Olympics could be inexpensive to host if ticket prices were raised?

“Why (almost) no one wants to host the Olympics anymore” (Vox):

Pyeongchang, South Korea, built a brand new Olympic stadium to host the Winter Games this year. The 35,000-seat stadium cost $109 million to build. And it will be used just four times before it’s demolished.

The cost of the stadium will come out to an astonishing $10 million per hour of use, according to Judith Grant-Long, a scholar of sports at the University of Michigan.

The 2004 Games garnered bids from 12 cities around the world. For the 2020 Games, the pool shrank to five bidders. Then the 2022 Winter Olympics and 2024 Summer Olympics managed to get only two bidders each.

In fact, for the 2024 Games, the International Olympic Committee decided to do something unprecedented: Instead of choosing between the only two bidders, Paris and Los Angeles, it decided to award Paris the 2024 Summer Olympics and give Los Angeles the 2028 Summer Olympics. Experts say the IOC decided to give them out at the same time for a simple reason — it was afraid no city would want to host the tournament by the time the 2028 bidding started.

Wikipedia says that there are fewer than 3,000 athletes that absolutely needed to gather at the 2018 Olympics. You could house them all, plus coaches, in a medium-sized university’s dormitories (adjust the academic calendar to give the students three weeks off!).

How about the spectators? There are a lot more people who want to signal their virtue by attending Hamilton than can fit into the current theater. Do the producers build a $200 million monster venue? No. They show their commitment to social justice by raising ticket prices to $1,150 per seat (Variety) and have a small, but satisfying, gathering of the righteous.

Let’s consider security:

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the cost of security at the Olympics skyrocketed. The first Summer Olympics held after the attacks were the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. Those games cost more than $15 billion, and a big part of that was because the city spent tons of money trying to protect the games from a potential terrorist attack.

Sanderson says that post-9/11 security “adds between $2 and 5 billion to the price tag to start with.”

If Olympic ticket prices were tripled so that small venues were not overloaded, fewer people would show up and therefore fewer people would need to be screened.

[Separately, note the drag on economic growth; a world that spends $5 billion on security screening is precluded from spending that $5 billion on machine tools, education, etc.]

Since it is mainly a TV event, what would be wrong with using pricing to keep the Olympics gathering to a manageable size?

Readers: What have you enjoyed most about these Olympics? I began to appreciate curling for the first time, though the kids ran out of patience after about 30 minutes. And it is fun to have a 4-year-old demand fast-forward when half-pipe competition is being shown (“I don’t like back-and-forth”).

9 thoughts on “Olympics could be inexpensive to host if ticket prices were raised?

  1. > I began to appreciate curling for the first time

    Curling is a social beer sport. It can only truly be appreciated by playing it and having a beer each end swap, followed by more beers after the game. Curling tournaments are really just weekend-long beer festivals.

    Curling was only added to the Olympics so teams of beer drinkers could be Olympians too.

  2. > fewer than 3,000 athletes that absolutely needed to gather at the 2018 Olympics. You could house them all, plus coaches, in a medium-sized university’s dormitories

    When Vancouver hosted the Olympics, they went all “eminent domain” to takeover several acres of coveted downtown waterfront property to build athlete housing. Of course, shortly afterwards the developers who built the housing sold it for tremendous profits (even after discounting for the payoffs to politicians who ok’d the scheme).

  3. Back in the day before the Olympics were a giant boondoggle, they used to be hosted in cities that already had existing facilities. Every big city around the world already has soccer stadiums, a running track, an Olympic pool, etc., usually attached to a university. You hold the games in the summer when the college dorms are not in use. There’s no need to spend billions.

    Alternatively, in the ancient world, the Olympics were held in the same place (Olympia) for over 1,000 years. They had really nice facilities for the time and the cost could be amortized over a very long period rather than used once and demolished. Nowadays we could pick some low labor cost country in need of tourist dollars- say Ethiopia – they would love being designated as the permanent home of the Olympics with the (one time) cost of building the facilities paid by the other nations.

  4. Because of the terrorist attack at Munich in 72 and the financial mess that was Montreal 76, only one city bid for 1984: Los Angeles. As such, they got to call the shots and tell the IOC they weren’t going to spend a lot of money to make them happy. Those Olympics made over $200 million.

  5. I learned how scoring works in curling, so I really enjoyed US-Canada and US-Sweden. I also watched and enjoyed some slalom, short-range and skating. Hockey proved to be too boring.

    Funny story about Hamilton. It’s now being performed in Seattle, I heard about it and decided to give it a try. I failed to buy tickets at pre-sale – website was down. But it turns out, now tickets are available. Good seats are $650 a pop, for non-original cast. With taxes and fees, $1500 for two. I’m, like, mkay, I’ll just buy Blu-ray and and watch it on my 65″ OLED with floor-standing speakers. But, of course,it turns out, performance of original cast was filmed, but still not released. So, no Hamilton for me.

  6. Summer Olympics are not too expensive for most big cities as they can use new stadiums and dorms for other stuff after. The gotcha is security costs are sunk. And the locals hate the disruption. Winter Olympics are crazy as you need to build all kinds of big bob sled and ski jump hills that are only good for that. Plus you need 4 to 6 giant skating rinks close together. Plus all this stuff has to be near a big mountain for skiing. And you need a city near by for fans.

    Have attended three Olympics, LA, Salt Lake and Vancover. LA made money and will the next time if they get IOC to pay for part of security and give LA the TV money. Salt Lake lost a ton but got some great stuff. Disruption was bad but people loved it. Denver turned down the winter bid twice.

  7. So happy the worm has turned on the pack of career criminals running the IOC and various Olympic development efforts. It reminds me of the trouble the NFL is having getting cities to build stadiums for them lately. We might or might not be getting dumber as a species overall, but at least we’re less likely to have the wool pulled over our eyes by a major sports organization than we used to be.

  8. To echo what Jack D said: We should definitely limit the Olympics to two places. For summer, it should probably be Greece (centrally located, pleasant enough weather-wise, historically sound, generally politically neutral) and build the facilities for the ages. Perhaps different countries could take turns running various aspects (opening ceremonies, subsets of the events). Maybe Switzerland could permanently host the winter games, or, if global warming really kicks in, Nepal.

  9. Pretty sure everyone on this blog will end up flat on their face if they tried curling. Here is another Olympian trying;

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