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10 Olympic Games That Nearly Bankrupted Their Host Countries


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2000 Sydney Summer Olympics
Cathy Freeman of Australia lights the cauldron with the Olympic flame during the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics. Freeman was the first torch bearer to also win a gold medal during the Olympics. Ben Elters/Allsport AUS /Allsport /Getty Images
Cathy Freeman of Australia lights the cauldron with the Olympic flame during the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics. Freeman was the first torch bearer to also win a gold medal during the Olympics. Ben Elters/Allsport AUS /Allsport /Getty Images

Although most Australians knew hosting the 2000 Summer Olympic Games was an expensive proposition, most thought the benefits -- namely, a long-term boost in tourism -- would outweigh the financial risk. Millions watched the Olympic opening ceremonies, a symbolic fruition of Sydney's $3.8 billion Olympic preparation outlay. A third of that cost was born by taxpayers [source: CNBC].

However, lagging visitor numbers during the Olympics foreshadowed a different fate. While the games were largely considered successful, the 132,000 tourists expected to stay in Sydney during the 17-day event never materialized. Instead, there were a mere 97,000 visitors. Tourists who weren't interested in the Olympic Games canceled or delayed their visits for fear of crowds [source: Saunders].

And what about the 8 to 10 million tourists a year who were forecast to visit Sydney following the Olympics? They didn't show up, either. At least not in the expected droves; instead, a steady 2.5 million visitors have been touring the region, far fewer than the country had once hoped [source: Saunders].