Obama and the Olympics: An Economic Boost?

Would bringing the Olympics to the U.S. really make a difference to the economy?

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The president's trip to Copenhagen to promote Chicago as an Olympic host city has raised criticism that Obama is wasting time for what is essentially a vanity project. Robert Gibbs has responded to those criticisms with a familiar argument that the Olympics are substantive for economic reasons:

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said winning the games for Chicago would help the U.S. economy.

"Obviously any Olympics showcases the country that those Olympics are in and there's a tangible economic benefit to those games being here. And the president wants to help out America's bid."

But even people who generally support Obama are skeptical of this argument. Both Matthew Yglesias and Michael Tomasky doubt that the Olympics add much value; if any Olympic-associated infrastructure improvements are smart, then they are smart regardless of whether or not the Olympics come.

Indeed, I've seen research that actually hosting an Olympics brings no greater economic benefit than simply bidding to be a host city.

While many of us (myself included) would love to see the games back in the States, let's not exaggerate the small boost it would bring to the local Chicago economy.