Americans really want to host Olympics

Americans really want to host the 2024 Olympics. They want it more than they have in the past. They want it more than other countries do. They want it more than almost any country ever has. US cities were in the running for the Olympics twice in recent years, with 54 percent and 61 percent national support, respectively. This time around, a resounding 89 percent of Americans support the idea of the United States hosting the Games, according to an AP-Gfk poll conducted in June.

If this level of supports hold (and it’s not an outlier), it’s not just higher than previous US bids. It’s higher than most other countries that have bid for the Olympics since the International Olympic Committee began publishing polls in prospective host nations. Since the 2008 games, there have been just two instances (both in China) where support for hosting the games exceeded 89 percent support.

American support also clocks in above any of the other countries with a city currently bidding for the Summer 2024 Games. Media polls show France with 73 percent support, leading Hungary and Germany, each with around 60 percent support.

olympics morris koczela chart

Sky-high national support for bringing the games to the US may come as a bit of a surprise in Boston, the US bidder for the 2024 games and a city where polls continue to show serious skepticism. Recent polls around Boston and across the state have shown support languishing in the low to mid-40s. Support has been so low that some speculated that the US Olympic Committee (USOC) would pull the plug on the Boston bid when they met last month.

The USOC stuck with the Boston bid, but USOC Chairman Larry Probst said he’d like to see public support over 50 percent “relatively soon” and “ultimately” hit 60 percent in favor. Notably, there have been no local polls conducted in other potential 2024 cities. So we don’t know for sure whether Boston’s hesitation is unique, or if naysayers in Paris and Rome will be just as vocal as Bostonians have been.

The GfK/AP poll suggests Boston 2024 might have a strong customer base for domestic sponsorships, which are being counted on to bring in $1.5 billion. But the poll comes with a few important caveats that help put the high support numbers in context. First, the poll didn’t zero in on the Boston bid; it asked about an American Olympiad generically, and then whether respondents would want the Games in their state or area. Support dropped as the questions hit closer to home. Three-quarters (75 percent) support an Olympics in their home state and three-fifths (61 percent) would want the Games in their own area. And just over half (56 percent) think “hosting the Olympics has usually been worth the cost for the local areas where they are played.”

This downward step-pattern in support levels ends up just about where Boston support was when the city was first chosen in January; just over half. At that time, the idea of a Boston Olympics was mostly theoretical, with little public awareness of the details of what hosting would entail. The people surveyed by AP-GfK were responding to a similar uninformed hypothetical – the idea of a local Olympics, untempered by months of tweets, FOIAs, op-eds, public forums, and conversations over the office Keurig machine.  It’s easier to get excited about a US Olympics somewhere else: it’s all of the patriotism with none of the responsibility.

Note: The AP-GfK poll was conducted among 1,005 respondents June 19-21, 2015. The margin of error for the total sample is +/- 3 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

Original post on CommonWealth magazine