FSU professors discuss the impacts of the Winter Olympics

The Winter Olympics are a time for sports fans, especially those that involve snow and ice. This year, the major international multi-sport event is taking place in Beijing, China, from February 4 to 20. The events are held in the surrounding areas of Yanqing District and Chongli District at the Beijing National Stadium.

With many college athletes competing in these Games, this presents a unique hurdle.

Dr. Timothy Baghurst is a professor in the College of Education and director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Athletic Coaching (FSU COACH). After being asked the difference between a collegiate event and the Olympics, Baghurst said, “In college competition, there’s usually a season that ends in a championship…in an Olympic format, many athletes have a unique chance to win a title which is only available every four years. The pressure is much higher to get it right.”

When it comes to college athletes, what many may not recognize is the fact that a student from Florida State University will be competing on Team USA’s bobsled team. Moving at speeds of 80 to 90 mph, John Williamson is battling for gold in Beijing.

“I enrolled at FSU in 2016, but my path changed once I started bobsledding my sophomore year,” Williamson said in a press release. “Since then, FSU has been amazing – willing to work with me every step of the way.”

Williamson plans to complete her marketing degree in December.

“I had the opportunity to intern with the Marketing Director of the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, which was a really valuable experience,” Williamson said. “After graduation, I want to continue looking for ways to combine my passion for athletics with my interest in marketing and business, and hope to find a unique solution somewhere in between.”

The Winter Olympics are a massive event, lasting just over two weeks. The economic impact of hosting such a big event is quite varied depending on whether people want to visit the country or not.

Nathaniel Line, associate professor at Dedman College of Hospitality, commented on the tourism and hospitality aspects of this international event.

“There’s mixed research on whether or not these mega-events are economically good for host cities, or economically bad,” Line said. “At the end of the day, there really is no right answer until you ask the right answer: for whom?”

Being such an expensive event, it’s not necessarily uncommon for many of these cities to go over their pre-planned budget.

“For some people like the construction companies building the infrastructure, it’s a dream come true,” Line said. “But is it good for the host city? Well, if you spend $3 billion on infrastructure improvements…someone will have to pay for it, along with a good chunk of the taxpayers.

According to the University of Oxford, every Olympics, even since the 1960s, has gone over budget by an average of 172%.

“There is definitely a short-term boost as millions of people from all over the world descend on the host city,” Line said. “It’s great for the hospitality industry and all the hotels are full, the transport is full and the shops and attractions are full…everyone is happy. But at the closing ceremony, everyone leaves and that can leave a pretty big hole in the ground that is more or less impossible to fill.”

The Winter Olympics are captivating for all kinds of spectators and quite an economic feat to see how these host cities are able to build these massive arenas in such a short time. The entire international multi-sport event is still ongoing, and until then viewers can tune in to NBC to watch another FSU student race for gold.

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