Will the Olympics go bust?

Kin Cheung, Associated Press

Jessika Jenson, of the United States, runs the course during the women’s slopestyle final at Phoenix Snow Park at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018.

WASHINGTON — Whatever the virtues of the Olympics, economics is not one of them. As we enjoy this year’s Winter Games in South Korea, we ought to ponder the possibility that the Olympics will one day price themselves out of existence. It will cost so much to host the Olympics extravaganza that no one will want to do it.

Although that may seem far-fetched, the number of cities vying for future Olympics has already dropped dramatically. Here is what Andrew Zimbalist of Smith College, an expert in sports economics, has to say:

“Not so long ago, cities lined up to bid the moon and the stars to secure the Games. But daunted by the escalating demands of Olympic organizers and a recent history of huge budget deficits, environmental and social dislocations, and rampant corruption, bids to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics have sharply declined.”

The numbers are (as they say) eye-popping. In 1997, there were 12 cities competing for the 2004 Summer Games, which were ultimately hosted by Greece. By contrast, the bidding for the 2024 Games ended with two contenders — Paris and Los Angeles — after Boston, Toronto, Rome, Hamburg and Budapest dropped out.

The story is the same for the Winter Olympics. In 1995, there were nine candidates for the 2002 Winter Games. By 2011, there were only three for the present 2018 Games.

What’s happened is no secret, writes Zimbalist in the current issue of the Milken Institute Review. To host either the Summer or Winter Games…

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