Over the years, only a small handful of Olympics have made any money. The last Games, Rio in 2016, is estimated by the American Economic Association to have made the biggest net loss yet, leaving the country around $2 billion out of pocket.
There’s the infrastructure needed, the stadiums from scratch or the upgrading of existing places for athletes to train and stay. It took Montreal 30 years to pay off the last of its debt from the 1976 games. So, if you add a global pandemic into the mix, what will the figures look like then?
“The games will have cost Japan somewhere in the order of $35 billion,” said Andrew Zimbalist, professor of economics at Smith College in Massachusetts. He’s also the author of the international handbook on the economics of mega sporting events.
“The Tokyo Organizing Committee will receive total revenues on the order of four or four and a half billion dollars. I’m afraid that this is a sunk cost so at this point, they’re trying to minimize the PR damage and to avoid greater embarrassment,” he said.
Michael Payne is formerly of the International Olympic Committee and advised the teams behind the successful bids of London, Rio and LA, and pointed to Tokyo’s marketing as a promising sign.
“Tokyo has had the most successful Olympic marketing program ever. Three times higher than Rio five years ago. But because they will have no ticketing revenue, there probably will be a shortfall in their budget that the government will have to make up,” he said. “The tourism legacy is what comes one, three, five years after the games. And I wouldn’t count the Japanese out just yet in staging an Olympic games that will be magical, will be special and still surprise the world.”
So in spite of the absence of audiences at venues for the delayed 2020 Olympics, Japan could still put on a show to remember.
We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.
Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.
In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.
Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.