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Why Hosting the UN Is Way More Profitable Than Hosting the Winter Olympics


By Jordie Hannum

From February 9-25, 92 countries will convene in Pyeongchang, South Korea for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

For decades, hopeful Olympic hosts have vied to bring these renowned international games to their backyard. The reason? Prestige, exposure, and certainly a wish to boost tourism and generate additional revenue for their local economy.

As cities from every corner of the globe compete to host the Olympic games, let’s not forget about another convener that brings representatives from many countries together in what may sometimes look like a competition under one roof: The United Nations.

Since the UN’s headquarters are permanently located in New York, we seldom hear about the economic benefits to its host city. However, if the UN underwent a bidding process similar to the Olympics, cities from across the U.S. and around the world would be preparing for an Amazon-like showdown to be its new host. Here’s why:

The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver generated $1.7 billion dollars in revenue. While an impressive figure, the Winter Olympics only happen once every four years, and rarely in the same city twice.

In contrast, the UN generates $3.7 billion in revenue every year for the city of New York. That’s $14.8 billion dollars over a similar four-year period.

(Note: This analysis does not account for the economic benefits that extend beyond New York. Every year hundreds of U.S. companies across dozens of states procure UN contracts. In 2016 alone, 81 U.S. companies across 24 states had more than 100 contracts with the UN, generating $165 million in economic revenue.)

On the tourism front, it’s a similar story. The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio attracted approximately 500,000 tourists. In contrast, every year more than 1 million visitors from around the world tour the UN’s Headquarters in New York City.

So which of these two forums is the better fiscal deal for its host country? With a two-to-one ratio in both economic revenue and in tourism numbers, it’s clear the gold medal goes to…the UN!