Note: Thanks to the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics, Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics and the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, Asia has become the new host of major sports events after Europe and North America. What has driven this shift? And what will be the impact of the sports events on the host countries' economic development? Two experts, Yi Jiandong and Yang Yue share their views on the issue with China Daily. Excerpts follow:
Asia hosts sports galas due to multiple factors
This is only the second time that three Olympic Games are being held in succession on one continent. In the 1990s, Europe became the first continent to host three successive Olympics: Albertville 1992 Winter Olympics(in France), the Barcelona 1992 Summer Olympics and the Lillehammer 1994 Winter Olympics (in Norway).
The Olympics has entered what many believe is an East Asia cycle due to multiple factors. To begin with, since most of the Asian countries lag behind the advanced economies when it comes to economic development, they believe that hosting major events will boost their economies, their sports industry in particular. No wonder we see more and more Asian countries bidding to host major sports events, including the Olympics.
Also, given that hosting major sports events demands a lot of manpower, investment of resources and substantial funding, together with people's opposition to large-scale projects owing to fear that they would harm their livelihoods, European and American countries have become increasingly reluctant to host international sports galas.
Besides, as only two Winter Olympics have been held in Asia before, the International Olympic Committee wants to promote winter sports in the region in a bid to open up new frontiers for the sports industry as well as athletes.
To ensure that the coming sports events are successful and to help boost economic growth, the host countries should focus on three issues. First, they need to devise a long-term development strategy, by connecting their development goals with the hosting of these sports events.
Second, the host countries must make full use of the existing sports facilities and infrastructure. In this respect, Yanqing district of Beijing has set a good example by making optimum use of the existing stadiums and building only a few sports venues for the Beijing Winter Olympics.
And third, all forces including private capital and institutional investors should be mobilized to take part in the preparation for and hosting of the major events. For instance, international cartels and economic organizations have participated in the design of the sports equipment, training programs and infrastructure construction for the Beijing Winter Olympics. As long as these issues are addressed, white elephants can be avoided and economic growth expected.
In light of the sports boom in Asia, particularly East Asia, the IOC should consider establishing a discussion and collaboration mechanism among China, Japan and the Republic of Korea, so as to improve regional coordination and synergize development. Yet taking the complicated history of major sports events and people's possible opposition to them, this may be easier said than done.
(Yi Jiandong, a professor on sports humanistic sociology at Wenzhou University)
Sports events have potential to boost economy
The successive hosting of international sports galas in Asia reveals two facts. Despite many problems and growing uncertainty created by the China-US trade conflict, Asian countries enjoy vibrant economic conditions compared with European and North American countries that have hosted major international sports events in the past.
Also, the viewership for major sports events, especially among the younger generations worldwide, is rapidly declining. According to an IOC survey, about 80 percent of the Olympics and World Cup viewers are above 40 years of age. Thanks to the advances in technology and radical changes in lifestyle, youths are no longer hooked to traditional sports events as before.
Nonetheless, international sports galas have the potential to boost the economy, especially the sports industry in emerging countries. For instance, the fact that Beijing was chosen to host the 2008 Summer Olympics acted as a catalyst for China's sports and related industries to grow 35.43 percent annually from 2004 to 2008, far higher than the growth rates of GDP and other industries.
Moreover, cultures of China, Japan and the ROK have a lot in common and youngsters take interest in similar sports disciplines, the three neighbors could deepen cooperation in the field by exchanging sports delegations and sharing more information on the major sports events they host.
It should also be noted that e-sports is becoming increasingly popular in Asia and beyond, posing a challenge to the development of traditional sports. People aged between 16 and 25 spent 33 percent of their leisure time on e-sports in 2017, according to a survey by the General Administration of Sport of China.
Governments, institutions and people abroad are paying close attention to this development. For example, 56 universities in the United States have introduced e-sports majors or programs, while research in this field is scarce in China. So China should allocate more funds to encourage research in e-sports to accommodate the new realities in sports.
(Yang Yue, a research fellow at the China Institute of Sport Science, the General Administration of Sport of China)