Olympic Business

By Michael-Louis Ingram
Updated: August 16, 2007

PHILADELPHIA — Since its inception in 1896, the Olympic Games have symbolized the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, and the human drama of athletic competition. This is what the Olympics were ideally meant to be. But in the wide world of sports, where wins and losses are clearly defined, the wider world of business defines winners and losers by have and have-not.

And make no mistake, the business of the Olympics could mean a gold medal for Philadelphia in this billion-dollar marathon. Already selected as an Olympic partner for the 2016 Olympics as a potential host city, efforts are in effect to secure the City of Brotherly Love as host for the Summer Games.

That work, according to Wharton School of Business professor Ken Shropshire, started about four years ago.”I started to put a feasibility study together around that time for the Philadelphia Sports Congress,” said Shropshire.

“When New York City lost out to Paris for the 2012 Olympics, there was a stronger feeling a shot at an Olympics in North America was possible for 2016. It was concluded that Philadelphia had a lot of facilities in place, and from a collective perspective, had an excellent chance to secure a future Olympic Games.”

When a city is selected, vision of dollar signs dance in corporate heads. Shropshire explains two distinct positives can result from a city hosting an Olympics. “One interesting after effect was made real after the Los Angeles games in 1984.”

“In Los Angeles, many of the venues were already in place, so there was little or no construction of anything new. Between the TV revenue, corporate sponsorship and other factors, the city showed a profit of over $250 million after the games concluded.”

“Los Angeles took that and created an amateur athletic fund, which helps school age children and youth groups throughout the city and beyond. That organization remains in place and is a vital part of providing some options for young people by exposing to sports they previously wouldn’t have had ready access to.”

“Barcelona, on the other hand managed to give itself a major facelift in 1996 when it held the games. They rebuilt their infrastructure, updated and repaired the sewers, and made major improvements to their transit system.”

“So while Barcelona didn’t garner any huge financial windfall afterward, the monies utilized resulted in what amounted to an immense public works project that all the Catalonians benefit from to this day,” Shropshire said.

Either way you look at it, funding of that size provides thousands of jobs, so an Olympic pie could be a tasty one that could give all Philadelphians a lot of flavor to savor.

Joe Torsella is one who is hoping a “spirit of cooperation” will provide a desired effect for all Philadelphians. “In the 1990s,” recalls Torsella, “someone came back from the Olympics and said, ‘We should do this (host an Olympic Games) here.”

“Back then, it was a kinda in-one-ear-and-out-the-other kind deal. But now, two questions come to mind. Can we? I think we can pull this off. Where the games have gone and where Philadelphia has gone I feel are now one and the same.”

“And we are located smack in the middle of the demographic best suited to host a games,” Torsella said. “The other question is, ‘Should we?’ the potential windfall from something like this would be astonishing.”

“When you look what having an Olympic Games has done for areas like Atlanta and Sydney, no one effort could produce a positive long-term effect as something like this could.”

“While an Olympic games held in Philadelphia would be a tremendous boon for the city, having Black Philadelphians participating in that success is key”, says Torsella.

“There is no way we will ever be able to undertake such an effort without the inclusion and support of every Philadelphian. Can we do some things better?

Yes, we can. And we will.”