One boost Olympic host cities do get (and it's not an economic one)

Lynsey Barber
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2012 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony
The opening ceremony brought joy to Londoners (Source: Getty)

With Rio 2016 just days away, forget the much-disputed economic boost to London and other cities hosting an Olympic Games can bring - are there other benefits to hosting the biggest sporting event in the world?

Anecdotal evidence might suggest that even the grumpiest cynics raised a smile at the stunning opening ceremony of London 2012 and the record medal haul for British athletes, but scientists now say they have identified one of the largely intangible boosts - and one much clearer than any supposed economic one - happiness.

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"Every time there is the prospect of hosting a future Olympic Games, potential bidders ask themselves “is it worth it?” And once the Games are over, every host city asks itself “was it really worth it?” concludes a new research paper from the London School of Economics.

"This paper presents the first causal evidence of a positive wellbeing effect of the Olympic Games on local residents during the hosting of the Games."

The opening and closing ceremonies of London 2012, which just happened to be the most watched events and the priciest in terms of tickets, had the biggest effect on happiness.

However, after studying tens of thousands of people in London, Berlin and Paris, the researchers found that our levels of happiness had returned to normal within a year.

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"The effects do not last very long, however, and the Games show no effect on subjective wellbeing a year later. The host with the most. But not for long," said the paper.

“The London Olympics was a great spectacle which had a sizeable but short-lived effect on happiness," added professor of behavioural science Paul Dolan, the author of the research.

We basically paid £15bn for Londoners to be happy for a few weeks.

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