The 2026 Calgary Winter Olympics Will Cost Double What They Say, If History Is A Guide

Calgary-2026-Winter-Olympic-BidOn September 12, 2018 the City of Calgary authorized a plebiscite (special vote by citizens) to decide if Calgary should proceed with it’s Olympic bid so we decided to find our how far off the final official budgets were from the actual costs.  The numbers are staggering.

Below is a table we constructed that includes the “final budget” numbers and budget overruns for every Olympics since 1976.

UPDATE: Nov 11 2018

There have been several break even or profitable Olympics and they are noted in red.  There are also some omissions and estimates because some of  Games organizers have hidden or destroyed their records:

Nagano also provided millions of dollars in corporate contributions to help build an Olympic museum in Switzerland while the bidding race was going on. Mere coincidence, it claimed. All this was meticulously documented by its bid committee in a series of files that filled 10 large cardboard boxes. However when the focus turned on them, the papers were burned. As the bid’s former vice secretary-general Sumikazu Yamaguchi sheepishly explained: “I didn’t want the IOC members to be uncomfortable.” SOURCE

This is an indication of corruption and of massive overages that should concern any city or country considering an Olympic bid.

It is critically important to note that the FINAL OFFICIAL BUDGET numbers below are not the initial budget floated by Olympic keeners.  That number is what the local Olympic Organizing Committee announced as their budget after they had completed their local evaluations and won the bid.  It also does NOT include all the hidden costs or the pre-bid work that cities and countries pay millions of dollars for.  For example, it is estimated that while the 1980 Moscow Olympics had a quarter billion dollar budget they actually cost near $9B and Calgary has already spent $5M on the exploration committee.  Many of the numbers used are from an Oxford report which has this important notation:

Indirect capital costs are not included, such as for road, rail, or airport infrastructure, or for hotel upgrades or other business investment incurred in preparation for the Games but not directly related to staging the Games. SOURCE

We can calculate the average Olympic budget overrun in many ways:

  • 133% Average Overage
  • 108% Average Overage – removing the highest and lowest
  • 102% Average Overage – removing the two highest and two lowest
  • 150% Average Overage – “First World” Countries
  • 114% Average Overage – “First World” Countries removing the highest and lowest
  • 100% Average Overage – “First World” Countries removing the two highest and two lowest
  • 201% Average Overage – US and Canadian only
  • 136% Average Overage – US and Canadian only removing the highest and lowest
  • 103% Average Overage – US and Canadian only removing the two highest and two lowest

The additional money required to run a modern Olympics does not come from spontaneous additional sponsorship’s or IOC payments.  Shortages are always covered by the domestic tax payer.

The first public price tag for the Calgary 2026 Olympic Winter Games was announced in 2017 as CDN$4.6B and that has already been revised to CDN$5.2B.  Calgarians, Albertans and Canadians should expect that number to rise to near $9B by the time it is all over.

As an example of how costs are initially underestimated, Calgary’s 2026 Olympic Bid Committee is suggesting that they can provide security 16 years after the Vancouver Olympics for 50% of Vancouver’s security bill.  Has the world has become safer or the RCMP / CSIS cheaper?

Put simply, it is irrational to think that any Olympic games will come in at much less than double their budget.


Year Year Debt Paid Off City  Final Official Budget (in USD Billions)  Percent Over budget   Taxpayer Contribution (in USD Billions)  Notes
1976 2006 Montreal Summer Olympics $0.16 720% 1976 special tobacco tax was introduced to fund the loss
1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics $0.49 324%
1980 Moscow Summer Olympics $0.23 64 Countries & US boycotted due to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan
1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics $0.06 -3% The first Olympics since 1948 to make a profit
1984 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics $0.32 -55% $0.08 The first Summer Olympics since 1932 to make a profit
1988 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics $0.34 55% $0.33
1988 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics $4.00 -15% A record profit for a government-run Olympiad
1992 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics $0.85 266% Majority of spending was to improve infrastructure
1992 Albertville Winter Olympics $1.20 New infrastructure
1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics $1.10 277% $0.25
1996 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics $1.80 151% $0.61 Over reliance on corporate sponsorship drew criticism
1998 2015 Nagano Winter Olympics 56% $10.00 Cost of Nagano Olympics is unknown beacause their Olympic Committee vice-secretary general Sumikazu Yamaguchi ordered all financial documents burned
2000 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics $4.72 90% $1.47
2002 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics $2.00 24% $0.60 Additional security costs were incurred in the wake of the September 11 attacks
2004 Athens Summer Olympics $15.00 49% $6.20 2004 Athens Summer Games has been cited as a contributor to the Greek government-debt crisis. 21 out of 22 Olumpic venues are unused and rotting
2006 Turin Winter Olympics $0.70 80% The Italian government created a lottery game to cover its financial losses
2008 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics $44.00 2%
2010 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics $1.26 13% $2.30 $2.5B in transportation upgrades $1B in security $.9B Vancouver Convention Centre $.5B Olympic Village
2012 2012 London Summer Olympics $10.40 76% $4.40 Additional costs include $90 million for converting the Olympic Stadium (London) to a football venue
2014 Sochi Winter Olympics $51.00 289% The most expensive Olympic Games in history, surpassing the previous record set by the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games
2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics $13.10 51% $11.60



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