Countries across the globe place bids over a decade in advance just to be considered to host international sporting competitions. From the building of the stadiums, infrastructure renovations, housing, labour and more, the cost to host these tests of athleticism range in the billions. So why does everyone want to be in the running? Revenue of course! When we hosted the summer games on our home soil in 2012, the UK Economy saw a boost in trade and investment to the tune of £9.9 billion.1
Every hosting country is bound to take money in, but the real question is whether they will see a profit. We’ve delved into the costs a country incurs when making a bid for the games (summer and winter) to see how the numbers add up.
Why the Costs Have Grown2
In the first half of the 20th century, the hosts of the games were typically cities that could bear the financial burden. These were usually developed countries (Europe and the United States) because their larger economies, developed infrastructure and public funding could support the demand of the games.
By the late 1960s, TVs were commonplace in many households. Many analysts argue that the rise of the games came with a growth of media coverage. After television broadcasting became mainstream, hosts could expect to make a profit from advertisers. By the 1970’s, the games were showing rapid growth: Participants doubled and the number of events increased by 33%. The Summer Games in Tokyo (1964) brought in £1.1 million in broadcast revenue. The next Summer Games in Mexico City (1968) made over six times that! After those Summer Games, the broadcast revenue nearly doubled every year.
Cities want a piece of that revenue, but that comes with major costs to the city. Before you even get the chance to host, your city must place a bid. That bid (which has an application fee) requires evaluations, preparations, consultants, planning events, travel and more — all just to prove to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that your city is prepared to take on the challenge. Tokyo spent as much as £108 million on its failed 2016 bid for the Summer Games, which went to Rio de Janeiro instead.
Winter Games Budgeting
While each city can do its best to budget for the games, complications can (and most likely will) arise that can throw the budget out of whack. In fact, Baron De Coubertin, the founder of the Olympic movement, estimated that the first games in Athens (1896) would run a measly 250,000 drachmas, or in today’s terms, £1.2 million.3 The final cost? £7.2 million, roughly ten times the original estimate.3
In the last 25 years, the only city that was within 2% of its initial budget was Beijing (2008), which was a summer event.4 Here are the best and the worst city budgets for the Winter Games in the same time period.
Most Cost Efficient Winter Games4
Vancouver, Canada (2010)
Cost: £1.82 billion
Most Cost Inefficient Winter Games4
Sochi, Russia (2014)
Cost: £15.82 billion
Cost to Attend the Winter Games
The distance to the host location from the UK and the lodging cost varies greatly every four years. This year, the Winter Games will be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, 09 – 25 February. Here is an example of what you could expect to spend for the 2018 games.
- The average round-trip flight from London to Seoul is £577 per person.
- From Seoul, it’s a three-hour train ride to Pyeongchang, costing £144 per person.
- The average cost for a hotel near the games is £192 per night.
- A quick budget bite will cost you around £4 per plate, but if you’d like to splurge a little, expect prices closer to £13 per plate.
Tickets (varies greatly, especially medal rounds)
- A four-ticket bundle to men’s hockey, alpine skiing, snowboarding and pairs figure skating costs £1,118 per package.
Total cost to attend Pyeongchang games for seven days: £3,435 per person.
1BBC. (19 July 2013). London 2012 Olympics ‘have boosted UK economy by £9.9bn’. Retrieved 17 January 2018, from http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-23370270
2McBride, J. (20 July 2016). The economics of hosting the Olympic Games. Retrieved 17 January 2018, from https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/economics-hosting-olympic-games
3Wikipedia. (17 January 2018). Cost of the Olympic Games. Retrieved 17 January 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_the_Olympic_Games
4McCarthy, N. (4 August 2016). The massive cost of hosting the Olympic Games. Retrieved 17 January 2018, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2016/08/04/the-massive-cost-of-hosting-the-olympic-games-infographic/#117792e52e38