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For Host Nations, Are the Olympics a Worthwhile Investment?

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The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics are under way, and their estimated cost is said to be $52 billion. That would make them the most expensive Olympics in history. That price tag might seem shocking, but with the average cost overrun of 179%, according to Oxford's Said Business School, every Olympics since 1960 has failed to meet its initial budget.

Exceeding the original budget isn't always a bad thing. The Barcelona Summer Olympics in 1992 had an $11.4 billion price tag (in 2009 dollars); however, a large portion of this money went to upgrading infrastructure, which had long-term benefits to the city. The games created jobs and doubled the city's tourism over the following decade. All these improvements and attention to the city helped move it from 11th to sixth in the EU city economic rankings.

Not all Olympic stories end as well as they did for Barcelona. In 2008, Beijing had trouble finding a place for Olympic venues for the Summer Games, so the city eventually displaced more than 600,000 residents to make room for them. The Olympics left the city with new subway lines and a state-of-the-art stadium, but only one event has been held in the massive 91,000-seat arena since the Olympics.

This story isn't unique to Beijing. In Athens, a staggering 21 out of 22 venues built for the 2004 Olympic Games are now abandoned, covered in graffiti and weeds. 

So, are the Olympics worth the investment? With all the recent Olympic hype, Firmex Data Rooms decided to take a closer look at the cost of hosting the Olympic games to answer just that question.

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