Sochi Gets Soaked in Debt
Sochi is not just the most expensive Olympics ever—Winter or Summer. Because Russia’s original price bid was $16 billion, it’s also among the most expensive in terms of cost overruns, according to a 2016 report by the University of Oxford. Looking just at Winter Games, only Lake Placid in 1980 has a bigger cost increase. (The 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal is biggest of all at 720 percent over budget.)
To put Sochi’s overrun in perspective, the average cost per event is now estimated at $223 million, or a mind-boggling $8 million per athlete.
Contributing to the budget bust was Russia’s need to boost the region’s electricity capacity by as much as 800 percent, leading to the construction of 49 new energy projects. As one deputy minister put it, the undertaking was the country’s largest since Stalin’s time.
Of course, this all raises the question of what economic benefits, if any, hosting the Olympics brings to a city. It took Montreal 30 years to pay off its debt. The 2004 Summer Games in Athens—the birthplace of the Olympics—is now partially blamed for triggering the Greek debt crisis. And in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, host of the 2016 Summer Games, a number of multimillion-dollar stadiums and arenas sit unused and have become eyesores. (PyeongChang, by contrast, plans to raze the stadium it built for opening and closing ceremonies after the Games are complete.)
Like any other type of investing, there’s no reward without some risk—and, as last week has proven, it’s all about how you manage it.