The Modern Olympics

The Olympics is really, really old. It goes all the way back to the Greek antiquity – 776 BC to be precise. But who gets the credit for starting the modern Olympic games? Apparently, it was through the efforts of a French named Baron Pierre de Coubertin. He was tired of seeing France lose wars, so he started the the revival of the Olympics. The first modern Olympic games were held in Athens in 1896. Read more about the Olympic revival from this article from Deadspin.

Lessons From Greece

Whatever happened to living within your means? I just read an article from Associated Press covering the impact of the 2004 Athens Olympics to the current state of the Greek economy. Interestingly enough, irrational government spending and month long sporting events are fairly common.

A quick search about Olympics and Finances is a sobering realization. Montreal taxpayers are now just paying off debts incurred way back in 1976. The 2004 Athens Olympics cost was twice the budget.

Meanwhile, London 2012 organizers are facing similar challenges. Contrast that to the 1984 Olympics which made money. Here are excerpts from the AP article about the Athens Olympics and the Greek economy.

When it comes to overspending, Greece gets the gold medal.

Governments in the Greek capital of Athens haven’t balanced a budget in nearly 40 years, and the country narrowly averted bankruptcy in May before panicky European partners grudgingly put up massive rescue loans.

While many factors are behind the crippling debt crisis, the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens has drawn particular attention.

The 2004 Athens Olympics cost nearly $11 billion by current exchange rates, double the initial budget. And that figure that does not include major infrastructure projects rushed to completion at inflated costs. In the months before the games, construction crews worked around the clock, using floodlights to keep the work going at night.

In addition, the tab for security alone was more than $1.2 billion.

Six years later, more than half of Athens’ Olympic sites are barely used or empty. The long list of mothballed facilities includes a baseball diamond, a massive man-made canoe and kayak course, and arenas built for unglamorous sports such as table tennis, field hockey and judo.

Greek Olympic officials insist the scale of the country’s dire financial problems — and its staggering national debt of $382 billion — are is simply too big to be blamed on the 2004 Games budget.

Some financial experts agree.

“Put in proper perspective, it is hard to argue that the Olympic Games were an important factor behind the Greek financial crisis. It is, however, likely that they contributed modestly to the problem,” Andrew Zimbalist, a U.S. economist who studies the financial impact of major sporting events, said in an email.

Next up, London.

London’s main Olympic budget now stands at $13.3 billion. Last week, Britain’s new coalition government announced $38 million in Olympic budget cuts as part of efforts to slash the nation’s budget deficit.

Well, the Olympics seems to be a case of failed project management. The delivery is on time, but it’s way over budget.