Sunday, September 8, 2013

Making Money Has Been the Olympic Norm

Lighting the Athens Olympic flame was pretty, but expensive.
The awarding of the Olympic games to Rio and Sochi yesterday brought up a question from Leah and me over coffee this morning: when was the last time the Olympics made money?

As it turns out, making money is the norm, despite what happened in Greece in 2004, when the Olympics played a large role in wrecking the economy. You also have the interesting case of Nagano, Japan, in 1998, when all the financial records were ordered burned and we have no idea about loss/gain, but we can damn well guess, judging from the response. I suspect burning the records is a preferable result when harikiri (suicide) is considered a real option.

The Olympics' run in the United States has generally been good (look at this Wikipedia chart; it's complete and fun to compare). L.A. in '84, Atlanta in '96 and Salt Lake in '02 all made money. Most recently London and Vancouver (which are not in the U.S., but they speak English) broke even.

Bejing in 2008 claims to have made $1 billion, but, hey, that's the Chinese talking and my guess is that government subsidies don't count in the total outlay.

The Greek Olympics (remember: the Olympics was invented in Greece) lost between $14 billion and $15 billion and 21 of the 22 venues built for the games are not used today, falling into decay. I think that's where we get the general notion, which appears to be wrong, that the Olympics is a financial disaster.

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