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Science, The Mind

The Olympics is Coming to London: So Why Won’t Brits be any Happier?

This post was chosen as an Editor's Selection for ResearchBlogging.orgIt was a shock announcement. Back in 2005, everyone thought Paris had the winning bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games. Unlike the UK’s hastily put together pitch, the French had spent 20 years fine-tuning theirs. When the IOC president declared that the Olympics were coming to London, scenes of jubilant crowds filled the screens of UK TVs. Celebrities, politicians and even the Queen were tripping over each other to enthuse about this ‘great victory’ for Britain. Were they right?

Now in the midst of economic turmoil, UK politicians still desperately cling to the hope that the Olympic Games represents, as if it were a flaming torch to light the way ahead. They continue to boast that it will boost the economy and importantly, the nation’s happiness. If they had they done their homework, they might have been better informed: Research now shows that all this rhetoric is almost certainly very wrong

The Olympic Games Don’t Boost the Feel-Good Factor

Surely living in a country that hosts the Olympic Games will imbue a sense of national pride, community and overall satisfaction?

It’s a seemingly intuitive conclusion to draw, But a duo of academics from the Imperial College Business School decided to put this theory to the test. Delving into thirty years of life satisfaction surveys from across twelve European nations, they embarked upon an unenviable task: Trying to deduce whether major sporting events have any effect at all on the happiness of a nation.

If your country does well, you might just be feeling better about yourself...

More than that, they even did some brain-numbing statistical analyses as to whether a national team’s success in a sports competition changed the population’s feelgood’ factor. By correlating all these results to the Olympic Games, the World Cup and the UEFA European Championships (that’s soccer), they made some enlightening discoveries:

  • A good performance by your country’s team at a major sporting event boosts the general population’s life satisfaction (slightly)
  • Living in a country that hosts a major football competition improves the ‘feelgood’ factor
  • Hosting the Olympic Games makes no difference at all!

The researchers concede that Europeans are pretty football(soccer)-crazy – and this national ‘feel-good‘ for footballing success is probably limited to countries where round-ball kicking is the preferred sport. But one of their main conclusions was that politicians should choose their words wisely before claiming the Olympics will improve both a nation’s economic and psychological well-being.

So does this mean Brits are going to be miserable after the Olympics?

Well, unless the British athletes perform particularly well, then it is is a definite possibly no one in the UK will be feeling much cheer. I hate it when cold facts rain on the parade…

That said, I don’t care all that much whether I feel ‘more satisfied’ about life because of a sporting event. I’m still going to look forward to all the fanfare next year (although I’m rapidly giving up hope of getting any tickets)!

Now had England won the 2018 World Cup bid – that would be a different story altogether…

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Thanks for reading – your comments and feedback are warmly welcomed!

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Related Posts:

Why football-loving Italian men can’t sleep when they see the colour blue

References:

Kavetsos, G., & Szymanski, S. (2010). National well-being and international sports events Journal of Economic Psychology, 31 (2), 158-171 DOI: 10.1016/j.joep.2009.11.005

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About Stuart Farrimond

I love writing about science and health subjects. Strange, because I also teach the same things. I trained as a medical doctor before turning my hand to other things. Shortlisted for The Guardian/Observer for Science Writer of the Year 2011 and editor for Guru Magazine I also like to grow large pumpkins...

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