Olympics to “break even,” lose billions

With the Athens Olympics kicking off yesterday, it’s time to check in on how the much-troubled 2004 Summer Games are doing on the fiscal front:

  • “People speak of a deficit, but nobody right now knows the exact figures. … In Athens we expect to either break even or be in profit and that profit will be spent to promote sport.” –IOC president Jacques Rogge
  • “With concern rising about whether the city would be prepared for the games,
    the Greek Government went on a massive spending spree to complete transport
    and sports venues, pushing out the total cost of the Olympics to E7 billion
    [about $8.75 billion]. … The total
    games budget is now hopelessly over the initial estimates of E4.6 billion. … Greece’s State Accounting Office has already admitted that the country’s
    budget deficit for the first six months of the year was 26 per cent higher
    than the same period last year, hitting E8.7 billion. … Greece will
    severely tighten public spending after the games. European Union finance
    ministers recently gave Greece until November 5 to announce tough new
    measures to bring the country’s budget deficit under control.” –The Australian newspaper

Uh, right. The discrepancy seems to be in how the counting is done: Rogge says the $2.4 billion operations budget of the Games will break even, but that doesn’t include the far higher construction and security costs (the Athens security budget alone is $1.5 billion) that Greece is incurring. This is the same juggling of the books that enabled the IOC to claim the 2000 Sydney Olympics broke even – while an independent audit by the state government found that they lost $1.5 billion.

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