Countries with developing economies increasingly see hosting the Olympics or the FIFA World Cup as an opportunity to fast-track urban and economic development. But there are key differences between prospective developing and developed country hosts:

  • Infrastructural gap means that hosting is relatively more expensive for less-developed countries
  • Higher opportunity costs (or what the host would otherwise have used resources for) in a developing context
  • Less demand for sport and luxury in less-developed countries than in wealthy countries to sustain infrastructure
  • Excessive mismatch of infrastructural needs. Even for hosts like South Korea (when it co-hosted the 2002 World Cup with Japan), only half of the 10 stadiums they built established long-term tenants and even of those, they rarely fill capacity
  • Hotel infrastructure of hosts must also be sustainable (not oversupplied) or it can have devastating long-term effects
  • Developing countries draw fewer fans because of perceptions of poor infrastructure, high crime and low quality hospitality. For example, in 2010, South Africa predicted it would receive an initial boost of 970m USD from tourists attending. However, this did not pan out. Marthinus van Schalkwyk, South Africa’s tourism minister, said just 309,000 foreign fans attended the tournament, compared to predictions of 450,000.
  • South Korea filled 78.8% capacity, while Japan filled 89.1% of its stadiums in 2002
  • Areas of greatest need often do not receive the most direct benefits because events must avoid high-crime areas due to their unattractiveness for event-related investments


  • Low wages equal reduced operational, infrastructural and security costs
  • While sports facilities offer little in the way of sustained development, these events spur transport, crime control and urban and public space upgrades
  • Mobilize political will and resources
  • Fewer employment “leakages” because of high underemployment, yet labor standards must be raised to meet requirements and this requires significant planning
  • Media-opportunity for nation building