Counter-intuitively, it appears that holding the Games actually acts as a negative, depressing the number of tourist arrivals from up to two years before the event, to two years after. Apparently the effect has been observed for every Games back to Barcelona in 1992.
The theory is that regular travellers stay well away from the host city for the entire run-up and the event itself, assuming (perhaps rightly) that the city will be in construction chaos and overpriced. It seems, too, that the aversion effect lingers for some time before the tourist masses feel it's safe to go there again.
This news made me curious about the Olympics before 1992; did the tourist interruptus effect happen then as well? Did the Nazi tourism minister curse the economic drop-off at Berlin in 1936? Did the tour operators of Antwerp in 1932, or St Louis in 1904, complain about the lack of punters?
And what about even further back? For the answer, let's cross to our commentators in Olympia, Greece, circa AD 393...
Sofia: "... so that's one embarrassed Senator who'll be careful not to worship both Dionysus and Aphrodite at the same time in future! Over to you, Yianni."
Yianni: "Thanks Sofia. In local news, there's been a big reaction to the Emperor Theodosius' decision to abolish the Olympic Games as of this year. The Emperor's spokesmen are claiming the decision was made for religious reasons, but some are saying there was another agenda at work."
Sofia: "That's right, Yianni. Apparently a recent report commissioned by the Olympia agora discovered that the Games have an adverse impact on the local economy, driving up prices and keeping visitors away for the rest of the year. Unidentified senior Senators say that local donors to the Emperor's military campaign funds applied pressure at the top."
Yianni: "And they now feel the way is clear for the development of Olympia as a tourist destination with a broader appeal. Outspoken businessman Dimitri Stathopoulos has, perhaps not entirely coincidentally, announced the development of a major theme park, Olympus World, which will feature rides and other amusements based on the mythology of the now-banished pantheon of gods. Detractors have pointed to his majority ownership of accommodation in the area, and his prominent role on the local council."
Sofia: "Mmmm. When we caught up with Mr Stathoploulos today, he had this to say: 'It's time for Olympia to catch up with the rest of the known world, and I'll bet my bottom denarius the place will be a thriving success long after the Olympics are forgotten. May God lay Olympia low with an earthquake if it isn't so.'"
Yianni: "Well, time will tell, Sofia. In other news, the annual fashion show in Mediolanum opened last night, and the fashionistas are saying that this year, barbarian chic is in..."
Back to the 21st century studio...