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: