South Korea to host Winter Olympics

Jeff Horwich Jul 6, 2011

South Korea to host Winter Olympics

Jeff Horwich Jul 6, 2011

Kai Ryssdal: Winter sports fans among us can go right ahead and book tickets for Pyeongchang, South Korea. After falling just short in two previous tries, today that city landed the 2018 Winter Olympics. So it’s time to start building those luge runs and hockey arenas. Don’t forget the athletes’ village that has to be bigger and better than the one before.

Sure, it’s a lot of money and trouble to go to, but it’s a small price to pay for — wait. For what, exactly?

Here’s Marketplace’s Jeff Horwich.

Jeff Horwich: It’s hard to imagine the other finalists in the room — France and Germany — freaking out quite like the South Koreans when their name got called.

Crowd: Here we go! Here we go!

Rob Baade: If it’s just about economics, there’s really no justification for the giddiness.

Sports economist Rob Baade at Lake Forest College says party now, Pyeongchang — because the hangover’s a doozy.

Baade: There’s a spike in economic activity, of course, while the events are actually held, but after the games and even a month before, we’ve noted some dead time.

Every Olympic bid comes with rosy research showing a boom in investment, tourists, jobs and bunch of creative uses for that new curling rink. University of Chicago economist Allen Sanderson says toss it all out.

Allen Sanderson: So the old line is: Never ask a barber if you need a haircut. I’ve often said if you take whatever number they give you and move the decimal point one to the left, it’s probably much more accurate.

Next year’s London summer games could run five times over-budget. And timing is everything: The last Winter Olympics, in Vancouver, hit during the recession — tough time to convert the Olympic Village into condos. But of course, Sanderson says, it’s not just about economics.

Sanderson: There are always these public relations aspects, you know, how much is this worth, getting your city on the world stage?

You know, like Lilleham..ster, or that…other place…in Italy, or wherever that was. Still, maybe it’s all worth it for those two weeks in the sun. Unless, of course, that sun melts all your snow — like it did in Vancouver.

I’m Jeff Horwich for Marketplace.

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