Marketing Sport and a City: The Case Of Athens 2004

The opportunity for a city to host the Olympic Games constitutes an enormous economic, social, and cultural commitment, as the Olympics are the world’s biggest sporting event. It is an opportunity that, if properly managed and marketed, will bring a number of positive long-term benefits to the rest of the country in which the city is located.

While the Games last only 2-3weeks, 10 years of preparation will have gone before to ensure both a successful bid and the smooth operation of the Games once the bid wins. The experience of cities that have hosted the Olympic Games demonstrates that, if they are carefully planned and promoted, the Games can generate significant growth over a long period. A primary factor in such growth is the increase in tourism that  a nation can continue to enjoy long after the Olympic Games have concluded. The aim of this paper is to examine the nature of the impact hosting the Games makes on tourism and to discuss marketing strategies that the city of Athens should follow in order to maximize the positive impact of tourism surrounding the 2004 Olympic Games.

From a tourism perspective, the Olympic Games can certainly be considered the most important sporting event. Frequently, organizers’ purpose in undertaking such events is to increase tourism in a city or country. In general, the benefits from organizing such events include the following:

  1. attracting high-income tourists and creating a new generation of tourists who might visit the host country repeatedly
  2. creating a favorable image of the host country as a tourism destination
  3. creating and/or modernizing a locale’s tourism infrastructure
  4. using the international media’s presence to communicate with the world
  5. creating a skilled workforce in the organization, management, and funding sectors specializing in unique, tourist-friendly sporting events

Properly managed, the Olympic Games can change a country’s tourism industry significantly and for the long term. Effects tend to fall within three categories, the Olympic market, the internal tourism market, and the international tourism market. The Olympic market consists of a network of economic activities that result from organization of the event and require significant investment of time and funding. Aspects of the Olympic market are marketing (mainly promotion and public relations), funding and donations, preparation of athletic and related facilities, tickets and other spectator services, transportation and accommodation (of athletes, spectators, dignitaries), and safety and emergency services. For every Olympiad, a workforce is formed to undertake these tasks, creating thousands of jobs and extensive activity in the host city. (Later in this paper, an attempt is made to estimate economic and non-economic effects of the Olympic market, based on previous studies.)

A large nation’s internal tourism market also experiences an impact when one of its cities is to host the Olympic Games. However, in Greece as opposed to the U.S. or even Australia, the internal tourism market is of less significance. In terms of both area and population, Greece is the smallest country chosen to host an Olympic Games. One might go so far as to refer to Greece itself as the “city” that has undertaken the responsibility of hosting the Games.

The right to host the Olympics brings with it long-term effects on the city and nation’s international tourism market, as well. Such effects begin to be felt immediately after a country has won a bid to host the Games and persist until several years after the closing ceremony. In the case of Athens, this period covers the years 1998 to 2011. International tourism will extend to three types of tourist: visitors traveling before the Games, spectators and other visitors during the Games, and visitors drawn to the country at some point by the Olympics-related publicity. The first category comprises, for Athens, persons who will visit Greece in preparation for the Games, such as the members of the Olympic family, media representatives, sponsoring organizations’ representatives, athletes, dignitaries, and some spectators. Such individuals also constitute the second category and can be expected to peak in number as the Olympic athletes compete. Finally, the third category includes all tourists from outside Greece who will visit Greece between 1998 and 2011 due to promotional efforts linked to the 2004 Games.

Games’ Direct Impact on Tourism

The direct impact of the Olympic Games on tourism is embodied in the arrival of all those directly involved in Olympic athletic events, as well as those participating in the associated cultural Olympiad; direct impact’s chronology is before and during the Games. Whatever the city hosting the Games, demands associated with direct impact remain similar and are based mainly on  the number of sports included (currently 28). While estimating direct impact involves some rather arbitrary decisions, the final overall result is not influenced, as it is of very small size. Moreover, a slight increase in the relevant figures was allowed to reflect visitors at the cultural Olympiad. Table 3 presents estimates of the numbers of tourists anticipated to be directly associated with the 2004 Athens Games during the period 1998-2003.

The tourist category of most importance is the before-Olympics visitors, who include numbers of representatives of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The IOC is contractually obligated to send representatives to Greece regularly to audit activities and check the progress of the Games’ organization. The second largest category of visitors includes members of international federations for various sports. They monitor the development of facilities in which competition will take place. The third category consists of athletes. As the date of the Games approaches, athletes begin to visit the country to become accustomed to the climate and sporting facilities. The final category is made up of sponsors and members of the media.

The total number of visitors expected in Greece during 1998-2004 on Olympic Games’ business will number 111,000. This figure constitutes a very small percentage of all tourists who will ultimately visit Greece as the result of the publicity about the country linked to the 2004 Games.

Consequences for Greece, for Athens

Again, the effect of the Olympic Games on tourism has relevance both for Athens and for Greece as a whole. Initially, forecasts of the numbers of tourists throughout Greece were made. These forecasts were then used to estimate the number of tourists to arrive in Athens, according to three national scenarios. The first national scenario is confined to those arrivals directly linked to the Games and assumes that the level of demand will be minimal. The second national scenario assumes a steady increase in demand leading up to the Games and stabilizing a few years after the Games. The third national scenario assumes a small increase in tourism before and during the Games, a large increase after the Games, and a small decrease several years after the Games.

The Olympic Games of 2004 will present a great opportunity for the rehabilitation of Athens and the Attica prefecture as a whole. Some infrastructure projects are already under way; together with Athens’ international promotions during the coming seven years, these projects may help Athens enhance the proportion of the Greek tourism industry it claims. Under a first city scenario, Athens will maintain, at the least, its share of all tourists arriving in Greece, which early in the 1980s was 40% but slipped to 16% in the mid 1990s.

Under the second city scenario, Athens’ share of the total number of tourists in Greece will increase significantly, attaining for the period 1998-2011 an average 22% of all tourists. During the 1990s, the proportion of tourists in Greece who were visiting Athens was as high as 22.3%, but averaged 18.22%.

According to a third scenario, Athens’ share in the numbers of foreign visitors to Greece should move from 18% in 1998 to 22% in 2004; after 2004, the city’s share should decrease, returning to the 18% figure in 2011.  Across the whole period, the average proportion of Greek tourism claimed by Athens is forecast to be 16.9%.

Each one of these scenarios for Athens is combined with the three scenarios for the whole country. Thus, the total number of possible outcomes for Attica comes to nine. The fluctuations of these effects are the same as the fluctuations relating to Greece as a whole. They are not presented here because the effects for the Attica area are estimated as a percentage of the whole. Under the first two scenarios, the percentage is assumed to follow a distribution moving from 18% to 22% and then returning to 18%.

Maximizing Benefits to Tourism Industry That May Surround the Games

The Olympic Games are a unique tourism-sport event presenting an outstanding opportunity to develop long-term gains for a nation’s tourism Industry. Supply and demand continue to figure in marketing, and in the case of Greece and the 2004 Olympics, it must be ensured that the tourism infrastructure can meet the demand for accommodation posed by extra thousands of tourists yet not overestimate the number of tourists who will visit Greece.

Figure 1 diagrams the approach to marketing the 2004 Games, one that involves three basic, interdependent elements. The first is supply, which includes organization of and preparation for the Games, the choice of the host city, all services that will be required , media (television, radio, and print), and grants offered by IOC and the host city. The second element of the marketing system comprises intermediaries between the supply and the demand. Often, these intermediaries participate in securing the successful bid for the Olympics, for instance by finding sponsors, working to attract spectators, and generally organizing the athletic events. The third element of the marketing system is demand, which includes all national athletic teams, all federations supporting the Olympic sports, spectators and tourists, the media audience (television viewers, radio listeners, and readers), and all official sponsors of the Games. The Los Angeles Games proved the importance of sponsorship to the presence of adequate funding.

How can Athens and Greece best tap into the elements of this framework to maximize publicity generated by the Games? When the Sydney Games come to an end, Athens and Greece could pursue a series of strategies, including the following:

1. Host athletic events during the period prior to the Games to allow Olympic athletes to experience the Greek climate. Events should be organized in various regions of Greece.

2. Host athletic events featuring non-Olympic sports, in cooperation with these sports’ international federations.

3. Host participative athletic events targeting those potential tourists who enjoy recreational athletics.

4. Before and after the Games, organize Olympics-related excursions highlighting the regions associated with athletics in ancient Greece.

5. Organize international cultural exhibitions and scientific and professional conferences offering an Olympics angle.

6. Supply the international media with information before and after the Games, using news broadcasts.

The forecasts presented earlier are based on the assumption the all of these strategies will be implemented to the fullest. The strategies, nevertheless, are only some of the strategies (activities and events) that could help Greece maximize benefits deriving from the Games. Other strategies should be developed to ensure the best management of the Games.


The Olympic Games in 2004 will have important economic effects on the host city Athens. Publicity surrounding the Olympics and the Olympic competitions themselves are expected to increase foreign tourism in Greece during 1998-201. New jobs will be created and the nation’s GDP will grow, very probably to the tune of 0.8% for annual growth from 1998 to 2011, which should increase employment by 32,000 annually.

The most important source of the increase in economic activity will be money spent by foreign tourists visiting both Athens and Greece as a result of Olympic exposure. The prediction of this study is that these such cash inflows will come to 2.3 trillion drachmas for the 14-year period 1998-2011, an average of 161 billion drachmas (1999 prices). According to the central scenario of this study, increased tourism due to the Olympic Games will come to 440,000 visitors annually for the period 1998-2011, or 6 million visitors in all.

Increased tourism will create additional need for accommodation. According to this study, such demand can be satisfied without additional investment in accommodation infrastructure, by improving existing accommodation units, especially across the Attica area. During the 2004 Games, peak demand in the Attica area will occur in August and is likely to amount to 1.9 million overnight stays during the 17 days of the Games. Existing hotel accommodations in the Attica area, along with use of temporary facilities such as camps, student dormitories, cruise ships, apartments, and private residences should provide accommodations for  2.6 million, more than adequate for the anticipated number of visitors.

While simply sheltering visitors to the Games is important, it is not enough. The supply of accommodations of various types must also be carefully managed. One conclusion of this study is that, although Greece may be able to cope with the unusual numbers of tourists arriving, this does not preclude problems while hosting them. To discourage any problems, government, organizing committee, and hotel management must work together from the time the Games in Sydney end. Especially critical will be the enhancement of the quality of Attica’s high-end hotels.

Long-term increases in demand for accommodation resulting from the 2004 Olympics is expected to be very small. At the end of the examined period, the supply of beds in Attica will amount to 100,000, while demand should be roughly the same, 103,000. The demand for beds across Greece will come to 858,000, while the supply will come to 834,000.


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