Hosting the Olympics Is Actually Economically Harmful for Cities


The Olympic Games as currently conducted are not economically viable for most cities. The most important reasons include infrastructure costs relating to the venues hosting the events; the monopoly rents that flow to the International Olympic Committee; poor management; corruption; and the specter of unreasonable and unrealizable economic expectations for the host city and nation.

Concerns about costs are nothing new. Even Salt Lake City’s $1.9 billion in expenditures in 2002 ($2.5 billion in 2015 dollars), which seem almost quaint by today’s standards, raised concerns among organizers. Then-President of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, expressed the “need to streamline costs and scale down the Games so the host cities are not limited to wealthy metropolises.…The scale of the Games is a threat to their quality,” he said. “In a way, they risk becoming a victim of their own success” (as quoted in Roberts 2002).

Costs of staging the Games have skyrocketed in the years since those comments were made. The Olympics have reached a tipping point where the majority of potential host nations and cities in the industrialized, democratic West have come to the realization that hosting is more likely to drain rather than to enhance financial resources. Even before Boston and Hamburg’s withdrawals as applicant cities for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games, and even before only two applicant cities emerged as contenders for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee had been considering major changes to its strategic vision. Its Olympic Agenda 2020, which was unanimously passed at the IOC’s 127th Session in Monaco in December 2014, included 40 recommendations for reform, many of which promoted increased economic sustainability for host cities.

Read more at the Journal of Economic Perspectives.

You May Also Like