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Negotiating Costs and Benefits Among 2008 Olympic Volunteers: A Social Exchange Perspective

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Significant financial investments in organizing sport mega-events (SME) and training SME volunteers are frequently justified on the basis that local organizations can benefit from a larger pool of experienced volunteers following the event. By employing social exchange theory as a theoretical framework, this study explores the connection between the SME volunteer experience and subsequent volunteer behavior as a potential return on investment. In-depth interviews have been conducted with 15 Chinese volunteers who participated in the 2008 Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games. Qualitative data offers a rich, contextualized view to understand the long-lasting impact of previous SME volunteer experiences, including not only the perceptions in terms of benefits and costs but also its influence on subsequent volunteering elsewhere in the postevent period. We identified that volunteers continue to garner benefits from their SME experience, even 8 years after the event, and mainly in the forms of social, career-related, training, Olympic-related, psychological, and extrinsic benefits. The costs perceived from the SME appear to fade away because the direct costs were covered, and the opportunity costs were low for student volunteers. The theoretical explanations of (future) volunteer behavior provided mixed evidence in the scope of three social exchange theory propositions (i.e., rationality, deprivation–satiation, and approval–aggression proposition). Findings provide valuable insights to inform organizers of SME and other activities to pay more attention to the volunteer experience and to optimize volunteer benefits and costs. Additional improvements in volunteer recruitment are important for Beijing, in preparation of hosting the 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.
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Keywords: COST–BENEFIT ANALYSIS; OLYMPIC AND PARALYMPIC GAMES; PROPOSITION; SOCIAL EXCHANGE THEORY; VOLUNTEERING

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 8, 2020

This article was made available online on February 5, 2020 as a Fast Track article with title: "NEGOTIATING COSTS AND BENEFITS AMONG 2008 OLYMPIC VOLUNTEERS: A SOCIAL EXCHANGE PERSPECTIVE".

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  • Event Management, an International Journal, intends to meet the research and analytic needs of a rapidly growing profession focused on events. This field has developed in size and impact globally to become a major business with numerous dedicated facilities, and a large-scale generator of tourism. The field encompasses meetings, conventions, festivals, expositions, sport and other special events. Event management is also of considerable importance to government agencies and not-for-profit organizations in a pursuit of a variety of goals, including fund-raising, the fostering of causes, and community development.
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