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10 Olympic Games That Nearly Bankrupted Their Host Countries


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1976 Montreal Summer Olympics
Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci was the star of the Montreal Olympics, as the first person to receive a perfect score of 10 in an Olympic gymnastic event. Frank Barratt/Getty Images
Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci was the star of the Montreal Olympics, as the first person to receive a perfect score of 10 in an Olympic gymnastic event. Frank Barratt/Getty Images

"The Olympics can no more have a financial deficit than a man can have a baby," declared the mayor of Montreal before opening of these games in 1976. Boy, was he wrong. The Montreal Olympics went down in history as a notorious money-loser, scaring off many cities from bidding for the games in the future.

These Olympics were budgeted at a modest CA$120 million (U.S. $110 million), but construction overruns resulted in a CA$922 million deficit that overwhelmed the special tobacco tax expected to fund most of the debt. Building costs included a stadium, a full-fledged Olympic Village with apartment buildings, outdoor and indoor recreational facilities, and a massive velodrome.

No wonder that in 1977, when the Olympic stadium began its second life as home to the Montreal Expos Major League Baseball team -- and was dubbed the Big O in homage to its storied start -- Canadians opted to call it the Big Owe instead. Millions more were spent upgrading the stadium and on a retractable roof that never worked. By the time the debt was paid off 30 years later in 2006, the combination of capital and interest had cost the city CA$3 billion [sources: CBC News, CTV Montreal]. To add insult to injury, this is the only Olympics where the host country did not win any gold medals.