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Who needs the Olympics when James Bond can come to town?

05-Aug-2016 • Blog

The 2016 Olympic Games kicks off in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil tonight; the first time the event has been hosted in South America. The media is awash with the usual stories of unfinished hotels, collapsing new roads, aborted public transit upgrades, city officials moving the poor and the homeless away from the gaze of the cameras, public heath dangers, washed up body parts, insufficient security and rampant fraud and crime. The cost to Brazil? $11.6 billion. The benefit? Increased tourism. Right?

It's not the first time a city hosting the Games has been buried in bad news. In fact, with the exception of London 2012, most Olympic cities have seen public opinion of their nation hosting the Games swing from initial jubilation to down-right toxicity when the costs over-run, funding is pulled from other projects, public improvements are scrapped and the post-Games infrastructure turns into a team of white horses.

Contrast this with the arrival of a James Bond film production. Producer Barbara Broccoli has gone on record that they aim to "leave a place better than they found it." Playgrounds were built for local children in Panama during the shoot for 'Quantum of Solace.' Plumbing, sanitation and electrical services were upgraded in hotels in Udaipur for 'Octopussy.' Even as far back as 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service', 007 paid for a real - permanent - helipad to built on top of Schilthorn to improve mountain rescue for generations to come.

But most of all, Bond brings a uniquely positive boost in tourism for the locations the series showcases on the silver screen. Just take the most recent outing 'SPECTRE' as an example. Due to the overwhelming uptick in tourism interest, Mexico City is now looking to host an annual 'Day of the Dead' parade thanks to the opening sequence alone. 30,000 additional hotel nights were booked in the Austrian Tirol with an immediate 17% increase in tourist activity as soon as the film launched. Visit Britain continued their 'Bond is Great Britain' campaign with a focus on the London locations featured in the film, after the phenomenal success 'Skyfall' increased visitor numbers to Glencoe in Scotland by 41.7% a year after the film debuted. The UK tourism board campaign, which was refreshed with imagery from SPECTRE, had reached 653 million people worldwide before the film's release with 50% of tourists to the UK visiting specific locations due to film.

Sure, some locations like Mexico City give up incentives for film productions ($20m of tax breaks for 'SPECTRE'), but compared to the positivity, lasting legacy and boost in the local economy from international tourism generated by James Bond's onscreen adventures, it's a far, far better bang for the buck than any Olympics.

Ten years from now, it will be more common on screens around the world to see shots or Roger Moore in Rio for 'Moonraker' than any clip from its 2016 Games.

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