With Spectators Banned, Tokyo Olympics Look Like an Even Bigger Money Pit
Spectators will be banned from all 339 events to be held during the upcoming Olympic Games, which are scheduled to begin in Tokyo on July 23, after a state of emergency was declared in that region of Japan this week.
These Olympics had already been dubbed the “No-Fun Olympics“—and by none other than the typically stoic Associated Press—due to pandemic-related policies of testing, quarantining, and limited attendance that were expected to severely curtail the usual athletic bacchanalia enjoyed by athletes and fans (previously, events were expected to be capped at 10,000 spectators each). Now they will be the No-Fans Games as well. More than 30 venues, some of which predate the Olympics but many of which were purpose-built at public expense, will be occupied solely by coaches, athletes, and judges.
The most obvious impact of the empty stadiums will be a less festive atmosphere for the millions of people tuning in on television to watch the Olympics—expect a throwback to last summer’s deeply weird experience of watching home runs bang into empty bleachers beyond outfield walls. But the most significant impact of the ban on Olympic spectators is to make it even more obvious how fiscally ruinous hosting the Olympics can be.
The Tokyo Olympics were already forecast to be the most expensive Summer Olympics in history, with a price tag estimated at $26 billion. That’s more than three times as expensive as the $7 billion in public costs promised by Tokyo’s initial bid to the International Olympic Committee. Postponing the event by a full year because of the COVID-19 pandemic might have added another $2 billion, based on unofficial estimates.
The Olympics are almost always a mo
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