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  • Balázs Farkas

Is Hosting the Olympic Games Worth it?

After an Olympic Games which were closed to the public, many cities around the world are now asking if hosting the Olympic Games are worth it.

(Photo: BBC)

“Citius, altius, fortius!” (“Faster, higher, stronger”) This is the main motto of the Olympics, which refers to the constantly improving results of the athletes, but is also appropriate for the increasing scope of hosting the Olympics.

It is always a long and precise process for the IOC (International Olympic Committee) to find the best host city, but, surprisingly, it is getting harder nowadays because of the small number of applicants. For the 2024 Olympic Games only two cities presented bids which were enough to reach the final stage of the decision: Paris and Los Angeles. The fair solution by the IOC was to give the 2024 Olympic Games to Paris, and the 2028 Olympic Games to Los Angeles (the 2032 Olympic Games will be held in Brisbane, Australia). But what is the reason behind the decreasing popularity of hosting the games?

(Source: Statista)

Most important is the cost. Theoretically, it is possible to organise the Olympic Games in a profitable way, but in reality, it rarely happens. First of all, let’s take a look at the different costs. In addition to the costs of the bidding process, sport related costs and infrastructure costs also play a large role. Sport related costs are numerous and essential for the success of the Games. The future host city needs to have appropriate stadiums and venues and needs to build the Olympic Village, as well as several community buildings, etc. Infrastructure costs mean building new motorways, metro systems, hotels, and even sometimes airports; in other words, enhancing the public transportation system in order to provide the connection between the different locations not only for athletes, but for tourists as well.

However, these large infrastructure projects also have a positive effect by boosting the local economy. They can create many new jobs, and the stadiums and undergrounds can be used after the games, so this money can be wisely invested, building infrastructure not only for the Olympic Games, but for the future of the city as well. Of course, planning for the future is not always successful. A lot of stadiums (especially in Athens and Rio de Janeiro) will not be used further, because they do not need them anymore. What is even worse is the lack of funds available to maintain these large facilities, so just a few years after the games we could see pictures of abandoned and desolate stadiums.

Abandoned Stadium in Athens (Source: Popular Mechanics)

The main income of the Olympic Games comes from tourism and broadcasting, which could, in theory, cover the expenses. The problem is that the host cities always overspend, since 1960 by an average of 172%. This can cause a massive debt for the country, which sometimes have to be paid by the citizens, like after the games in Athens.

And there is the case of Tokyo 2020, where no tourists were allowed to take part in the Olympic games due to Covid-19 restrictions, which means a financial disaster for Japan, including the additional costs of preventing the spread of the virus.

The only irrefutable reason for a country to organize the Olympic Games is the national pride, the prestige of being in the world’s focus. During the Olympic Games a country can show its power by being able to host the games. This is very important, because it can appeal to a lot of tourists in the following years, and also helps to build a better image of the country.

Overall, there are two possibilities for the next Olympic Games. If the IOC continues its way of requiring gigantic buildings and infrastructure, then only big metropolises could afford to organize the games, where the demanded facilities already exist. The other way is to find a model to have cost-efficient, sustainable Olympic Games, giving a chance also for smaller cities to be able to be a host.

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