Tokyo Olympics cost $15.4 billion. What else could that money buy?
The official price tag for the Tokyo Olympics is USD 15.4 billion, which a University of Oxford study says is the most expensive on record.
What else could those billions buy? The ballpark figure for building a 300-bed hospital in Japan is USD 55 million. So you could put up almost 300 of these.
The average elementary school in Japan costs about USD 13 million. For that price, you get 1,200 schools.
A quick search finds a Boeing 747 is priced at roughly USD 400 million. Voila: 38 jumbo jets for the cost of the Tokyo Olympics.
The point is, Olympic Games are costly and may bump aside other priorities. In fact, several Japanese government audits say the real outlay for the Tokyo Games is even more than the official figure, perhaps twice as much.
All but USD 6.7 billion comes from public money from Japanese taxpayers. According to the latest budget, the IOC's contribution is USD 1.3 billion. It also chipped in several hundred million more after the pandemic.
Olympic costs have been dissected in a study by the University of Oxford, which found that all Games since 1960 have had cost overruns averaging 172%. Tokyo's cost overrun is 111% or 244% depending on which cost figure you select.
"The IOC and host cities have no interest in tracking costs, because tracking tends to reveal cost overruns, which have increasingly become an embarrassment to the IOC and host cities," Oxford author Bent Flyvberg said in an email.
Flyvberg also pointed out that costs would be reduced if the IOC picked up more of the bills rather than opening organizers' wallets.
Following costs is a tedious exercise, dotted with arguments about what are and what are not Olympic expenses. Flyvberg explained that numbers from different games can be "opaque and non-comparable" and require sorting and tracking.
"The problem is disentangling what is Olympics cost and what is just general infrastructure spending that would have happened anyways but was sped up for the Olympics." Victor Matheson, who studies sports economics at College of the Holy Cross, wrote in an email.
For example: The 1964 Tokyo Games, he says, "were either one of the cheapest or one of the most expensive Games depending on how much of the preparation costs count as the Olympics." The 2008 Beijing Olympics, usually listed as costing more than USD 40 billion, and the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics priced at USD 51 billion are often singled out incorrectly as the most expensive.
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