NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 10, 2004

Officials announced that the Olympic Games will cost Greek taxpayers at least $7.2 billion. Given the cost, no one expects Greece to recover that money in increased tourism; however, this is not unique, say observers.

According to Kim Clark, writing in the New Republic, the Olympics are almost always a financial burden on the host country, with the exception of the 1984 Los Angeles Games. In fact, all recent Olympics have lost money.

  • In Atlanta, the General Accounting Office found that American taxpayers spent $609 million in subsidies for the Games, but received no economic return -- neither hotel occupancy nor retail sales increased.
  • In 2000, Australia's auditors of New South Wales province found that taxpayers spent $700 million on the games, but did not enjoy a significant jump in tourism.

A primary reason that the Olympics rarely pay off is that the Games keep getting costlier, say observers:

  • New security is likely to top $1.2 billion in additional costs.
  • Moreover, there are more games -- the Atlanta Olympics had 271 events, while Athens will have a record 301 events.
  • Additionally, corruption and graft is endemic, because the organizing committees are secretive and unregulated.

The New Republic suggests that if costs are not controlled, then the Games may be cancelled permanently. To save the games, the author suggests scrapping regional games like baseball, because they do not have a global audience. Additionally, she would also scrap games that already have an international event that determines champions, like soccer's World Cup or tennis's Grand Slam event.

Source: Kim Clark, "Poor Sport," The New Republic, July 15, 2004.


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