Saturday, February 8, 2014

8/2/2014: Economics of Olympic Games: Part 3: Cost Overruns

In Part 1 I covered the macroeconomic impact of Olympics ( while Part focused on labour market impact and the effect of the games on the host city (

So now, on to business case (cost-benefit and cost) estimates

Remember all the cost overruns in Sochi? Spectacular, right? Unprecedented, right?

Flyvbjerg, Bent and Stewart, Allison, Olympic Proportions: Cost and Cost Overrun at the Olympics 1960-2012 (June 1, 2012. Saïd Business School Working Papers, Oxford: University of Oxford, 23 pp: looked at whether "different types of megaprojects have different cost overruns?

"In this study, we set out to investigate cost overruns in the Olympic Games. To do so, we examined the costs of the Games over half a century, including both summer and winter Olympics. We looked at the evolution of final reported costs and compared these to the costs established in the Games bids, submitted to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) up to seven years before the Games occurred. In so doing we established the largest dataset of its kind, and documented for the first time in a consistent fashion the costs and cost overruns for the Olympic Games, from 1960 to 2012."

So the findings are: "We discovered that the Games stand out in two distinct ways compared to other megaprojects:

  1. The Games overrun with 100 per cent consistency. No other type of megaproject is this consistent regarding cost overrun. Other project types are typically on budget from time to time, but not the Olympics. 
  2. With an average cost overrun in real terms of 179 per cent – and 324 per cent in nominal terms – overruns in the Games have historically been significantly larger than for other types of megaprojects, including infrastructure, construction, ICT, and dams." 
Or more succinctly: "The data thus show that for a city and nation to decide to host the Olympic Games is to take on one of the most financially risky type of megaproject that exists, something that many cities and nations have learned to their peril."

But, of course, London 2012 Games were different, right, cause that what is being claimed vis-a-vis Sochi 2014 experience… Err… "For the London 2012 Games, we find that:

  1. With sports-related real costs currently estimated at USD14.8 billion, London is on track to become the most costly Olympics ever. 
  2. With a projected cost overrun of 101 per cent in real terms, overrun for London is below the historical average for the Games, but not significantly so. 
  3. The London cost overrun is, however, significantly higher than overruns for recent Games since 1999. London therefore is reversing a positive trend of falling cost overruns for the Games."

Sochi 2014 cost-benefit estimates are actually provided here: Pilipenko, Igor V., The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics: The Cost-Benefit Analysis and Ways to Improve the Project Efficiency (September 25, 2013. Electronic Publications of Pan-European Institute, 4/2013, (ISSN 1795-5076), 52 p:

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