Hosting the Olympics Is a Huge Money Suck

Hosting the Olympics is virtually always a big fat money suck, despite what you may have heard. Economist Andrew Zimbalist, author of the International Handbook on the Economics of Mega Sporting Events tells some tough truths at The Atlantic. First among them:

These days the summer Games might generate $5-to-6 billion in total revenue (nearly half of which goes to the International Olympic Committee). In contrast, the costs of the games rose to an estimated $16 billion in Athens, $40 billion in Beijing, and reportedly nearly $20 billion in London. Only some of this investment is tied up in infrastructure projects that may be useful going forward....

Once the 17-day extravaganza is over, the city must then attempt to find productive use of the dozens of venues it has built. These projects often cost hundreds-of-millions of dollars to construct, take up 10 to 20 acres of valuable urban real estate (frequently for decades), and cost tens-of-millions of dollars to maintain each year. Despite this, many of these former Olympic venues are scarcely used, as is the case with Beijing's Bird's Nest and Water Cube, or many of the venues built for the Athens games. The list of white elephants is long.

Zimbalist works hard to see some glimmers of silver lining, noting that in underdeveloped cities hosting the Games could catalyze some long overdue infrastructure improvements. But that ain't much.

ReasonTV on the dark allure and false promises of taxpayer-funded of the sports stadiums:

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...noting that in underdeveloped cities hosting the Games could catalyze some long overdue infrastructure improvements.

    Do underdeveloped cities get to host the Olympics?

    Some day the Olympic events will be entirely video games. And unlike meatworld hosts, Xbox will make a virtual killing.

  • Suki||

    Don't be silly. When I was a tiny child they had the Olympics in Sarajevo and just about a decade later, they were using the Olympic site for civil war sniping competition.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Rio is getting the Olympics in 2016.

    Rio is underdeveloped as fuck. At least outside of Copacabana, Le Blanc, and Ipanema.

    And they're spending billions of dollars on making upgrades to favela neighborhoods (the poorest of the slums in Brazil). The only thing that may save Rio is that it's also getting the World Cup in 2014 which means that they will have a second bite at the revenue apple without having to upgrade their infrastructure but once.

    But even then I'm sure that they can't afford the cost of the changes they're making.

  • Fluffy||

    Apple missed.

    Look out below tomorrow morning.

  • Joe R.||

    It's been that way all week for my portfolio.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    "WATER WET! FILM AT ELEVEN."

  • The Late P Brooks||

    And our Storyteller-in-Chief went to bat for the Chicago Olympic bid.

    Because MULTIPLIERZES, that's why.

  • ||

    Please, Jeebus, never, ever let the Olympics come to any city I live in.

    I cannot even believe the nightmare it would be here in Seattle to have the Olympics. Hempfest practically shut down a whole section of the city; the Olympics would do that all over the place.

  • Elphie||

    Lucky for me Portland is too insignificant to ever host the Olympics. Sometimes it pays to live in Seattle Junior.

  • ||

    Well, someone has to keep the dream of the 90s alive.

    I was just down there a few weeks ago. Went to a Rogue brewery/restaurant. Had an imperial pilsner, which was surprisingly good.

  • Joe R.||

    Portland is a friggin' Disneyland of beer. I miss The Toronado.

  • ||

    Portland's beer selection--everywhere, as in restaurants, Fred Meyer, wherever--puts any other place I've been to total shame. It's amazing.

  • CE||

    Henry Weinhard's Ale -- why can't I find it anywhere outside of Oregon?

  • ||

    I don't know, because they have distributors all over the country and I'm pretty sure I've seen it here in Seattle at Metropolitan.

  • Tulpa the White||

    Is there a variant of Rule 34 for stupid ideas?

  • ||

    The conceit that you have to host the Olympics to be a "world-class city" is one of the more retarded ones out there.

  • juris imprudent||

    Better than the mouth breathing NFL fans that insist if you don't have a team you ain't a world class city.

    My reply to that is you then have Cleveland and Oakland being more "world-class" than Los Angeles and San Antonio.

  • Metazoan||

    Not better, just similarly stupid.

  • Metazoan||

    Yeah, the last time they were talking about naming the ....2016? olympics, I got into a discussion with some friends, who were puzzled that the only thing I really cared about was not having them in the US. Waste of money.

  • Mo||

    Wait, I thought the Olympics were capitalism at its best?

  • ||

    lol.... seemed like a reasonable article...

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    I didn't read that. My thoughts about it were "What the fuck are you dumbasses on?".

  • ||

    Lets make hosting the olympics a punishment. Inflict it on crumbling regimes. Better yet, make Penn State host them.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Congratulations, Jeff. May your nuptials be continual and nuptuous.

  • CE||

    Why not have a permanent Olympic Village, in Athens? Countries with actual wealth could then pretend the bailouts are needed to keep the Olympics safe.

  • Tulpa the White||

    Actually makes Chicago's plan for a temporary Olympic Stadium in Washington Park (which would be torn down immediately after the games) for the 2016 games not look as stupid as it appeared at first.

  • 1955||

    http://internetscelebrities.co.....um-status/
    Internet Celebrities' longish, 19mins, but funny take on the Yankees, Mets, Nets stadium deals.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Why does it always have to be cities? What if I want to host the Olympics in my home?

  • Tulpa the White||

    Does your pool have a ramp?

  • Pro Libertate||

    No, but we could add one. I understand cities make billions from hosting the Olympics, so I'll just get an advance from my bank.

  • Voros McCracken||

    I'm going to host the next Laff-a-Lympics. The Scooby Doobies will bring home the gold in 2014.

  • CE||

    Ski jumping off the roof? Where can I buy a good snow machine?

  • ||

    Actually, one of the things I remember from all the hullabaloo around the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne was the whole insistence that the Games are awarded to cities, not nations. That of course was nonsense since twenty years before Hitler had made the games the national spectacle they are today.

    But then there was also some idealistic bullshit about how the athletes were not representatives of national teams but were competing as individuals.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Olympics are gay. It is the fucking U.N. of sports and a waste of taxpayer money.

    I am going to watch it anyway but only for the hot muscular volleyball chicks and other concerns of a boner stimulating nature.

  • Entropy Void||

    other concerns of a boner stimulating nature.

    Pre-pubescent gymnastics!

  • ||

    I feel like I should get a hat tip for pointing out on Ira Stoll's column the other day that the Olympics suck.

  • Generic Stranger||

    Would you like a hat tip for stating that the sky is blue, too?

  • CE||

    But Beijing's Bird's Nest will serve forever, as art.

  • ||

    Until it falls down due to the shitty construction.

  • CE||

    And why don't the Olympics have real sports, like baseball and golf?

  • affenkopf||

    Baseball is not a real sport, Golf will come back in 2016.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    Your mom is a huge money suck, lol.

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