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Land Use and Infrastructure Investments by Olympic Host Cities

On Friday, October 2nd, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will select a host city for the 2016 Summer Games. The City of Chicago has submitted an extensive and thoughtful bid book that proposes a compact games centered on the lakefront and embracing the diversity of the city. Many cities would welcome the opportunity to achieve global recognition, and while the Olympics accelerate that opportunity, not every city is well-equipped to host the Games.  Chicago has that necessary aptitude to be a host city and can take advantage of the resulting benefits.  However, to gain the optimum benefit from the 2016 Summer Olympics, Chicago must use the Games as an investment catalyst that will spearhead long-term improvements in infrastructure, new developments, and city amenities and services.

 

Chicago 2016’s bid book includes a thorough budget for hosting the Games.  However, it does not elaborate on costs, or revenue sources, associated with improvements to municipal infrastructure, such as roadways, airports, public transportation, public spaces, and telecommunications.  These projects are simply said to occur as part of the city’s “natural growth.” Simply following the path of natural growth, however, would result on a significant missed opportunity to fully leverage the Olympic Games.

 

In this paper we address the issue of long-term land-use and infrastructure projects (legacy projects) that Olympic host cities commonly undertake, and the potential economic benefit of these legacy projects. This builds upon another recently released paper on the topic of the Olympics and their economic impacts—The Likely Economic Impact of a Chicago 2016 Summer Olympics—that was authored by one of this paper’s co-authors. That paper focused solely on the economic impacts that the games, as presented in Chicago 2016’s bid book, would likely have on the city and county. This paper goes a step further and discusses strategies for maximizing public investments so that projects commissioned prior to the Olympics create long-running economic value within the city.

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