Olympic Hangerovers Can Last a Long Time, Just Ask the Greeks

Nobody spends their time daydreaming about the hangover they'll have on Sunday morning. For sure on Sunday, and maybe even Monday, they regret over-indulging on Saturday night, but...well life's short and it's a lot more fun planning for and remembering the lampshade part than the hangover. Works sorta the same way for the Olympics.

Today the UK is waking up with a hangover. It's over, and now the people of the UK are going to have to pay, pay, pay, for many years trying to cover the cost, just like Vancouver is still doing, .just like Beijing is, just like Montreal did for decades and especially just like Greece. Every Olympics everywhere is a financial disaster but Greece's was obscene. The UK debt will be a bargain compared to the $15 billion Greece spent on the 2004 Athens Olympics. The security cost alone of the Athens's Olympics was $140,000 per athlete. It's hard to understand why countries are "lining up" to host Olympic games when they come with such high price tags (eg $14B...), since that price tag always outweighs any benefit of hosting the games.

Hard to understand, but still this very day, despite the hangover in London, there are developers, architects, concrete companies, travel agencies, PR firms etc. in dozens of cities around the world lobbying their local Chamber of Commerce and Governments with visions of the future sugar plums they'll recieve if they can land the Olympics in their home city. The developers of course aren't interested in civic pride they're interested in money-honey, and no body's got deeper pockets than the government. Once the party bandwagon starts rolling, once the sugar plum fantasies get bought into, it's hard to stop. Businesses large and small jump on board believing, despite the fact that tourism doesn't ever increase overall because of an Olympics, despite the fact that a few perfectly positioned hotels and restaurants do clean up while the vast majority hire extra staff and buy extra supplies only to see huge losses.

Of course the losses suffered by these businesses, aren't counted by in the official debts. Neither are the huge security costs which are usually kept secret. Then there's the infrastructure costs incured in the buildup to the games that the creative accountants can hide like they did the Whistler highway upgrade and the rapid transit line to the airport during the Vancouver games.

The fact is No Olympics anywhere has ever provided a financial benefit. Despite the creative accounting reported by the Vancouver Games Committee that they came in on budget, for instance, the City of Vancouver ended up with a $1 billion athletes village hole in their budget that the residents paid for in higher property taxes and the  BC Liberals' Provincial government had an $8 billion debt.

Hangovers can last a long time, just ask the Greeks who's Olympic debt hangover was rolled by their politicians into an economic crisis that now has a third of the country unemployed and many others swimming like a rock. Rio's next in 2016 and if you think Greece's hangover is endless wait 'til you see what happens in the corruption ridden samba capital of the world.