I was doing ‘research’ (i.e. light googling) for a possible post on how to fix the Olympics (Did you know it needs fixing? If not, you will soon.) when I came across an interesting ABC News article, Cost to Host Olympic Games Skyrockets, dated to September 25, 2002. The article details the relative contribution of the federal government to subsequent Olympic host cities. Here are some non-sequential excerpts from the article:
The federal government spent just $75 million (in 1999 dollars) to support the 1984 Olympics in L.A. [Those games] actually made money — more than $100 million — for Los Angeles, the host city.
The federal government will pay nearly half of the $2.7 billion it is expected to cost to host the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The $1.3 billion in federal spending is more than double the amount of federal funds —$609 million— that supported the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta. The Atlanta games cost the city a total of $2 billion.*
Given his description of London’s Olympic preparation as “disconcerting”, and his party’s current concern over the deficit, I thought it interesting to note that Romney was incapable of pulling off the games without record levels of support from the federal government. But even more interesting was his defense of the handout, as related by the article:
“Recognizing that our government spends billions of dollars to maintain wartime capability, it is entirely appropriate to invest several hundred millions to promote peace,” Mitt Romney, the president of the Salt Lake City Organizing Committee, wrote in a letter in August to the GAO.
Romney’s penchant for pork barrel projects as governor of Massachusetts is well-documented, so his attempts to milk the federal government for all it was worth as president of the SLC Organizing Committee is not all that surprising. It’s also not so surprising that Romney has since reversed his stance (“Gov. Romney supports a permanent ban on earmarks, which are symbols of what’s wrong with Washington,” says spokeswoman Andrea Saul), since that’s sort of his thing.
What is surprising is that someone who finished in the top 5% of his class at Harvard Business School thought it was alright to represent 1.3 billion dollars as “several hundred millions.” You’d think a guy who actually has several hundred millions would have a better grasp of what that looks like.
Unless, of course, he keeps it in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands, rather than a single Scrooge-like stash. Pity, really, because Salt Lake City could have saved itself – and the federal government – from paying for another Olympic ski slope:
*It’s unclear from the article whether the $2b includes the 609m in federal dollars, meaning the contribution could range from 23 to over 30% of the cost of the Olympics; either number is far short of SLC’s 48% haul.