Change of Attitudes and Country Image after Hosting Major Sport Events
Keywords:country image, sport events, Winter Olympics in Torino.
Although a change of country image in general is a rather long process (Kuvykaite & Kerbelyte, 2008), hosting sports events may contribute to changing a country’s image. When governments and cities host major sports events like the Olympics it is partly because such events are perceived as a means to promote the image of the host. The cost of an event like the Olympics is considerable, and in most cases the local and/or the national government has to pick up the lion’s share of the bill. The Norwegian government sponsored the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics by more than one billion euro. The Summer Olympics are even more expensive, and as an example the South Korean government spent more than three billion US dollar on the 1988 Summer Olympics according to Nebenzahl and Jaffe (1991). A report released in 2002 stipulates that the NSW government in Australia spent more than one billion dollars on the 2000 Olympic Games in Sidney. Therefore, it is very important to know if these investments of money and effort change the image of the hosting country. This study presents the effects of the Torino (Turin) 2006 Winter Olympics on the image of Italy in Lithuania. Two random samples of students at major Lithuanian universities were selected. Students were interviewed because they are part of society, which are very interested in sports events like Olympics. The first sample consisted of 297 respondents and was collected before the Winter Olympics in Torino. The second sample consisted of 346 respondents and was collected after the event. There is no consensus among scholars regarding the country image concept. The understanding of the nature of this phenomenon varies in terms of target group (investors, students, visitors, etc.). By synthesizing various approaches Laroche, Papadopulos, Helsop, & Mourali (2005) define three main country image dimensions: cognitive, affective and conative. However, little research has been conducted to test it. This research tested the following country image dimensions: image of the people in the country, image of the societal system and the level of animosity towards the country. The following three general hypotheses have been formulated: H1: Animosity dimension of country image is influenced by a major sport event such as Winter Olympics. H2: Societal dimension of country image is influenced by a major sport event such as Winter Olympics. H3: People dimension of country image is influenced by a major sport event such as Winter Olympics. The research results indicate that the Animosity dimension of Italy after the Olympics changed negatively which means that Lithuanian students got less favourable impression of Italy. The other two hypotheses were not supported. Several factors contribute to the explanation of the research results: there was a lot of negative press concerning the logistics of the games, the Torino Olympics chose the slogan ‘Passion lives here’ and then failed to show any according to their polls: there were few inspired spectators at some of the events.