This Summer’s Tokyo Olympics could lead to billions of dollars in losses for Japan as costs continue to rise.

Funding the stadium renovations, athlete accommodations and event marketing has run up more than $20 billion in estimated costs for hosting the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics, making it one of the most expensive Games in history.

But it doesn’t take the gold.


The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi were the most expensive, followed by this year’s Tokyo Summer Games, according to an Oxford University paper. Of course, the total cost associated with this year’s Games is still an estimate, per The Wall Street Journal, and a clearer picture of Japan’s spending will be available in the coming weeks once the international competition wraps up.

It’s important to note that the expenditures for the Olympics listed here are “sports-related costs.” These include things such as stadium construction, ceremonies and other operational costs, like workforce and catering.

Non-sports related activity by the Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (OCOG) is not included in official spending. These “non-OCOG indirect costs” include constructing roads, rails, airport infrastructure and hotel upgrades, which are also related to the staging of the Games.

See also: How to watch the Tokyo Olympics for (mostly) free

And these costs often dwarf the official sports-related expenses of the Games — but the benefits can be reaped years down the road.

For example, the 2008 Beijing Olympics had a sports-related cost of $6.8 billion, but China’s total spending was around $42 billion due to outside costs. These costs ranged from a $3 billion airport terminal to $30 million spent on trees and flowers, according to WSJ.

Host governments will tout that beyond the revenue shortfalls of the Games, having the Olympics lifts the economy by creating jobs, boosting tourism and adding much needed infrastructure. These measures are harder to quantify, and some studies have found these claims about employment and tourism to be more ambiguous.

In fact, it took Montreal decades to pay off the money borrowed to build an Olympic stadium for the 1976 games — which ended up being dubbed the Big Owe. And the cost of the 2004 Athens Olympics has been associated with the Greek debt crisis.

Read more: The cost of the Olympics’ ‘runaway arms race’ and new hope for student loan borrowers in bankruptcy

The OCOG has budgeted for a projected revenue of $6.7 billion for the Tokyo Games, which is much lower than its estimated $20 billion in costs.

The Tokyo Olympics officially begin on Friday, even as dozens of cases of COVID-19 have infected some athletes and dozens of “games-concerned personnel.”

But if the Olympic Games were canceled, the  International Olympic Committee would have to refund nearly $4 billion to its broadcast partners.

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