Chicago 2016 Had its Rewards, But Also Risks

So Chicago was eliminated in the first round of International Olympic Committee voting as the host city for the 2016 Summer Olympics, a source of great surprise to many, particularly in light of Barack Obama making the final pitch personally.

Still, one thing bears repeating:  no city hosting the games has ever made money from the Olympics. Los Angeles’ $233 million surplus only took direct expenses into account; it did not include indirect expenses such as security and infrastructure.  Montreal took 30 years to pay off their Olympic debt.  Nagano, Japan’s Olympics were so costly and controversial that the city’s Olympic organizers destroyed the games’ financial records.

“There has never been an Olympic Games that has made a profit,” notes Robert Barney, director of the International Centre for Olympic Studies at the University of Western Ontario and co-author of Selling the Five Rings:  The International Olympic Committee and the Rise of Olympic Commercialism.  Add in all costs and revenues “including federal allotments, state allotments, it’s always been that a debt has to be paid somewhere.”

On the plus side, Chicago 2016 would have been a tremendous boost to the city’s international trade, (though it would have impacted tourism only slightly).  Then there’s the unquantifiable brand enhancement.  Chicago 2016 might have been the catalyst to wipe away the moniker of the City of Al Capone forever.

In the spirit of good sportsmanship, we send our congratulations to the host city of the 2016 Summer Olympics – Rio de Janeiro.  The first South American city to host the games, few in Chicago can begrudge Rio its victory.