… as material leftovers, structures for mega-events stand as forensic evidence that states are communicating to each other on an international platform through a material language.
Derelict Olympic Stadiums Correlate with Trade Increases?
Recently, Jan-H. posted about the “pro-durability” bias in STS (or the possibility of it) and used the all too familiar case of derelict Olympic stadiums that pepper large urban settings; the leftovers of mega-events that struggle to find suitable use.
Athens, Greece, comes to mind…
(image from here)
In the city there is a large leftover infrastructure that was quite a joy to run on as a visitor, although, because of the intense smog in Athens’ city-center, it was difficult to run up and down the steps sometimes … well, without coughing. The stadium above is the Panathenaic Stadium, and doing some background research on it, I found a really cool blog “Urban Ghosts: Forgotten Places and Urban Curiosities” written by Tom, a journalist from Sheffield, UK. He writes:
The one stadium that refuses to give up the Olympic ghost and enjoys the lion’s share of the tourists is not a state-of the-art 21st century arena, but the Panathenaic Stadium of the ancient world. The structure was originally used to host the athletic portion of the Panathenaic Games in honour of the Goddess Athena. It was rebuilt in 329 BC – the only major stadium in the world to be built of white marble. Once seating 50,000 people, the Panathenaic Stadium also hosted the Olympics in 1870, 1875 and 1896. Its modern brethren pale into insignificance alongside such an impressive track record.
But surely vast investment like that cannot be recouped … can they?
Well, maybe, leftover infrastructure may be the by-product and correlate of trade increases.
hosting – or even bidding on — “mega-events” like the Olympics leads to a 30% increase in trade for those countries (check it out here in the Wall Street Journal).
What is so outstanding about this is how durable the trade increases are. In the academic paper, Andrew K Rose and
Mark Spiegel say this in their abstract:
Economists are skeptical about the economic benefits of hosting “mega-events” such as the Olympic Games or the World Cup, since such activities have considerable cost and seem to yield few tangible benefits. These doubts are rarely shared by policy-makers and the population, who are typically quite enthusiastic about such spectacles. In this paper, we reconcile these positions by examining the economic impact of hosting mega-events like the Olympics; we focus on trade. Using a variety of trade models, we show that hosting a mega-event like the Olympics has a positive impact on national exports. This effect is statistically robust, permanent, and large; trade is around 30% higher for countries that have hosted the Olympics. Interestingly however, we also find that unsuccessful bids to host the Olympics have a similar positive impact on exports. We conclude that the Olympic effect on trade is attributable to the signal a country sends when bidding to host the games, rather than the act of actually holding a mega-event. We develop a political economy model that formalizes this idea, and derives the conditions under which a signal like this is used by countries wishing to liberalize.
Such structures suggest that the hosting nation “is open to trade liberalization“; however, as Tom mentions (and as world events have shown), the Greeks are not enjoying this trade benefit.
(image from here)
As Greece grapples with more than $370 billion of public debt, the dormant arenas have fueled anger over a lack of forward planning as the country ramped up to the 2004 Summer Olympics. For many, the disused venues – with their operating costs adding more pressure to the already-strained city coffers – stand as visible reminders of Greece’s age of excess spending.
These sorts of material leftovers stand as forensic evidence that states are communicating to each other on an international platform through a material language. If so, the durability of these structures can be seen as either an outstanding reminder of a nation’s openness to liberalized trade, or operate like a vestigal organ no longer needed that can only harm you when it does not operate properly…