Two emerging economies, namely Russia and Brazil, have the spotlight of the world on them as the hosts of the Winter Olympics and the World Cup respectively. For these countries, as they attempt to establish a new and positive identity on the international stage and attract both tourism and investment, this is a one of a kind public relations opportunity and a fantastic chance to highlight what they have to offer, but will it work out as planned?
The media coverage in the build up to the opening of the games in Sochi has been overwhelmingly unfavourable with stories of security threats, gay rights protests, corruption, and reports of accommodation and the like being unsatisfactory, and even incomplete. The PR machine has been dealing with a steady stream of negative stories and, despite some positive actions, including a number of well-timed pardons for high profile prisoners such as Greenpeace activists, issues such as gay rights simply will not go away. This has been added to most recently by stories talking about Sochi’s approach to handling stray dogs. Harsh as it may sound, nothing tugs at the heart strings, of Brits at least, more than an animal story and issues such as this may well blacken the country’s reputation in the eyes of potential tourists.
Similarly Brazil has been hit by stories concerning the safety of visiting fans, poor treatment of workers, and talk of how the investment needed to host the World Cup has been at the expense of improving the, often poor, standard of living for the Brazilian people. Despite the attractions of the country as a tourist destination, with its white-sand beaches, imposing waterfalls and colonial towns, such widespread reports may be enough to put potential visitors off making a trip.
Of course, any city hosting a mega-event will come in for criticism, and London 2012 was no exception. Whether the costs of hosting outweigh the benefits will only become clear with time.