Olympic costs

By Felix Salmon
September 23, 2009
today's WSJ:

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When a number in the newspaper seems too outrageously large to conceivably be true, don’t believe it. For instance, from today’s WSJ:

The campaigns by the four bid cities, Rio, Chicago, Tokyo and Madrid, are heating up. Mr. da Silva has already approved some $240 billion in funding for the Games and offered the federal government’s financial guarantee to cover shortfalls in the organizing committee’s budget.

The Olympics are expensive, but they’re not that expensive — $240 billion would amount to more than 12% of the continent-sized country’s $2 trillion GDP.

The actual Olympic costs are $14.4 billion, and that includes $11.6 billion in construction and infrastructure costs — renovation of airports, roads, subway lines, that kind of thing. And the whole package has been incorporated into Brazil’s monster $240 billion federal investment program, 57% of which is public funds.

Most of the costs of the Rio Olympics, then, are a necessary part of the city’s (and country’s) regeneration in any event, they’re not Games-specific. The organizing committee’s operating budget is $2.8 billion, or about 1.2% of the number in the WSJ. That’s a much more realistic number to look at.


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That does in fact look very realistic. This is compared to Chicago closing nursing homes to save and find money.

Why didn’t the US federal government back the games? Rio, Madrid and Tokyo all have guaranteed federal financial backing.

Every time we go around this circle, and some city ends up bankrupting itself to host the games, I think that it would make a great deal of sense to just have a fixed Olympic venue. Think of it like Disneyworld, just built out in the middle of nowhere. Every nation could contribute to maintain and improve it, and in off-years it could be used for other international sporting events.

The problem is where to put it. Greece would be a good choice for obvious historical reasons, but is already kind of full. Perhaps the inhabitants of the Azores would agree to be bought out…

Posted by Ken | Report as abusive

Hey! That’s 430 billion Reals! Now we’re talking real money.

Posted by jonathan | Report as abusive