Besides the long term effects, there are immediate financial benefits that cities promote to local citizens in order to get support to host the games, say analysts. There's an influx of spending in local restaurants and shops. Businesses like clothing stores and cab companies can see their bottom lines increase. All this can contribute to the city's tax base.
"There are jobs created to help build the venues and people have money to spend and it's a boost to the local economy" says Ted Lanzaro, Jr., managing partner at Lanzaro CPA.
And there's civic improvement. A city's infrastructure can be upgraded when it might otherwise have been ignored.
"In the modern era, there has been a boon to host cities in terms of infrastructure," says Dr. Harvey Schiller, chairman and CEO of GlobalOptions Group and the former executive director/secretary general of the United States Olympic Committee. "Atlanta (host of the 1996 Summer games) did expand its transportation system and that helps a city grow for the future. As a direct result many corporate heads are now in Atlanta."
But Olympic jobs end, visitors go home, spending stops and the local residents are stuck with the burden of hosting, even if their city may have a better subway system.
"If it was such a good idea to have better infrastructure during the Olympics, why not without them?" asks Dr. Carl Winston, director of SDSU's School of Hospitality & Tourism Management. "I’m not aware of cases where the benefit of hosting has had long-term economic feasibility."
Getting a return on any level won't be easy for Vancouver.
"The benefits may prove elusive," says Emily Sparvero, an assistant professor at the sports industry research center of Temple University. "In Vancouver's case, the struggling economy, decreased interest in the Olympics will make it difficult to recoup its investment."
Almost without fail, there will be talk after the latest Olympic torch is extinguished of having a permanent site for the games, at least the summer ones. Why not have one spot for each Olympiad to cut the astronomical costs of hosting? Seems logical, but the idea does not seem to be winning any gold medals.
"That would diminish interest for the games," says Dr. Harvey Schiller. "Think of it like the Super Bowl, which is not in the same city each year. Most cities would want the Super Bowl. It's the same with the Olympics. Overall, is a country or region better for having games? I can’t think of a single place where that’s not true."
That's the thinking of most cities vying to host the games, say analysts, even as they face the astronomical costs and mortgage their futures.
"There is something special, even magical about being in the pantheon of Olympic host cities," says Hamakawa. "The Olympic games are an elusive crown jewel that many first tier international cities covet. They'll keep trying to get it."