Pyeongchang, South Korea, built a brand new Olympic stadium to host the Winter Games this year. The 35,000-seat stadium cost $109 million to build. And it will be used just four times before it’s demolished.
It’s become too expensive to stage either the summer or winter Olympic Games. Extravagant installations, infrastructure upgrades, security, etc. do not make debt laden Olympics investments for the host state.
The costs of hosting the Olympics have skyrocketed. The 2012 Summer Games in London cost over US$15 billion. The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia cost an estimated US$22 billion to build and stage. While there was probably corruption involved in Russia’s inflated hosting costs, the economic benefits are far from clear and this has led to fewer countries interested in playing host.
For the 2024 Games, the International Olympic Committee decided to do something unprecedented: Instead of choosing between the only two bidders, Paris and Los Angeles, it decided to award Paris the 2024 Summer Olympics and give Los Angeles the 2028 Summer Olympics. Experts say the IOC decided to give them out at the same time for a simple reason — it was afraid no city would want to host the tournament by the time the 2028 bidding started.
Since 1960, no Olympic Games have come in under budget. In fact, nearly half of them end up costing more than twice as much as expected. Additionally, cities tend to find that most of the stadiums, fields, courts, and other facilities that they built for the games are simply useless after the Olympics are over. Their enormous size makes them difficult for athletes to use and for fans to fill up.
The Games are also suppose to attract tourists and showcase the host city while celebrating the best athletes and athletic competition. However, the empty seats most venues at the Pyeongchang Olympics suggest that hasn’t happened for South Korea.
With increasing costs and climate change affecting the Winter Olympics, is there an argument to be made for permanent Olympic installations?