Olympic Boomtown: The Social Impacts of a One-Time Mega-Event in Utah's Heber Valley


olympics, mega-events, social impacts


We extend the research on the individual and community-level impacts of rapid growth development (boomtowns) to include communities that have been affected by a short-term, yet large-scale “mega-event”—the Olympics. Testing the assumption of generic similarities of social impacts between these two types of communities, we examined longitudinal survey data from six survey years (between 1999 through 2003, and 2007), gathered in Utah's Heber Valley (the site of the February 2002 Soldier Hollow Salt Lake City, Utah Olympic cross-country skiing venue), to test for differences across established indicators of social disruption. We find that the Olympics had an important positive effect on residents’ community satisfaction during the year of the Olympics. While the literature on rapid growth communities provided a useful framework for the study of mega-event impacts on communities, our conclusions indicate a need to establish a more robust model for assessing how hosting an event can potently alter the relationship residents have with their community. Specifically, future research should focus on understanding the social-psychological effects of mega-event social disruption.

Original Publication Citation

Cope, Michael R., Jeremy Flaherty, Kirk D. Young, and Ralph B. Brown. 2015. “Olympic Boomtown: The Social Impacts of a One-Time Mega-Event in Utah’s Heber Valley.” Sociological Spectrum, 35:136-160.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL



Taylor & Francis




Family, Home, and Social Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication

Assistant Professor