Olympic Games Ceremonies. An Event Management Perspective

The Branding of a City

Master's Thesis, 2014

45 Pages, Grade: 7.5



Chapter 1: Introduction
1.1. Overview
1.2. Background
1.3. Purpose of Study
1.4. Research Aims and Objectives
1.5. Structure of Dissertation

Chapter 2: Review of the Literature
2.1. Introduction
2.2. Overall Impact of an Olympic Games on the Host City
2.3. Tourism, Branding and Event Hosting
2.4. Impact of Hosting a Sports Event on a City
2.5. Importance of Olympic Games Ceremonies on Tourism
2.6. Summary

Chapter 3: Research Design and Methodology
3.1. Overview
3.2. Mixed Methodology
3.3. Case Study Analysis
3.4. Research Design
3.5. Research Instruments
3.6. Ethical Considerations
3.7. Limitations
3.8. Research Objectives

Chapter 4: Data Presentation, Analysis and Discussion
4.1. Overview
4.2. Case Study Findings
4.3. Analysis and Discussion

Chapter 5: Conclusion and Recommendations
5.1. Main Conclusions
5.2. Future Recommendations

References (Bibliography & Articles)



Chapter 1: Introduction

1.1. Overview

The desire to host Olympic Games in recent years, with countries across the globe competing to win the right to stage the sporting event, highlights the importance that has become to be attributed with the Games (Shipway & Fyall, 2013; Gold & Gold, 2007). The literature has underlined that ‘there is only the one chance every four years for athletes, and in most cases, only once for the hosting city to profile itself’ (van Vrijaldenhoven, 2007, p.25). Moreover, it has been acknowledged that because of the importance associated with the hosting of the event, in the history of the Olympic Games, there is a high level of competition, with it felt that ‘it is up to the candidate cities to convince the committee that their city has the most appropriate and complete plan’ (van Vrijaldenhoven, 2007, p.25). The study on the subject has also stated that, overall, there ‘are many reasons for staging a major special event, such as the Olympic Games. However, two of the more important reasons are the improvement of a destinations’ image or awareness’ (Faulkner & Faulker, 2003, p.152).

This level of importance attributed to the Olympic Games has been successfully studied in recent years, but there is a lack of research on the impact of a more specific event; that of the Olympic Games ceremony. This lack of research is discussed in chapter two of this work and has led to the overall aim of this work. Within this, the study aims to discover the extent to which an Olympic Games ceremony assists to create an image of a specific city / country, the importance ascribed to Olympic Games ceremonies and how they are deemed to be vital in leading to rising tourist numbers as well as a consideration of the major short and long-term impacts of an Olympic Games ceremony on a host city. To achieve this, the study aims to complete a conclusive case study analysis of Olympic Games ceremonies and the impact that this has on both the short and long-term branding of a host city.

1.2. Background

The importance of Olympic Games ceremonies (both opening and closing) seems to have gathered pace in recent years, with its success tied to the overall success of the event and to the economy of the host country more generally (Weed, 2008). The assessment of the ceremony by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has outlined its symbolic importance to the games. A report by the IOC stated that ‘the protocol and splendour of the Olympic ceremonies, which go hand-in-hand with the celebration of the Games as everyone knows them today, make this event unique and unforgettable’ (IOC, 2013, p.1). However, as well as having a dramatic impact on the overall event, it is also thought that the Olympic Games ceremonies have an important knock-on effect concerning the branding of a city (both in the short and long-term).

The concept of nation branding and the link between this and the Olympic Games has never been stronger (Couldry, Hepp & Krotz, 2009). The recent London 2012 Olympics created an opening ceremony that was thought to aim towards developing Britain as a tourist destination. This view is supported by the importance placed on the ceremony, with it costing £27 million and watched by a 1 billion-strong global audience (Gibson, 2012). Moreover, it has been acknowledged that the opening ceremony was a vital part of the event in marketing terms. It has been outlined that in marketing terms, it always looked as a good deal. Three hours of prime television real estate reaching a global audience of up to a billion people, with guaranteed international press coverage’ (Gompertz, 2012). Furthermore, the same article argued that ‘suffice to say that front page and prime time coverage across the world's media - much of which has been positive - is worth a huge amount in PR terms. And, I suspect, in real terms’ (Gompertz, 2012). These studies underline the importance of the Olympic Games and the opening ceremony in terms of generating interest and developing the economy. This work wishes to expand on this subject by analysing the potential notion of nation branding and the short and long-term impacts of the opening ceremony (as part of the wider event) on a country.

1.3. Purpose of Study

The financial burden of creating and staging the Olympic Games ceremonies has increased in recent years, as Olympic bidding nations attempt to better their rivals, as well as the host predecessors from past Olympic Games. The most recent summer games in London were viewed as spectacular and helped to acknowledge and re-confirm London’s position as a top global tourism destination (Desbordes & Richelieu, 2012). The major purpose of this study is to assess the major impact that an Olympic Games ceremony has on the branding of a city and of a nation, looking to take the current level of research and improving on this with an enhanced analysis of the subject using a case study approach.

Following the completion of the review of the literature, it is possible to outline that this form of study has not been covered to any great extent by the wider research field. This highlights that there is a gap in the literature that can be filled through an exploratory mixed methods research.

1.4. Research Aims and Objectives

The study has created one major research question to support the main aim of the research work and three objectives or sub questions. It is thought that to achieve this central aim, the research needs to focus on these to help ensure that the overall study is a success (Somekh & Lewin, 2005). The created research objectives include:

1. What is the role of Ceremonies on a city from the perspective of the people staging these events?
2. Examination of the important of the Olympic Games ceremonies and the impact in leading to rising tourist numbers?
3. What are the major short and long-term socio-economic impacts of an Olympic Games ceremony on a host city?

Through the completion of these research objectives, it is felt that the work will be able to answer the central aim of this study. The research study will also provide objectives at the end of chapter 3, after the completion of the literature review and the design of the research methodology has been justified. These research objectives will help to predict how effective the Olympic Games ceremony can be on the development of a host city’s branding and potential increase in tourism in the location.

1.5. Structure of Dissertation

The study attempts to underline the key focus of the work while providing a well-rounded assessment of the overall research objectives. To achieve this, the dissertation has been divided into five chapters in total, including this introductory chapter. The introduction provided a brief background to the study, the major purpose of the research, the major research objectives and research objectives that underline the study. Chapter 2 provides a concise assessment and synthesis of the review of the literature, while chapter 3 outlines the methodological choices made for the primary research, including the discussion and justification of the case study methodology. Chapter 4 presents the data findings, analysis and discussion. Finally, Chapter 5 helps to summarise the findings of the work, along with providing key recommendations based on the results on how the subject field can help to further the knowledge on the topic. Other recommendations are also provided as to how host cities can target the growth of their city and the tourism industry through specific tactics when creating and conducting the Olympic Games ceremony, hoping to build on successes such as that in London and Beijing recently.

Chapter 2: Review of the Literature

2.1. Introduction

The analysis of the literature is a vital part of this current research study in establishing cause and providing data for the primary part of the research work. The review of the empirical literature enables the researcher to see if there are any areas that have not been targeted or under-researched, creating a gap in the literature that can become the focus of the current study (Ritchie, Burns & Palmer, 2005). The key areas of discussion in the review focused on the overall impact of the Olympic Games on the Host City, Tourism Branding, the impact of hosting a Sporting Event in a city and the importance of the Olympic Games Ceremonies on Tourism.

Within the concept of this particular study, it is also argued that the importance of the literature review is even more so, with the knowledge that this study relies on the findings from secondary works as much as it does on primary data. The use of the case study analysis to determine the nature of Olympic ceremonies and their impact on the branding of a host city / country means that there will be a specific dependence on the available literature, giving the review a central place in this debate. The results of the literature review will be used in conjunction with the findings from the case study analysis to help conduct the discussion section of this study, allowing the researcher to utilise all forms of data and information to help answer all three of the major research objectives that underpin this work.

2.2. Overall Impact of an Olympic Games on the Host City

The initial assessment of the wider subject provides an analysis that underlines the potential complexity of this study. Work by Parry and Griginov (2004) announced that ‘the economic impacts of the Olympic Games are many and vary from city to city because of factors such as specific aims, scale and geopolitical and economic conditions of the host city’ (p.94). The impact of the Games also provides pause for thought, with the view offered by Preuss (2004). His work stated that ‘the Olympic Games cause a considerable flow of funds into a city. It is difficult to allocate the funds in a way that, at the same time, solves major urban problems and prepares for the Games. The citizens and organizers of the host city must realize that the Olympic Games are not a panacea to all their problems’ (2004, p.292). These two viewpoints offer the belief that the Games do not necessarily always have a positive impact on host cities. However, Preuss’ work does argue that ‘the greater the number of tourists that come to the host city, the higher the autonomous expenditures and the greater the impact for the overall economic situation – at first, is a positive effect’ (2004, p.292). Therefore, in terms of tourism it is specified that the host city can look forward to a short-term growth, even if the long-term impact is not necessarily known.

Finally in this wider analysis of the subject of the Olympic Games, Duran’s (2005) study is more focused on identifying the impact of the Games on tourism and the legacy that it has. Although the study is limited to an assessment from the Barcelona 1992 Games, it offers some important findings that can help guide the more detailed and specific review of the findings later in this chapter. The work by Duran highlights that the hosting of the Olympic Games allowed the ‘process of critical reflection on the city. The Games were the excuse, perhaps the incentive, for a general process of analysis of the city in general and in particular of its role as a tourist centre’ (2005, p.3). Moreover, the study announced through its research that Barcelona is a popular ‘tourist destination, and it enjoys a very positive image among visitors, whether they come for business or leisure’ (2005, p.3). Moreover, it appears as though this occurred through the organisers’ ability in re-branding the city as a key tourist destination during and after the hosting of the Olympic Games. His report assessed that if the Games placed Barcelona on the ‘map, as is so often said, then the tourist promotion policy of the last ten years set out to highlight and strengthen each of the city’s strong points as an urban tourist destination. The Games saw updating of the city’s tourist infrastructure, both quantitatively and qualitatively’ (Duran, 2005, p.4). With this view in mind in this initial section, it is clear that the literature has provided evidence that it is possible for the Games to have a dramatic and positive impact on the branding of a city, with the long-term future of Barcelona as a tourist destination secured through the changes that took place because it hosted the Games in 1992. Therefore, when approaching the subject from the wider context and assessing the impact of the entire Olympic Games process on a host city, it is clear that there are mixed results that exist on the topic. There are those studies that suggest that the impact is only short-term and not necessarily positive, while others highlight that although it may depend solely on the location, it is possible for the host city to enjoy and positive rebranding and increase in tourism numbers following the event. This analysis of the literature has not focused on the aspect that is central to the study though (the ceremonies), mainly due to the lack of research that has been conducted on this subject. However, it is noted that there are certain studies that can increase the knowledge of the researcher prior to completing the analysis later in this work.

2.3. Tourism, Branding and Event Hosting

Following on from the discussion of the Olympic Games in general, it is important to assess the specific impact of the Olympic Games on tourism and branding of host cities. One study by Dinnie (2011) outlines that ‘the hosting of events is seen by many cities as an important element of the city brand-building process’ (p.96). This has meant that ‘the hosting of a mega event such as the Olympic Games is much sought after by cities that compete aggressively for the right to host them’ (Dinnie, 2011, p.96). This belief that the hosting of the Olympic Games can have a significant impact on the branding of a city is supported by other works in the literature. The study by Donald and Gammack (2012) highlights that branding of a city can be positively developed through the hosting of the Games. The latter study underlines that there is a form of co-branding that takes place for the host city and the Olympic brand combined. The work states that ‘brand equity is increased for both, as has been the case, for example, for the Olympic Games and Sydney, each of which has done the other a lot of good’ (Donald & Gammack p.47). Moreover, their work strengthens this view by noting that ‘each successful Olympic Games strengthens the Olympic brand, and for a brief period of time the showcased city is provided with a global platform upon which to stand and establish or promote its image’ (p.47). This opinion sides with that of Parry and Griginov (2004), with the view that each host city can be impacted differently from hosting the Games, although at least they are presented with the chance to actually re-brand or improve the existing brand of the city through the event.

However, there are studies that take the view of Parry and Griginov (2004) further and outline the potential negative implications of hosting an Olympic Games and how this could transform the city’s image (Banner, 2007). Davis (2012) stresses that the Olympics is a chance to ‘present a fresh face to the world. The reputation of every host city and country is at stake. When problems occur, the impact can be immediate…sometimes host cities can suffer undue harm to their reputation even if the Games succeed’ (2012, p.141). This viewpoint underlines that the hosting of the event does not necessarily guarantee success and there is no developed and full-proof method of ensuring a positive banding of the city. Moreover, it is argued in the literature that it depends on the status of the city and country in the wider global perspective as to whether the hosting of the Games can provide a boost to the city in terms of branding. The work by Frew and White (2011) emphasised that with the example of Beijing in 2008, the impact of the Games was overshadowed somewhat by the ‘negative media coverage in relation to the human rights issues in the country’ (p.100), this prevented the message of a brand new China from being provided to the global audience and lessened the impact of the Games and how it could have re-branded the city in a positive manner.

The literature has also been assessed to help analyse the importance placed on the ceremonies and the reasons chosen by those that have helped bid and win for the right to host the Games. Toohey and Veal have argued that the bidding process is one that is competitive and involves a lengthy ordeal in which the bidding cities spend ‘tens of millions of dollars’ (2007, p.65). Their study also indicates that once selected, it is crucial for the organisers to take into account the need to ensure a legacy of the Games. This belief is supported by Chappelet (2012), who outlined that there are specific ways to create a legacy. These include the branding of the location through the creation of a ceremony and event that reflect the culture of the host country / city, the urban regeneration of an area, the growth of tourism and the long-term economic benefits for the city. Whether these can be achieved is debated by Boyle and Haynes (2009), who stresses that only a handful of locations that have been chosen for the Olympic Games have also managed to create a positive legacy. Moreover, it is argued by one study that although these are the major aims of an Olympic legacy, the success of the branding of a city does not always translate into successful increases in tourism or the development of the economy in the long-run (Weed & Bull, 2009). This is rejected by Xu and Xu (2009) who argued that the Beijing Olympics in 2008 was able enjoy success from hosting the event, though this has been rejected by others that have labelled Beijing a failure, unable to generate tourism figures through societal issues (Lovelock & Lovelock, 2013).

The literature reflects that it is important that the Olympic ceremonies are designed with the concept of re-branding at its centre, with this felt to be one of the most important features of the Olympic ceremony (Ferrand, Chappelet & Saguin, 2012; Smith, 2007). This has developed from the initial role of the ceremonies as simply a processional method of welcoming and closing the Games. Now, it is viewed that the Olympic Games is an event that can model the culture of a location and that it should be used to market the location that it is in. Therefore, this has meant that it is necessary for all aspects of the Games, whether the opening or closing ceremony or the advertising that accompanies the event, to help deliver a message to the global audience (Desbordes & Richelieu, 2012). This has developed through the growth of the event to such proportions that cities and host countries have realised that it is an opportunity to help sell their region as one that can generate income and is an attractive location to visit, thereby intending to boost the tourism industry.

2.4. Impact of Hosting a Sports Event on a City

The impact of hosting a sports event on a city is argued to be one that is potentially large and positive (Westerbeek, 2009). A recent case study of the urban development and growth of the city of Vancouver for example, following the 2010 Winter Olympic Games has acknowledged that the hosting of the Games can generate growth. The work stated that it is characterised as this ‘growth machine Diaspora, neither purely localized nor as placeless and hyper-global, but as a group of dispersed actors in various selected locales that is bound together through common interests and beliefs in specific forms of urban growth and development; beliefs made more attainable through the vehicle of the mega-event’ (Surborg, van Wynsberghe & Wyly, 2008, p.342). Their study is underpinned by the theory of the urban growth machine that developed in the 1970s and has helped to explain the way that cities have grown from the perspectives of the local elite, business people and developers. One study that argues against the long-term impact of hosting a sports event on a city is that by Spilling (1996). His work outlined that ‘mega-events like the Winter Olympics are regarded as having a significant economic impact on the region hosting the events as well as affecting its long-term development’ (p.321). His work identified Lillehammer (Winter Games, 1994) did not fit this model, with the belief that although there had been a growth in the tourism industry following the Games, he felt that results showed that the long-term economic benefits for the region were not impressive given the initial costs of hosting the Games.


Excerpt out of 45 pages


Olympic Games Ceremonies. An Event Management Perspective
The Branding of a City
Leeds Metropolitan University  (Carnagie)
Masters in Event Management
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
2237 KB
olympic, games, ceremonies, event, management, perspective, branding, city
Quote paper
John Jossifakis (Author), 2014, Olympic Games Ceremonies. An Event Management Perspective, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/276541


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