Games Plan: Host Cities Try To Reign In Costs

Sarah Fister Gale

Cities compete to host the Summer and Winter Games, hoping to take a lead role on the global stage.

But winning an Olympic bid can be a mixed bag. From a financial perspective, hosting the games is risky. Every Olympic Games project portfolio since 1960 has gone over budget—and the average cost overrun is 156 percent, according to a 2016 University of Oxford study that looked only at sports-related costs, excluding general infrastructure projects.

Many communities are now questioning the long-term financial value of Olympic venues, which has led to a decline in host city applications. As projects to support the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil ramped up, thousands of Brazilians took to the streets in protest.

But Rio 2016 project teams worked hard to win over the skeptics. They reined in spending and built venues they expect to serve the city for the long term. For example, the games’ handball arena will be dismantled to provide material for four new primary schools, and parts from the aquatics stadium will be used to build two community swimming centers. During the years leading up to the opening ceremony, project management drove success.

“Effective project management allowed all changes in the city to be done in a coordinated way that involved all relevant stakeholders,” says Lucia Mazoni, PMP, Olympic projects …

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