As one of the world’s largest sporting events, the Games can be a tremendous catalyst for change in a host city, helping to deliver lasting benefits that can transform a community, its image and its infrastructure.
Squaw Valley, for instance, was virtually unknown among skiers in the USA, let alone the wider world, before being awarded the rights to host the 1960 Olympic Winter Games. Since then, however, the global exposure the resort enjoyed as a result of the Games – coupled with a major development project in the build-up to 1960 – has seen Squaw Valley firmly establish itself as a major ski destination, with the Lake Tahoe region now home to North America’s largest concentration of ski resorts.
Lake Tahoe region
Similarly, the Italian city of Turin used the 2006 Winter Games to transform its image, enabling it to become a new tourism and business hub by showcasing its rich history, culture and high-tech industry to the world. Annual visitor numbers in the Piedmont region have subsequently increased from 3.3 million in 2006 to 4.3 million in 2012.
The Italian city of Turin
Host cities such as Lake Placid, Salt Lake City, Calgary and Albertville, meanwhile, have made use of their Olympic venues to host further major events, including world championships and World Cups, while also providing first-class training facilities for future generations of elite athletes.
Salt Lake City
Other host cities used the Games to advance huge infrastructure improvements, with Sapporo enjoying extensions to two airports, a redeveloped railway station, 41 new or improved roads and the construction of a 45km rapid transit system, while Nagano benefited from the extension of the Shinkansen Bullet Train, reducing the travel time from Tokyo from three hours to just 80 minutes.
In addition to visible changes, such as new venues, roads and other facilities, the Games can also bring intangible benefits, such as the increased national pride that Canadians felt following Vancouver 2010.
The Winter Games have also been used to highlight environmental initiatives, with Lillehammer 1994 helping to establish new environmental standards for major sporting events, ensuring that future organisers would be required to include sustainability measures in their plans.
Sochi now looks set to follow this trend, with legacy plans already in place for its glittering array of new venues, as well as a plethora of other long-term benefits, including infrastructure developments and the establishment of a volunteer movement in Russia.