Economists Agree: The Olympics are a Terrible Investment

As a group from Washington, D.C. announced plans to bid for the 2024 Olympics, economists released a report on the high costs of hosting the Games for cities, including expensive infrastructure and small economic benefits.
August 28, 2013, 8am PDT | Alek Miller
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Because of competition between cities and countries, the International Olympic Committee often asks for expensive concessions, such as special stadiums, and has a record of leaving host cities with debt that takes years to pay off. 

"Even if the D.C. area could host the Olympics cheaply, that isn’t likely to happen in practice. 'It's true that D.C. already has great transportation networks, plenty of hotel space, lots of sports facilities—especially if you count the greater DC-Baltimore area,' [professor of economics at Holy Trinity College, Victor] Matheson told [author Brad Plumer]. 'But the IOC isn’t going to look at all this and say, okay, let’s just have the opening ceremonies in FedEx Field. They’ll ask for an Olympic stadium and all sorts of specialized infrastructure.'"

There have been very few success stories from cities that have hosted the Games or the World Cup, writes Plumer: "The only Olympic city in recent times that has really kept costs low was Los Angeles in 1984 — and that was a special case. That year, it was the only city actually bidding for the Olympics." 

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Published on Tuesday, August 27, 2013 in The Washington Post - Wonkblog
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