Carnegie Mellon University
February 19, 2015

Olympic Feat


Barra Olympic Park, Rio de Janeiro

The International Olympic Committee recently launched a new "invitation phase" to work with potential 2024 contenders ahead of the Sept. 15 deadline for formal submission of bids.

Boston, Paris and Rome have already thrown their hats into the ring to serve as host cities. More are expected to follow.

Cities considering a bid could learn something from a quartet of alumni from Carnegie Mellon University's H. John Heinz III College. The group co-authored the book "Bidding for Development: How the Olympic Bid Process Can Accelerate Transportation Development."

Mary Trina Bolton (HNZ'12), Ngiste R. Abebe (HNZ'12), Maggie M. Pavelka (HNZ'12) and Morgan L. Pierstorff (HNZ'12) are graduates of the Heinz College's Washington-based Master of Science in Public Policy and Management (MS-DC) program.

The book began as a capstone project, where MS-DC students research and propose solutions to real-life public policy issues.

Abebe said that when they started researching topics related to the Olympics, much of the conversation and literature discussed the legacy of the Olympics.

"Transportation always came up at the extremes," Abebe said. "Cities either really got it right, like Barcelona in1992, or didn't, like Atlanta in 1996 when athletes were barely arriving to events on time."

It was in looking at repeat bidders, and in particular repeat bid losers, that the team found its niche.

The alumni are continuing to discuss their work and have presented in London, Washington, D.C., and recently wrote an op-ed for the Boston Herald.

"Our unique view of this complex topic remains relevant," Abebe said. "So we're eager to share it with the wide variety of stakeholders and audiences involved in an Olympic bid."

The MS-DC program is designed to prepare future public-interest leaders to launch their careers in the U.S. capital. It combines the highly ranked Heinz College's public policy master's degree with work experience and the opportunity to build networks in the nation's capital.

"Each of us touch on this work in different ways in our day jobs, whether it's connecting cities to the global economy or applying our insights to sports diplomacy work at the Department of State," said Abebe, who is a program specialist for the Office of Transition Initiatives at USAID.

"Even when the topic is only tangential to our careers, being a published author and regarded as an expert in a field lends us credibility," she said. "Each of us also shares a sense of civic responsibility — there's a reason why we all work for the public sector in one form or another. Continuing to drive a project like this, that can make cities better and improve lives, definitely supports that commitment."

John Flaherty, distinguished service professor of public policy and management and director of Heinz College Washington D.C., said that the students have become subject matter experts on a critical topic for cities interested in bidding on the Olympics.

"These four Heinz DC students turned their graduate work into a timely and important contribution regarding urban planning and the Olympics," he said. "We are terrifically proud of them."

Published by Springer in November 2013, the book is part of the "Sports Economics, Management and Policy" series, designed to provide academics, students, sports business executives and policymakers with information and analysis on the cutting edge of sports economics, sport management and public policy on sporting issues.

Series editor, Dennis Coates, a professor of economics at University of Maryland-Baltimore County served as an adviser.

"What excited me about the students' work was that they came up with something new — a framework where countries could develop bids based on its potential to help spur infrastructure development, something that most cities need help with," Coates said. "By focusing their efforts on the development of a sound infrastructure plan as part of the bid process, cities hosting mega-events could create a lasting legacy that goes beyond the hype and costly spending typically associated with these events."

Related Links:

Boston Herald Op-ed: As You Were Saying...In 2024 bid, loss may still be a win

Bring In Development

Book: Bidding for Development: How the Olympic Bid Process Can Accelerate Transportation Development

Olympic Bid Process: A Vehicle for Transportation Development

Heinz College