Will the Paris Olympics have an impact on the happiness of the French? Science has the answer – L’Express

why the Stade de France is no longer even plan

Three months to the day before the start of the Paris Olympic Games, preparations are in full swing. On July 26, the whole world will have its eyes fixed on the Seine, where the opening ceremony should take place. For the authorities, the stakes are immense: these two weeks must be a showcase for France. Emmanuel Macron, in particular, wants this “popular” celebration to serve to promote “the universalism of French values”. Even more, the President of the Republic has the ambition to make these Games “a unifying moment, an antidote against archipelagoization”, an advisor from the Élysée recently confided to L’Express. The Olympics to reconcile the French. Just that.

Beyond the economic and political issues, a question arises: could the Games improve the morale of the French? This is what a number of studies seem to suggest, according to which the impact of major sporting events on the psychology of host populations is often positive. However, ninety days before the opening ceremony, this optimistic outlook contrasts sharply with the current atmosphere in France.

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In 2012, France watched, with a touch of jealousy, the festivities of the London Olympics. Twelve years later, the French almost regret being the host country. Excitement gave way to worry and gloom. As evidence investigation conducted by Ipsos, this April 13. According to the polling institute, 47% of French people are disinterested in the event, 53% say they are worried about France’s organizational capacity, and only 38% consider themselves “proud” or “satisfied”. Far from the popular jubilation hoped for by Emmanuel Macron, the time has come for mistrust.

Chronicle of a predicted failure, or simple expression of a national temperament? The president must certainly opt for the second option. The French, he must think, these “refractory Gauls”, are true to their reputation: complainers, protesters and never satisfied. But how could it be otherwise, as for months they have been witnessing a litany of pessimistic forecasts announcing chaotic Olympics?

Paris, unlivable this summer?

Which Parisian has not heard, during a conversation, that the capital was going to be unlivable this summer? The government wants to be reassuring, like Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, who said that “France will be there”. However, the succession of hiccups, from work delays to doubts about the safety of the Seine, reveals a poorly prepared country, fueling the cliché of a bureaucratized France with inefficient public services. What can we expect from the organization of the Olympic Games, when we don’t even know how to manage our hospitals, some say ironically?

However, if the Olympic Games “cannot repair a country”, as we wrote recently, they could brighten up the French summer. This hypothesis, apparently as absurd as it is presumptuous, seems confirmed by certain studies. If work has demonstrated that the economic benefits for the host countries of major sporting events are zero, numerous studies on the other hand highlight their positive effects on the declared happiness of the inhabitants of these cities and countries.

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Georgios Kavetsos and Stefan Szymanski, in a article published by the Journal of Economic Psychology, for example evaluated the impact of hosting international sporting events on happiness, based on data from Eurobarometer satisfaction surveys, concerning citizens of twelve European countries between 1980 and 2010. To isolate the effect of events on happiness, the two researchers compared satisfaction between host and non-host countries, as well as the evolution of this satisfaction between years with or without events. Additionally, controls for demographic and economic variables were included. They conclude that the organization of major events is associated with an increase in the level of reported satisfaction, with an even more significant effect for football competitions such as the World Cup or the European Championship. News that should delight our neighbors across the Rhine, who are hosting Euro 2024 from June.

Towards Olympic fever?

Other research has focused solely on the effects of the Olympics on happiness. A study of 2016 analyzed the impact of the 2012 Olympics on the inhabitants of London, comparing their well-being to that of Parisians and Berliners during the same period. Data was collected from 26,000 residents of London, Paris and Berlin, during the summer of 2011, 2012 and 2013.

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The researchers used the subjective well-being measurement tool (Subjective wellbeing, SWB), which assesses individual perception of well-being through questionnaires detailing different aspects of daily life. They found a significant increase in SWB in London during the Games, compared to other cities, indicating an effect of the Olympics. This rise in wellbeing was also accompanied by a notable reduction in anxiety among Londoners.

After the event, they observed a significant drop in SWB among the latter, signaling that the positive effect of the Games on happiness was short-lived. For them, the conclusion to be drawn is unequivocal: “Our results show that the 2012 Olympic Games increased the satisfaction and happiness of Londoners in the short term, particularly during the opening and closing ceremonies.” This allows us to hope that the doldrums that accompany the preparation for these Games will be replaced, once summer sets in and the competition begins, with the long-awaited Olympic fever…