries, that due to their size and priorities would not normally bid for an Olympic Games, the paper suggests.


* required field

What is three plus seven?

Guidelines for posting
Play the Game promotes an open debate on sport and sports politics and we strongly encourage everyone to participate in the discussions on But please follow these simple guidelines when you write a post:

  1. Please be respectful - even if you disagree strongly with certain viewpoints. Slanderous or profane remarks will not be posted.
  2. Please keep to the subject. Spam or solicitations of any kind will not be posted.

Use of cookies

The website uses cookies to provide a user-friendly and relevant website. Cookies provide information about how the website is being used or support special functions such as Twitter feeds. 

By continuing to use this site, you consent to the use of cookies. You can find out more about our use of cookies and personal data in our privacy policy.