Home Page > Publications > The cost of the Olympics 2016 – is IT ready!

As commented by Andrew Blackman “Ah, the Olympics. “Faster, higher, stronger” may be the official motto, but economists would add a fourth item: “really really expensive.” The cost of hosting the Games has spiralled from £732,268 in 1948 (London) to tens of billions of dollars today”.

In late 2012 when the successful London Olympics IT team passed on the baton to the new Rio team there were a lot of lessons learned from a technology perspective. When the London Olympics CIO went to receive the baton from Beijing in 2008 smart phone penetration was still limited. Four years later and the London Olympics app was downloaded 12.8 million times and consumers wanted data at their fingertips putting huge pressure on infrastructure and pushing IT systems to the limit. London is considered one of the great super states and yet still when I attend big music events the amount of time it takes for my phone to retrieve data is like watching dial-up in 1996 and I can almost hear Morse code coming out of the speakers. So there are still limitations when 50,000 people gather within a square mile.

The Atos team (IT partner for Rio Olympics) has recently completed 200.000 of testing as they started this process back in 2014. Since the establishment of the team in 2012 there has been 40 permanent IT people and this number has since increased to 450 during the Rio Olympics 2016. On Computer weekly the editor comments “Patrick Adiba, CEO of major events at Atos, said this is an important milestone: “Testing the technology systems and our teams’ readiness is crucial to flawlessly deliver the largest sports IT contract in the world”. The team and system were assessed to how they responded to each circumstance, allowing and enabling them to test, create and tweak full responses to nearly any situation for the upcoming Olympic games”.  So now we know where part of the $14.4 billion Rio Olympics budget has gone. I do have an issue with this number. Firstly, because 16 million people in Brazil live on less than $1.3 per day (below poverty line), Secondly, because billions of that budget vanished on dodgy and inefficient building contracts and public sector waste. Again a similar negative story with Athens in 2004….the 15 billion euros cost every Greek household 50.000 euros and some say a contributing factor to the beginning of their economic collapse. 

Why couldn’t Rio repeat the success of LA 84 or Barcelona 92? As I read recently in the late 1970s, hosting the Olympics was not a very desirable thing for a city to do. The games were seen as financially risky: Montreal's debt from the 1976 Summer Games totalled $1.5 billion dollars, which wasn't paid off until 2006. LA 1984 is seen as one of the most successful games financially speaking. It was privately run and had no involvement from any government, they used existing buildings and got loads of corporate sponsorship deals to cover the costs. In 1979 the committee for LA84 agreed they would give 60 percent back to the U.S. Olympic Committee and keep 40 percent for Southern California. At the end of the games, the total expenditures came in at a respectable $546 million, but even more impressive was the profit: A surplus of $232.5 million, meaning $93 million would stay in the region. This was huge. The only other games at the time which could claim to be financially successful at all were the other L.A. Olympics: The ones held in the city in 1932."

I think it is time to stop spending taxpayers money so recklessly and get private enterprises involved to ensure services are delivered on time and budget with accountability and responsibility at the forefront of the Olympic games.

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