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On Monday, the International Olympics Committee “awarded” the 2024 Summer Games to Paris and the 2028 Summer Games to Los Angeles. The leaders of both cities were thrilled at the announcement, pointing to the honor, legacy, and other unmeasurable vagaries the Olympics will bring. But hosting the five-ring circus hasn’t worked out well in modern history:
“Like anything worth fighting for, this was a long journey,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “Little by little, we got a victory.”
After the membership gave the cities a standing ovation, IOC President Thomas Bach added: “It is really this win-win-win situation we were all together looking for.”
Bach and Garcetti sat at a long table where the mayor signed the “host city contract,” obligating L.A. to serve as a financial backstop, paying off any debts should the estimated $5.3-billion sporting event run over budget.
Cost overruns have been a constant companion to the Olympics. The most recent Summer Games in Rio famously blasted through budgets, resulting in economic and political turmoil that helped oust Brazil’s president before her term was up. (And now her successor is under investigation for corruption.)
Sochi (2014) came in 289 percent over budget, Lake Placid (1980) was 324 percent over budget, and Montreal (1976) ended up a staggering 720 percent over budget. The average overrun for Summer Games is 176 percent. From FiveThirtyEight:
The numbers above come from a new study led by Bent Flyvbjerg at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School, who looked at six decades of Olympic budgets. It wasn’t easy — detailed cost overrun data is only available for 19 of the 30 games taking place since 1960, a paucity which Flyvbjerg and his colleagues found galling. “It means — incredible as it may sound — that for more than a third of the games between 1960 and 2016 no one seems to know what the cost overrun was,” they wrote….
“For a city and nation to decide to stage the Olympics Games is to decide to take on one of the most costly and financially most risky type of megaproject[s] that exists,” Flyvbjerg and company wrote, “something that many cities and nations have learned to their peril.”
Fortunately for Angelenos, a grassroots group called NOlympics LA is continuing their effort to stop the games. “The notion that ‘L.A. is going to have the Olympics, one way or another’ isn’t necessarily true, as many opportunities still exist to intervene and stop them entirely.”
They have an uphill battle, but those living in the city better hope they succeed.