The Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, starting in less than three months will likely take the gold for being the most expensive games in history. Which in turn raises the question: Why host them?
Originally estimated at some $12 billion, the final costs for hosting the Sochi games is expected to exceed $50 billion—far surpassing the high of $15 billion in Athens in 2004.
And experts say the money is unlikely to be recovered. In fact, no Olympic Games in history have made it into the black, according to Robert Barney, founding director of the International Centre for Olympic Studies at Western University in London, Ontario.
"Most of the games don't count the funds used by governments and taxpayers to subsidize them. When you do that, not one game has made money," he said.
But cities and nations repeatedly make lavish promises and put on extravagant efforts to host the Olympics largely because the politicians who lobby for the games are different from the politicians who have to clean up the mess.
"The problem is they don't see the issues that come eight or 10 years out after they actually host them," he said. "The politicians who pushed for the games are long gone and don't have to face the problems of cost overrides and empty stadiums that aren't being used after the games end."