44 Interesting Facts about Olympic Games Costs and Finances

By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published September 9, 2016
  • In 1936, the German government paid about US$25 million, raised through taxes, to stage the Olympics in Berlin. In 1972, when the Olympics were held in Munich, it cost almost 70 times that amount.[11]
  • The budget for the Olympic games has evolved throughout history and depends on the local context of the host city. However, financing the games can be broken into two distinct budgets: the OCOG budget and the non-OCOG budget. The OCOG budget comes mainly from the IOC’s marketing broadcast deals and the Olympic Partner (TOP) program. The non-OCOG budget is under the control of local authorities of the host city.[14]
  • The 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China, cost over US$40 billion, making it the second most expensive Games after the Russian 2014 Winter Olympics. Even though it was less expensive than the Russian Games, it hosted three times as many events.[8]
  • The 2004 Athens Games went over budget by 60%, landing Greece billions of dollars in the red. The country had hoped the Olympics would lead to longer–term gains from tourism, but many of the stadiums and hotel rooms sit unused.[15]
  • The Lake Placid Olympic Games in 1980 went over 320% the original budget. The organizers were left with an $8 million debt, and the New York State government had to ultimately pay off the creditors.[15]
  • Over a billion dollars per year is still required to maintain the barely used infrastructure and subsidise the tourist industry
  • The most expensive Games in history were the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi at over US$50 billion, which is four times more than Russian President Vladimir Putin originally proposed. It was originally budgeted at US$12 billion.[3]
  • The Albertville 1992 Olympic Winter Games went over budget 135%, which was a deficit of US$57 million. The French government was forced to pick up some of the tab.[15]
  • Victor Matheson, a professor of economics at the College of the Holy Cross, notes, “There is very little evidence to suggest hosting the Olympics provides much of an economic benefit.”[4]
  • Researchers note that there are ways to turn the Olympic Games into a financial success for a host city: rely on existing facilities to host events and use the Olympics as a catalyst to build long-term infrastructure projects that would be needed with or without the games.[16]
  • Beijing’s US$423 million Bird’s Nest Stadium costs US$11 million a year to maintain. Today, tourists can ride a Segway around the Olympic stadium for US$20.[2]
  • While the London Games promised that it would use the Olympic Games to jumpstart the renewal of East London (a historically low socio-economic area), it had to bulldoze several local businesses to make way for the new venues. And despite the commitment that 20,000 Olympic jobs would go to locals, fewer than half actually did.[16]
  • The International Olympic Committee does not pay athletes to compete in the games. However, a variety of non–IOC groups do give out money. For example, the U.S. Olympic Committee offers medal bonuses: $25,000 for gold medal winners, $15,000 for silver, and $10,000 for bronze. Other countries will offer less or more. Sponsorship money can also be significant for the “elite of the elite” athletes.[17]
  • Unlike athletes in many other countries, American Olympians receive no direct support from the federal government.[17]
  • The Pope emphasized that the Olympics should focus on the human family, not on money
  • In 2013, Pope Francis met a large delegation of Olympic leaders and warned them about the over-commercialization of Olympic athletes. The Pope argued that athletes are reduced to mere trading objects if the Games are seen only in economic terms. The Pope argued that such commercialization threatens the harmony of the games.[13]
  • The U.S. Olympic Committee offers health insurance and stipends to just a limited number of competitors. Without government supports, athletes turn to prize money, apparel contracts, grants, and part-time work to finance their Olympic dreams. Even with most apparel contracts, there are provisions that result in lower money if the athlete is injured or performs under expectations.[17]
  • There is an incredibly steep drop in earning power from the “elite of the elite” Olympic athletes to those who are even just slightly lower ranked.[18]
  • Every potential 2022 Olympic host city with a democratically elected government pulled out of the bidding, many citing cost concerns. The only two cites left in the bidding are Beijing, China, and Almaty, Kazakhstan.[10]
  • The Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games have been hailed as one of the best and, despite going over budget, Barcelona has become one of Europe’s top tourist destinations. However, economists note that Barcelona, long neglected under the rule of Francisco Franco, was in the middle of a renaissance that would have occurred with or without the Olympics.[2]
  • The fireworks at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics cost roughly US$1.3 million. The closing ceremony fireworks cost US$90,000.[19]
  • One researcher notes that the Olympic Games work best in authoritarian states, where the government can use public funds however it chooses to make the Olympic project work, without public input.[6]
  • At the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, it cost nearly $200 million just to pay for security. Despite this expense, one person died and 110 were injured at the Centennial Olympic Park bombing.[11]
  • Nagano bid committee members ordered official accounts to be burned
  • The Nagano Olympics in Japan went over its original budget by 56%. Amid allegations of corruption, entire boxes of financial records were allegedly burned, and the total cost of Nagano still is unknown.[15]
  • The only Games where the Olympic industry can actually say there was a profit and the public didn’t pay were the 1984 Olympics in L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley made sure the Games were financed through corporate contributions rather than public tax dollars. Additionally, Bradley used existing venues to host sporting events rather than building new stadiums.[16]
  • One of the most expensive costs for the Sochi Olympics was the US$8.7 billion road and railway infrastructure. Fish Stadium, the location of the opening and closing ceremonies, cost US$780 million to build. With a capacity of 40,000 people, that’s an average cost of US$19,500 per spectator.[20]
  • The 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta cost $2 billion. Hosting costs increased to US$4.8 billion in Sydney four years later. The 2004 Olympics in Athens increased to US$32 billion.[4]
  • Athens, Greece, spent nearly double its original hosting budget for the 2004 Olympic Games, which contributed to Greece’s already tenuous financial position. As many as 21 Olympic venues in Athens were abandoned only four years after the Games closed.[15]
  • The first Olympics after the 9/11 terrorist attacks were held in Salt Lake City, UT, in 2002. Security costs shot up to over $500 million, almost five times the cost of security the last time the U.S. hosted an Olympics in 1996, at the much larger Summer Games in Atlanta.[4]
  • During the Winter 2014 Olympic Games, Russia spent US$520 million per event, which is a huge jump from the US$132 million Beijing spent per event in the 2008 Summer Olympics.[3]
  • While Super Bowl ads average $4 million, Olympic ads are much cheaper—around $100,000 per spot. However, the Olympics offer about two weeks of varied advertising opportunities.[5][12]
  • The top three most expensive Olympic sports in terms of training cost are shooting, sailing, and equestrian.[1]
  • Shooters spend between $700,000 to $1.5 million a year to train for the Olympics
  • Companies that sponsor the Olympic Games typically don’t make massive amounts of money. Business sponsors tend to be large, well known corporate brands like Coca Cola or McDonald’s that buy gigantic deals for no other reason than to keep chief competitors out. Given these companies’ existing sales, even major public events aren’t going to affect them significantly.[7]
  • Estimates put NBC’s total Olympic profit at about $1billion, after spending about $775 million to pay for rights and another $100 million to produce.[5]
  • The International Olympic Committee has strict rules on what type of and how many logos athletes wear. They do this to prevent athletes from becoming human billboards. Consequently, the chances of the Olympics significantly increasing the sales of a certain brands of tennis rackets, swimming suits, or running shoes are slim.[7]
  • Approximately 47% of Olympic marketing revenue comes from broadcast, 45% from sponsorship, 5% from ticketing, and 3% from licensing.[9]
  • The International Olympic Committee and the organizations within the Olympic Movement are entirely privately funded.[9]
  • From 2005–2008, the International Olympic Committee received US$3.44 billion from broadcast and international sponsorships and US$2.01 billion from the Organizing Committees for the Olympic Games’ domestic sponsorships, licensing, and ticketing.[7]
  • Oxford researchers note that the Olympic Games overrun budget with “100% consistency.” No other mega–project consistently overruns its budget like the Olympics.[15]
  • The Olympics can no more lose money than a man can have a baby.

    - Jean Drapeau

  • The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is a 115-member organization composed of royalty, Olympic athletes, and organizational leaders such a corporate executives. Royal members include Frederick, Crown Prince of Denmark; Prince Nawaf of Saudi Arabia; and Princess Tamim of Qatar. Corporate executives include Richard Carrion, CEO of Popular Inc.; John Coates, director of Grosvenor Group Limited; and Gerhard Heiberg, former CEO of Norcem. Although they don’t get paid more than a stipend, IOC members are often given the royal treatment when cities are trying to be picked as a host site.[9]
  • Most of the money that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) raises goes to various Olympic subsidiaries in each country, such as National Olympic Committees (NOCs), which train and recruit teams that compete in the Olympics in each country; International Federations that preside over the sports (IFs organize rules and tournaments for specific sports); and Local Organizing Committees for the Olympic Games (OCOGs), which run the big show, from ceremony design to coordinating resources from local governments and the IOC. The OCOGs also generate their own revenue through domestic sponsorship, ticketing, and licensing under the oversight of the IOC.[14]
  • The U.S Olympic Council receives extra money from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) because of its market value regarding TV and sponsorships.[9]
  • It took 30 years to finally pay off the cost of the stadium, which led to its nickname, "The Big Owe"
  • Mismanagement of the 1976 Montreal Games left the city with a US$1.5 billion debt that took three decades to pay off. “The Big-O,” Montreal’s Olympic stadium turned baseball park, was nicknamed “The Big O-W-E.”[15]
  • The biggest revenue source for the Olympics is broadcast licensing contracts, which the International Olympic Committee (IOC) negotiates directly. The Summer Olympics generate nearly double the revenue of the Winter Olympics.[9]
  • From 2010–2012, NBC paid the International Olympic Committee (IOC) US$2 billion for U.S. broadcasting rights of the Olympic Games; EBU paid US$768 million for Europe broadcasting rights; Sky Italia paid US$154 million for Italy; CTV paid US$153 million for Canada; Nine paid US$112 million for Australia; and CCTV paid US$99 million for China.[9]
  • From 2005–2008, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) received US$270 million in ticket sales for the Olympic Games.[9]
References

1 "7 Olympic Sports That Cost the Most in Training." The Fiscal Times. August 3, 2012. Accessed: September 9, 2016.

2 Appelbaum, Binyamin. “Does Hosting the Olympics Actually Pay Off?New York Times. August 5, 2014. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

3 Barness, Sarah. “Why are the Sochi Olympics the Most Expensive in History? Vice Explores the Real Cost (Video).” Huffington Post. February 6, 2014. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

4 Black, Matthew. “Winner’s Curse? The Economics of Hosting the Olympic Games.” CBC News. Updated July 30, 2012. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

5 Chemi, Eric. “NBC’s Own Olympic Event: Selling 11,000 Ads in Two Weeks.” Bloomberg & Businessweek. February 7, 2014. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

6 Gold, John R. and Margaret Gold. Olympic Cities. New York, NY: Routledge, 2011.

7 Heffernan, Margaret. “Do the Olympics Make Money?CBS News. July 30, 2012. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

8 Kim, Thomas. “The Costly 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.” Northwestern Business Review. February 6, 2014. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

9 Lubin, Gus and Lawrence Delevingne. “Olympics, Inc.: Inside the Secretive, $6 Billion World of the International Olympic Committee.” Business Insider. February 17, 2010. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

10 Manfred, Tony. “No One Wants to Host the 2022 Olympics—Here’s the Master Plan to Fix It.” Business Insider. November 21, 2014. Accessed: November 22, 2014.

11 Middleton, Haydon. The Modern Olympics. Chicago, IL: Heinemann Library, 2004.

12 Pomerantz, Dorothy. “Get Ready for More Olympics Coverage (and More Ads) than Ever Before.” Forbes. February 4, 2014. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

13Pope Warns Olympic Leaders about Commercialization.” CBC News. November 23, 2013. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

14Revenue Sources and Distribution.” Olympic.org. 2014. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

15 Riley, Charles. “6 Olympic Budget Blowouts.” CNN Money. 2014. Updated January 20, 2014. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

16 Riley, Charles. “Do the Olympics Cost Too Much for Host Cities.” CNN Money. July 30, 2012. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

17 Riley, Charles. “Olympians Face Financial Hardship.” CNN Money. July 10, 2012. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

18 Taylor, Adam. “Here’s How Much Olympic Athletes Really Get Paid.” Business Insider. July 19, 2012. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

19The Unofficial Information Page of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Fireworks!” Dominator Fireworks. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

20 Wellons, Mary Catherine. “Business of the Olympics: Sochi by the Numbers.” CNBC. February 10, 2014. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

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