Photographer: Leon Neal/AFP via Getty Images

The Olympics Cost Rio at Least $13.1 Billion and Probably More

  • Majority of spending went to public works, some unfinished
  • Another blow to IOC as it struggles to find host cities

Ten months after the 2016 Summer Olympics, it still isn’t clear how much the games cost the host city of Rio de Janeiro.

New data released Wednesday by the local government puts the final price price tag at least 42.8 billion reais ($13.1 billion), according to local newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo. Those numbers, though, reflect a mix of new estimates and questionable estimates. The Brazil Sports Ministry gave a current estimate for construction of Olympic arenas of 7.2 billion reais, but arriving at that total requires relying on outdated numbers to account for the bulk of the costs -- the public works related to the event.

The Olympic Village and Arena do Futuro sit vacant.

Photographer: R.T. Watson/Bloomberg

According to the current data, nearly 25 billion reais was spent on projects involving mass transit, urbanization and environmental cleanup. Many of these projects remain incomplete or have even been abandoned.

At best, the $13.1 billion figure is an educated guess. The city of Rio stopped providing Olympics cost data in December, said Walter Silva, an executive director for the Olympic Public Authority.

As part of today’s announcement, the sports ministry laid out its plan for the four venues it now controls which are all located in Rio’s Olympic park. The organization’s strategy includes using the venues for youth activities and local sports leagues. To offset the 45 million reais annual cost of maintaining the venues, the plan will rely heavily on its ability to secure private partnerships.

"It’s not going to be be sustainable to collect the return needed to maintain these facilities solely with revenues generated by sporting events," said Pedro Sotomayor, an executive director with the sports ministry agency tasked with managing the venues. "We are talking to various companies in the private market to help fill this gap with events like Comic Con and Rock in Rio."

Rio’s most iconic sports arena, the more-centrally located Maracana soccer stadium, has also been looking for a private partner for months without success. Attracting large numbers of Brazilians - fans who typically only come out in droves for soccer games - to Rio’s isolated Olympic village to attend lesser-known 
sports will be a challenge.

In the larger context, Rio’s inability to provide an exact cost assessment of the games is yet another blow for the International Olympic Committee, which has acknowledged a crisis in attracting future hosts. Budget overruns and the lingering economic strain put on host cities has been at times extreme.

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