Are big sporting events worth it?

With one year to go until the 2024 Paris Olympics, the event’s budget has already ballooned to €8.3 billion, up from an estimated €6.8 billion in initial costs. 

So our question is: Are the games worth it?

Driving the news: Olympic Games have long gone over budget—an Oxford study found that, on average, the Olympics have exceeded their initial budgets by 172% since 1960. But new this year is heightened scrutiny over whether or not this overrun is palatable.

  • The economic benefits the Olympics bring—tourism, sponsorships, etc.—have always been murky, and the games are increasingly looking like money sinks.

  • Since the organizing committee claims over half of all TV revenue (where the big money comes from), cities can really only generate more revenue by raising ticket prices.

Zoom out: The Commonwealth Games are in an even stickier situation. Australian state Victoria was supposed to host the 2026 edition but said “no thanks” after the budget swelled from US$1.7 billion to US$4.77 billion, which the premier called “all cost and no benefit.”

  • Just yesterday, Alberta withdrew its support for a bid to host the 2030 games for similar reasons, with the tourism minister saying, “It’s not a good deal for Alberta.” 

Plus: Money isn’t everything. The Olympics have always been pricy but came with a cultural caché that has diminished thanks to humanitarian criticismenvironmental concerns, and rampant corruption

  • A poll published in the French financial newspaper Les Echos found that 48% of respondents are “indifferent” to the Paris Olympics, and 32% are “skeptical” of it.

Why it matters: The combo of financial burdens and waning interest could cripple future events. The Olympics received just one bid to host the 2032 Summer Games, and this will be the second straight Commonwealth Games that need an emergency replacement host.—QH