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One hit wonder: Eurovision and economic impact

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Eurovision is upon us (literally if you’re reading this in Liverpool). As an American expat, I have grown to love the spectacle since my first viewing at a friend’s Eurovision party over a decade ago. There is joy in the shared experience – in collectively viewing the performances and in the way these and the judging fuel conversations in offices and online both before and after.

All this means Eurovision and similar events have significant social value—they help communities and provide a collective experience of joy.  They can also inspire people to create music and art, encouraging a new generation of performers.

However, none of these will be adequately captured in an economic impact analysis, nor should they.

Our evidence review on sports and culture major events and facilities is one of the most downloaded on the What Works Growth website. We reviewed 550 evaluations on the economic impact of sports and culture major events and facilities, finding 36 that met our evidence standards. The evidence showed that the measurable effects on a local economy are not large and are more often zero. Effects on wages or income tend to be temporary, localised and only affect particular types of workers.

This is an area where it would be good to see more work done to understand the impact on visitor numbers and of cultural events more generally. There will undoubtedly be money spent by visitors to Liverpool in bars, restaurants, and hotels – hence the temporary effects found in some evaluations. However, a rush of money is very unlikely to create new jobs long-term. This doesn’t mean the event doesn’t have value to fans in Liverpool, Ukraine, and across Europe. But as I look at photos from the Aquatopia underwater disco parade on the streets in Liverpool or get ready to attend a Eurovision watch party, I won’t be thinking about the economic impact. I’ll be revelling in that shared joy.