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Surprise, The Los Angeles Olympics Needs To Increase Its Budget

Photo: Richard Vogel (AP)

The L.A. Olympics is nine years away and the budget’s already going up. The organizing committee for the 2028 Games announced today that the estimated cost of hosting has gone up from $6.2 billion to $6.9 billion. L.A. 2028 officials said that the $700 million increase was added to the budget to account for inflation by 2028, as the $6.2 billion figure was in 2024 dollars, and the original $5.3 billion figure was in 2016 dollars.

This is the third time in three years that the projected expenses have risen. From the Los Angeles Times:

“We didn’t change the plan and we didn’t change the delivery of the plan,” committee chairman Casey Wasserman said. “Our intent was to make sure there are no surprises.”

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Here’s a good place to note that the recent history of the Olympics is a long string of financially disastrous surprises. Olympic venues in Rio de Janeiro were barren a year later, and the cost of hosting resulted in massive debt. The London Olympics cost $19 billion, three times the original $6.5 billion budget, while the Tokyo Olympics are estimated to cost over $25 billion, four times the originally announced budget. There are similar stories from the Games in Athens, Montreal, and Sochi.

To its credit, L.A. 2028 has talked publicly about this ruinous history, and plans to make use of several existing facilities rather than investing in stadia and infrastructure projects. Athletes will not get an Olympic Village built for them—remember how fucked up the athletes’ village in Rio was?—and instead stay in USC and UCLA dorms. The bulk of the 2028 Games will be privately funded, though the city and state are on the hook for cost overruns.

The absence of obvious albatrosses in the budget doesn’t mean L.A. will defy the long-established pattern of the Olympics. The committee has very ambitious sponsorship and ticket sales goals, but there’s no accounting for possible Olympics-adjacent construction projects undertaken by local government bodies, or any other sorts of monkey wrenches. Check back in a year when the budget somehow rises yet again.

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