Sharing a larger and more varied pool of European talent was supposed to create an economic synergy. Starting with the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951, the first step was free trade. Nations were added, trade barriers disappeared, and by 2002, they had their monetary union.
What next? Does an Olympic union make sense?
In a report on the economics of the Olympics, Goldman Sachs asks if a euro zone team would win more medals than the 17 member nations took home separately.
For the “yes” side, they point out that the pool of talent would multiply, athletes might train harder because of fewer spots, and more resources would be supporting a single goal. In addition, because athletes would have to choose events more selectively, they would only compete in their best sport.
On the other hand, when East and West Germany combined their talent, the results were mixed and tough to evaluate because other variables changed (like China’s increased competitiveness). As a specific example, the report points out that a unified Germany fared worse in football but better with hockey. Also, national pride and cheering home crowds might make a big difference. Finally, small countries tend to target one event with huge resources.
Their conclusion? The key to capturing the benefits of a euro team relates their current problems. Whether looking at the Olympics or monetary union, euro zone nations need more success optimizing the benefits of their union and minimizing its negatives.
Using Goldman’s medal chart from the 2008 Olympics, here is how euro zone nations compared with the US and China:
2008 Beijing Olympic Medal Winners (Euro Zone, US and People’s Republic of China)
|Euro Zone Total||174|
|People’s Republic of China||51||21||28||100|