The Man Cave: Sochi Winter Olympics – $ 51 Billion??

Posted on Feb 5 2014 - 9:31am by Chris Meehan

Inside the Cave –

Over the years we have produced some fairly large outdoor events (15,000 to 125,000 attendees) so in being an Event Planner I’m always extremely interested in the logistics and costs of incredibly massive events such as the Olympics. I remember reading that the last Winter Olympics (2010 in Vancouver, Canada) cost $9.2 Billion to produce.

The 22nd Winter Olympics will be held in Sochi, Russia this February 7-23, 2014.

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This is the first time Russia will host a Winter Olympics, although the old Soviet Union hosted the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow.  I was totally stunned to have just read that this year’s Winter Games in Sochi will cost a staggering $ 51,000,000,000.  That’s right, $ 51 BILLION.

To put this into further perspective, the Winter Olympics have averaged around 85 participating countries with an average total athlete count of approximately 3,100. The 2012 SUMMER Olympics in London had 204 countries and 10,568 athletes.

That’s around 2 ½ times the number of participating countries, over three times the number of athletes, plus more events, venues, and tourism vs. the Winter Games. The London Summer Olympics cost $ 13.9 Billion.

$13.9 Billion vs. $51.0 Billion for Sochi –

 You could theoretically produce 3 ½ London Summer Olympic Games for the cost of the ONE Sochi winter event, OR 5 ½ Vancouver Winter Games! 

I think almost everyone subscribes to concept of the Games – nations temporarily putting aside their differences in the spirit of the competition, joining hands, and celebrating life.

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I personally feel though that the Russian government has gone grossly overboard to make their country both politically and cosmetically look good, but at the expense of the obvious needs of Russia’s population, and especially the population of Sochi being a perfect example.

According to a January 20 Associated Press article, people in parts of Sochi and the surrounding area have seen the quality of their life further DECLINE because of Olympic  construction.  Many residents have lived for years with no running water or sewage systems. 

One part of the city had ONE communal outhouse, which the government ordered torn down because it was too close to the new freeway being built for the Olympics (and refused to provide a new one.) More stories about Olympic construction issues and pollution of the city’s water supply, environmental damage, and more…  The City on our TV screen’s will shine, but behind the scenes….

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Then there is the topic of corruption.  According to an Associated Press article updated on January 23, 2014; Senior International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Gian Franco Kasper (long-time president of the International Ski Federation) told Swiss TV that ONE-THIRD of the Sochi spending DISAPPEARED because of corruption. He said contracts were given to a “construction mafia” of businessmen closely linked to the Kremlin and President Vladimir Putin.

If that’s right, with one third of $ 51 Billion equaling $ 17 Billion, those “disappeared” monies total far more than the entire cost of the 2010 London Summer Games.  In my opinion all the above equals a tremendous amount of wrong, but I’ll watch these Winter Games because it’s really all about the athletes and the competition.  But at the same time, I’ll remember what the astronomical expense of these Games are, at the terrible expense of the country’s and Sochi’s people.

The Olympic Creed:  “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle.  The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

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Lastly, in doing larger scale events, we almost always work on tight “break-even” budgets and do our utmost to make them look great. In that regard, Vancouver and London nailed it, and just maybe in hindsight future Game organizers will look at the Sochi Games as the perfect example of how to NOT financially produce them.

My thoughts.  If you agree, please pass them on.

Sources:

Wikipedia (for Olympic participant and cost data)

Associated Press, January 20, 2014 – http://bigstory.ap.org/article/crumbling-sochi-hides-behind-olympic-facades

www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/10/sochi-olympics-corruption-spending_n_4576848.html