10 Olympic Games That Nearly Bankrupted Their Host Countries


2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics

Canada fans cheer on their team during the ice hockey men's gold medal game in Vancouver between the USA and Canada -- which Canada won. Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Canada fans cheer on their team during the ice hockey men's gold medal game in Vancouver between the USA and Canada -- which Canada won. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

There were a few hiccups along the way but the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada, seemed worth the trouble. Case in point: Even though the city had to step in with financing after the Olympic Village's developer ran out of credit, Canadian athletes won a record 14 gold medals, including the Canadian holy grail, the gold in ice hockey.

Unfortunately, just as the afterglow of the Canadian athletes' performance began to wane, Vancouver was left in a financial pickle.

Vancouver had to grapple with an estimated $1 billion debt, including $730 million incurred by the Olympic Village bailout [source: CNBC]. To recoup some of the cost, the city began marketing the Olympic Village as an environmentally friendly residential neighborhood, hoping to convince buyers to move into the many condos that sat empty. They received only a tepid response.

Sales of luxury condos in the Olympic Village's 16 buildings (now known as Millennium Water) were so slow that the project went into receivership and the complex was turned over to Ernst and Young, the firm charged with recouping as much of the city's debt as possible. Even so, the city and its creditors aren't expected to ever fully recover its Olympic expenses [sources: Austen, CNBC].

Author's Note: 10 Olympic Games That Nearly Bankrupted Their Host Countries

As much as I love the Olympics (creating iCal appointments so I don't miss the opening ceremonies, canceling social events in favor of Olympic viewing marathons, going through an irritable withdrawal stage in the wake of the closing event), there is a part of me that cringes at the cost.

Until I began researching this article, I didn't know how much the global games could cost a host country. I'd never even attempted to find out. I was living in a blissful state of unawares, beguiled by the pomp and majesty of an elite athletes' showcase. In retrospect, I was a bit like the countries bidding for the chance to host an Olympics: sure of the benefits, eager for the party, convinced the financial cost would fall in line.

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