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Student Panel Uses the Economics of Sports to Connect Across Cultures

When Jimmy Holloran ’14, as a newly arrived first-year student in fall 2012, heard Dean Ted Snyder talk about making Yale SOM the most global business school, he began thinking about how the student body could become more engaged with its international members.

Fast-forward to 2014, when Holloran, Sonal Singh '14, and Kate Roberts '15 had an idea: sports had the potential to open new communication channels. A discussion on the World Cup and the Olympics, both being held this year, could involve students from a variety of cultures and backgrounds. “We wanted an interesting topic that could bring in an array of voices from around SOM,” Holloran says.

The result was a four-student panel discussion on the impact of global sporting events, moderated by Assistant Professor of Economics Florian Ederer, on February 13, during Yale SOM’s International Week. The panelists shared stories from their home countries—Australia, Brazil, China, and Italy— and discussed the economic implications of major sporting events.

The idea is not only to be distinctively global in the world, but on the campus too.

The panel explored how nations have fared during past events and how they have planned for what happens when the games conclude. Panelists pointed out that promises for infrastructure improvements often had mixed results. While politicians and other officials generally say that the construction will lead to lasting changes, sometimes the change has human costs or has a much higher cost than expected, Igor Barros ’15 said.

“You can’t change the date when something is already far behind schedule, so what do they do? They put more money into it,” Barros said of the World Cup in Brazil. “Some projects cost twice as much now. There’s lots of controversy.”

Beijing faced similar troubles with the 2008 Summer Olympics, but has continued to benefit from the money spent, said Renjie Liu MAM ’14. Ten subway lines that were built ahead of the games have alleviated some longer-term transportation and traffic concerns in the city. Another benefit was increased international media attention and scrutiny on China, which in turn led to changes within the government, she added. “Much of this exists because of the event,” Liu said. “A lot has improved because of it.”

The event generated a discussion among SOM’s diverse student body, Holloran says, and was a step toward a greater integration of the international community within the confines of Edward P. Evans Hall. “We don’t want students to silo themselves in with just people from their region or part of the world,” Holloran says. “The idea is not only to be distinctively global in the world, but on the campus too.”