No matter what season it is, the Olympics are expensive. Though the Winter Games boast less than half as many athletes and participating nations as the Summer Games, they cost almost the same amount to stage. The Summer Games, however, could be seen as having a greater–not better–impact on host cities and their surrounding regions.
At present, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is fervently promoting a new Olympic bidding process that aligns with the Olympic Agenda 2020 and aims to create a greater and more sustainable Olympic legacy for all hosts. However, until at least a few more Olympic cycles have passed–Paris 2024 in particular–we are left to wonder if the short 17-month window between Rio and PyeongChang was enough for the IOC to implement any last-minute measures that may reduce the impact PyeongChang feels when the Games leave town.
The tables below break down some interesting figures from both Rio and PyeongChang. Perhaps unsurprisingly, more than twice as many nations competed in the 2016 Summer Olympics than are currently competing in this year’s Winter Games. Along with more nations taking to the court, field, pool, etc., exactly three times as many events were contested in Rio than will have been in PyeongChang, with the total number of sports in Rio being almost double PyeongChang.
Concerning Russia, 278 athletes represented the Russian Federation at the 2016 Rio Summer Games, whereas 169 “Olympic Athletes from Russia” (OAR) are present and competing in PyeongChang. The OAR designation means that medals won by Russian athletes do not count towards a Russian medal total, per se. Additionally, for those athletes that get to stand on the podium, the Olympic flag and anthem will take the place of the Russian flag and anthem. However, some still believe the OAR designation is too lenient since medals can nonetheless be won by athletes from a nation that once created a state-sponsored doping scheme.
Concerning the financial cost of the Games, PyeongChang is estimated to come in about $1.5 billion USD more expensive than Rio was estimated to cost. According to USA Today, the final price tag of the Rio Olympics was $13.1 billion USD, which was also $1.6 billion USD over budget, according to Business Insider.
The “cost” of the Olympics deserves a little further review. In the case of Rio de Janeiro, the budget for the Olympics was a cool $3 billion USD, which ultimately ballooned into $4.6 USD. So where does the other $8.5 billion come from? In the case of Rio, approximately $7.1 billion was dedicated to infrastructure, with the rest being dedicated to security, ticketing, advertising, transportation, and other expenses typical of a major event drawing in hundreds of thousands of spectators.
Given the complexity of winter sports and the peculiarities involved in keeping their venues in use, PyeongChang will utilize 34 different sporting venues whereas Rio only relied on 13 venues. However, unlike Rio, PyeongChang invested in temporary “pop-up” venues which it can tear down once the Olympics and Paralympics are complete, ultimately saving money down the line by eliminating future upkeep and overhead costs.
|Total Athletes||Nations Participating||Events Contested||Different Sports||Athletes: Team USA||Athletes: Russia|
|Rio 2016 – Summer||11,238||207||306||28||555||278|
|PyeonChang 2018 – Winter||2,920||92||102||15||242||169*|
*In the 2018 Winter Olympics, Russian athletes are referred to as “Olympic Athletes from Russia.” The Russian flag will not be raised when they win medals; rather, the Olympic flag will be used as the banner of their delegation. This peculiarity is due to the IOC’s ban on the Russian NOC for its role in a state-sponsored doping scheme which crescendoed at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
|Total Cost||Number of Venues||Security Personnel||Hours Televised||NBC’s Ad Revenue||Total Travelers|
|Rio 2016 – Summer||$11.5 Billion||13||85K||6-7K***||$1.2 Billion||500K|
|PyeonChang 2018 – Winter||$13 Billion**||34||18K||2.4K||$900 Million||80K|
**Estimated by Wallethub, and as the Games have not yet concluded, this figure could change.
***Wallethub reported 6,000 hours of coverage by NBC, while NBCOlympics.com claimed 6,775 hours of coverage, meanwhile other outlets presumably rounded up to 7,000+ hours of coverage.