While Americans are celebrating the recent gold medal victories of celebrated U.S. athletes like Nathan Chen and Chloe Kim, interest in the Olympics has dropped significantly.
According to the Washington Post, “the TV ratings for the Winter Olympics in Beijing aren’t just bad – they’re historically terrible.” In a recent Axios-Momentum survey, “seven in 10 survey respondents disapprove of allowing China to host these Olympics.”
Apart from the political intrigue and the actual competition, the high cost of staging the games has become a growing concern.
According to The Insider, “with a price tag of $3.9 billion, the 2022 Beijing Olympics are, on paper, the least expensive Games in the last two decades.” However, the media outlet’s investigation into the numbers “revealed that the actual sum is in excess of $38.5 billion, 10 times the official budget.”
With the Summer Olympics returning to Los Angeles in 2028, California taxpayers are naturally wondering what the Games will cost us.
The latest budget estimates released in April 2019 predicted the costs of the LA games have risen to $6.9 billion – a $700 million increase that “adjust for inflation after L.A., which originally bid for the 2024 Games, agreed to wait four more years” according to the Los Angeles Times.
According to the LA 2028 Olympic organizing committee website, the Los Angeles games are “privately funded through domestic sponsorships, licensing, hospitality, ticketing, philanthropy, and the International Olympic Committee.”
But this doesn’t tell the entire story.
Taxpayers would be on the hook for cost overruns. According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the city of Los Angeles would cover the first $250 million in cost overruns, the State of California would cover the next $250 million, and the city would covering the rest.
This should be a real concern for taxpayers. Three Oxford University scholars analyzed the budgets of recent Olympic games, concluding that “every Olympics since 1960 has run over budget, an average of 172 percent in real terms.”
Then there are huge transportation infrastructure projects across Southern California that are now on an accelerated timeline to be completed before 2028. This includes a “Twenty-Eight by ‘28” plan approved by the LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority – 28 big projects expected to cost $42.9 billion according to Smart Cities Dive.
Olympics Watch, a left-wing website critical of recent Olympics and promoting “visions that value people and community over profit,” has tallied its own listing of potential taxpayer costs for the Los Angeles games. A few highlights:
- Direct security costs will be paid for by the federal government, though “security costs have hovered between $1 and $2 billion” since the Athens games in 2024.
- Local police forces are also expected to grow. An expanded LAPD could cost an additional $240 million per year, and a beefed-up Sheriff’s Department could cost nearly $40 million.
- Though many projects already exist or have been paid for privately, Olympics Watch identifies $85 million in public dollars to build the Belmont Beach and Aquatic Center in Long Beach that could host diving competition, and $1 billion in public funds to build a new people mover to transport attendees to venues in Inglewood.
Noted sports economist Andrew Zimbalist told the New York Times during last summer’s Tokyo Games that, “if we were living in a rational world, we would have the same city hosting the Games every two years. There’s no reason to rebuild the Olympic Shangri-La every four years. It doesn’t make sense for the cities. It certainly makes no sense from the standpoint of climate change.”
Given all that we’re spending to put on the 2028 Games, maybe Los Angeles should volunteer to be the permanent “Olympic Shangri-La”?
Tim Anaya is the Pacific Research Institute’s senior director of communications and the Sacramento office.