The Next Decade of Olympic Host Cities: A Path Paved with Gold

With the Olympic Winter Games officially drawn to a close, there’s scarcely a person in the world who consumes any type of media that doesn’t know the name of the latest Olympic host city of PyeongChang, South Korea. Images of the world’s greatest athletes shredding, jumping, racing, and spinning across the Korean ice and snow have reached billions. The local culture and customs have been showcased and spectacular new hotels, roadways and a high-speed train connecting the airport on the western coast to Seoul, and then the mountains and the eastern-coast resorts, has been put through their paces by thousands of visitors.

Why would PyeongChang bid three times for this opportunity? It’s simple. Now the world knows this beautiful place exists in the heart of South Korea and it undoubtedly will see a surge in local and regional business and year-round tourism. While international visitors were thin on the ground, and many sponsor activations were right-sized for the market, there was a palpable sense of national and local pride among hotel staff, taxi drivers and Olympic volunteers. And the world knows its name!

But, to the future! The upcoming Games are in major economic centers. The Asia swing continues through Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022, and will be followed up by Paris 2024, and ultimately Los Angeles 2028 (the 2026 winter host city has yet to be named). These are global cities that provide rich backdrops for the Olympic Games but also the opportunity for significant economic opportunity for all concerned. For them, the Games brings with it the attention and business of many of the world’s biggest companies. Tokyo has already seen a surge in travel and tourism that has been at least partly attributed to the Olympic Games coming in 2020.

Adding to the momentum are the entrance of new technology partners such as Alibaba and our client Discovery and Eurosport, the first pan-European rights-holding broadcaster. Each of these new partners bring fresh perspectives and new solutions to staging and broadcasting challenges. That said, many existing global sponsorships are coming up for renewal following Japan 2020 – a point of much discussion around PyeongChang. We’ll see where that nets out.

Many still question the true value of hosting the Olympic Games, summer or winter. The number of cities bidding has dropped as the cost of hosting and staging the world’s greatest athletic showcase is put under a microscope. The IOC took a dramatic departure when it awarded Paris and Los Angeles at the same time as neither would have bid again. Thank goodness they chose to do this, because it stacks up to be a compelling next decade of Olympic Games across Asia, Europe and North America – both for the athletes competing for gold, and the marketers competing for our attention.