10 Olympic Games That Nearly Bankrupted Their Host Countries

1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics
Team USA celebrates their 4-3 victory over the Soviet Union in the semi-final men's ice hockey event in 1980. The game was dubbed the 'Miracle on Ice' because the Soviets had won every Olympic event since 1954. The USA went on to win the gold. B Bennett/Getty Images

"Extreme wish lists." "Everything they can get." These were just two of the phrases the Lake Placid Olympic Organizing Committee's financial controller used to describe the organizers of the 1980 Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid, N.Y. An Associated Press article from 1978 noted the Olympic budget had already escalated from $80 million to $150 million [source: Seymour].

By the time the Olympics were over, Lake Placid was $6 million in debt -- an astounding amount for an incorporated village with a tax base of about 3,000 residents. Owing a reported 1,600 creditors, the city was unable to get further aid from the federal government, which had already spent approximately $90 million on the Olympics. That's when the state of New York stepped in. In return for several Olympic-sized assets, including the speed skating rink, Olympic fieldhouse and a series of ski jumps, the state agreed to pay off the debt [source: Seymour].

Still, Lake Placid holds the honor of being one of only three cities in the world to twice-host the Winter Olympics, along with St. Moritz, Switzerland, and Innsbruck, Austria [sources: Village of Lake Placid, Johnson].