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Nagano, Japan (Winter 1998)

Boom or Bust? Bust

The full cost of the Nagano Winter Olympics will never be known as the documents accounting for money spent on the Olympic bid were burnt on the orders of the Olympic Committee vice-secretary general, Sumikazu Yamaguchi. Yet it is clear that it went vastly over budget, with new infrastructure to make the Games work in this small Japanese city costing up to $10 billion. As a result, Nagano fell into recession, with the debt on Olympic projects roughly $30,000 per family and growing. It is estimated that these debts will take until 2015 to pay off. The Olympic venues alone cost $22 million per year in upkeep, and their rental income brings only one-tenth of that amount.

Although Nagano is working hard to stop the Olympic venues turning into rotting white elephants, the cost of their upkeep is not easy for the city’s finances. Today it still costs $2.5 million a year alone to maintain the M-Wave (pictured here), where local school children take skating lessons on a high-speed 400-metre rink in winter. The installation of a high-speed bullet train during the Olympics also posed problems for the local hotel industry as more skiers came on day trips rather than spending the night and locals are more inclined to go on shopping days to larger cities.

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