World Cup - the world's most watched sporting event - be a good thing for a country's economy? Most economists believe that investment in stadiums is a loosing proposition and it is easy to see why: the opportunity cost of hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure investment going to a large stadium that is used infrequently just seems preposterous. Added to that is the fact that try as we might, we just can't find any evidence they the contribute in any significant way to growth. As I have said here before, however, I think economists that assert confidently that this means the investments are losers are falling victim to the fallacy that lack of evidence for the positive is evidence for the negative. I don't know if they are good or bad over their lifetimes, but I find it hard to believe they don't matter at all given how much our society loves sports. Whether they matter enough to justify the cost is a different question.
But what about big giant sporting events like the World Cup or the Olympics? These not only cost a lot in terms of stadia but also in other massive infrastructure investments. It is hard not to think of all of the money Greece poured into the Athens Olympics when you look at their current fiscal crisis. However, they do bring lots of exposure - but does 'exposure' really matter? It is hard to say overall, but I discovered two interesting little tidbits about such matters.
The first is that apparently events in developing countries bring bigger gains than in developed countries mostly through he fact that they force general transportation, communication and other infrastructure improvements that are strong determinants of growth - and otherwise tend to be underinvested in.
The second is that countries that stage such events tend to have a strong positive effect on trade. But, it turns out, so do losing bidders for such events. This suggests that there is a strong correlation between wanting to liberalize in trade and wanting to host such events - it makes sense that they would go hand in hand.
There are some pretty great African teams out there and so following in the footsteps of my correct prediction that Spain would win the Euro 2008, I am going out on a limb and predicting that Côte d'Ivoire will wind the world cup - you heard it here first. Allez Les Éléphants!
And just to get you in the mood for African football: