How Expensive Are the Olympics?

Ah, the Olympics. That special time, every four years, when nations all around the world can, for just a little time, put aside their political differences and use their finest athletic specimens to one-up each other. Not only are the Olympics a good way for nations to find new and interesting ways to despise one another, but the event as become notorious for the kind of gratuitous overspending that any exploitative corporate superpower would be proud of.

This year’s winter Olympics in Sochi have proven to be no less expensive. In fact, it’s turning out to be the most expensive week in Olympic history. The current numbers most frequently cited in the media is $50 million. To put that in perspective, the Beijing Olympics in 2008, which had received a large amount of attention for it’s own massive cost, was about $40 billion.

The $50 billion number, however, might be more deceptive than accurate. As the Washington Post reported, the figure has largely been drawn from a comment that Russian deputy Prime minister gave to the media back in 2013. The article goes on to state that this number would have already changed on account of inflation and the fact that the bulk of the funding came from private investing, which hasn’t been thoroughly sifted through by journalist as of yet.

Oh, and there have been accusations of corruption among Russian officials. The article points to a number of Russian political dissidents who have announced that Russian officials may be padding “their Olympic construction bills by the billions in order to skim government-backed loans,” resulting in almost $30 billion extra dollars in spending. These numbers and accusations, however, have yet to be proven by sources.

The issue of spending comes up every time the Olympics role through a country, with some commentators lambasting the gross amount of spending and advertising that go into the event, while countries ignore the starving and struggling masses within their own borders. Others, however, argue that the Olympics create jobs in developing economies and host cities over time.

But is this true? Much like the $50 billion, the numbers are opaque. According to the International Business Times, a report by the European Bank for Reconstruction Development shows that host nations don’t benefit financially from hosting the games.

The event might, however, make Sochi a popular tourist destination, which increases the chance that the city itself will reap some economic rewards from this year’s games. The city also plans to use the houses areas constructed for the games for subsidized housing, which will have obvious beneficial effects on the city’s citizens.

The article also points out that the games probably won’t a dramatically pernicious effect on Russia’s GDP. As of now, the games are projected to have only cost about 2.4 of the country’s total GDP.