Ex post analyses of major sporting events show that the benefits for the organizing countries are often greatly over-estimated in advance. A major portion of the proceeds (e.g., tickets, broadcasting rights, marketing) goes to the organizing sports federation, while most of the costs are borne by the organizing country.

Nonetheless, there is fierce competition between candidate countries for the right to organize tournaments like the Olympic Games and the World Cup. We demonstrate this paradox through a social cost-benefit analysis of holding the 2018 World Cup in the Netherlands and Belgium. The results show that national pride and pleasure come at a price. The research also shows that a complete ex ante study is needed to reveal the balance between the organization of a sporting event and the costs that are associated with it.