Financial Perspective on Sochi Olympics

An aerial view from a helicopter shows the Olympic Park under construction in the Adler district of the Black Sea resort city of Sochi

The $51 billion cost of the 2014 Sochi Olympics is the highest amount ever spent on the games. For comparison, the 2010 games in Vancouver and Whistler cost Canada cost about $7 billion. The 2012 Summer Olympics in London – which involved considerably more events and venues than the winter games – cost  £9 billion, or about $15 billion. Higher than expected costs for transportation upgrades, new stadiums, and corruption have all been cited as reasons for the high tab in Sochi. Here are a few ways of looking at that $51 billion figure from a financial perspective.

According to the IMF, Russia’s GDP in 2012 was $2.02 trillion. That means the 2014 games will cost Russia about 2.5% of its annual GDP. For comparison, according to the United Nations, Russia spends 3.8% of GDP for one year’s worth of its entire education system. Canada’s price for the Olympics was a mere 0.38% of GDP.

We can also compare Russia’s cost for the Olympics to spending in the United States. In an effort to help heal the economy and stave off a potential depression, in early 2009 the United States spent $787 billion on economic stimulus. That sum represented about 4.9% of America’s GDP, which means Russia’s expense-GDP ratio for the Sochi Olympics was more than half of the 2008 stimulus.

Russia undoubtedly looks at the Olympics as an investment as opposed to simply an expense. The exposure could increase tourism, and Russian athletes will now train in top-of-the-line facilities. President Vladimir Putin clearly values the potential for the games to help Russia exert itself as a world power. Still, $51 billion and a sizable portion of GDP – seems like a hefty price to pay for a fortnight of winter sports.

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