The Shocking Reasons the Olympics Could Disappear in Your Lifetime

The Olympics is one of the greatest uniting events on the planet. Every year, billions of people watch from all corners of the globe. The Olympics inspire unity through the spirit of competition. With all of that at stake, cities around the world have typically competed to host the Olympics. But, something is happening and it’s not looking good for the future of this beloved event.

1. The sun may be setting on the Olympics

olympics logo

Olympics logo | Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Now, it seems, cities are more reluctant to host the Olympics. The number of cities competing to host the games is rapidly dwindling. With that in mind, just how close are we to losing the games altogether? What factors are affecting support for the Olympics? And what can be done to save them? Follow us on this precarious journey and look at what the future holds.

Next: Not many cities want to host the Olympics.

2. The number of cities bidding is declining drastically

Rio Olympics

Rio Olympics 2016 | Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Only two countries bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics, and a third withdrew its bid before the selection process began. Compare that to the 12 that bid for the Olympics in 2004. Every annum, the number of cities or countries bidding on the Olympics is going down, while some cities are abandoning their bids altogether. Recently, after a very effective “No Boston Olympics” campaign, the city of Boston pulled their bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Next: One event doesn’t even have a host city yet.

3. 2026 doesn’t have a host city

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach speaks during the opening ceremony of the 132nd IOC session

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach speaks during the opening ceremony of the 132nd IOC session. | Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

The pickings have become so slim for host cities that the 2026 Winter Olympics doesn’t even have a host city yet. This represents a huge problem for those games. It usually takes about 10 years of planning and building to pull off an Olympic event. Anyone bidding right now better have most of the work already done.

Next: Why doesn’t anyone want to host the Olympics?

4. The Olympics are constantly over-budget

United States players look dejected as Canada win the gold medal during the Ice Hockey Women's Gold Medal Game on day 13 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 20, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.

Sochi was one of the most expensive Olympics to date. | Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Every Olympic event for the last 50 years has gone over its proposed budget. Some of them have gone over just a little bit, but that was before the insane demands that the International Olympic Committee put on the cities to host the games. The Sochi games, for example, went over budget by about 289%. They were only supposed to spend $10 billion, but ended up spending upwards of $21 billion (the most expensive Olympic Games to date).

Next: Besides going over budget, the host countries and cities lose a gargantuan amount of money.

5. Cities lose a lot of money

Fireworks explode over the Maracana Stadium during the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Fireworks explode over the Maracana Stadium during the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. | Chris McGrath/Getty Images

The Olympics is often sold to cities as a huge windfall of economic growth: a sort of adrenaline shot right into the heart of local and national governments, and local business. Much of that is promised through ad revenue.

It used to be the case that host cities would take the lion’s share of ad revenue, but the IOC has been demanding more in recent years. Rio de Janeiro was only allowed to keep 30% of its ad revenue, versus cities taking up 96% of that revenue in the past.

Next: The long-term costs of the Olympics are crippling for any city anymore.

6. Olympic facilities fall into disrepair after the Olympics are over

General view of the Olympic Softball stadium at the Helliniko Olympic complex in Athens

Due to Greece’s economic frailties post-Olympic Games there has been no further investment and the majority of the newly constructed stadiums that now lie abandoned. | Milos Bicanski/Getty Images

Once the Olympics has come and gone, the specially-built competition facilities are largely abandoned. The maintenance costs on stadiums can amount to tens of millions of dollars a year. Athens is the poster child of these abandoned facilities and for the financial impact on a country. The facilities they built are literally crumbling faster than the ancient ruins surrounding the site. Most cities just don’t use the facilities after the games, because there really isn’t any use beyond the games.

Next: Surprisingly, support for the games is really high.

7. People love the spectacle

Iraqi soccer fans cheer their team before they compete in the men's football preliminary match between Iraq and Portugal during the Athens 2004 Summer Olympic Games at Pampeloponnisiako Stadium.

Iraqi soccer fans cheer their team before they compete in the men’s football preliminary match between Iraq and Portugal during the Athens 2004 Summer Olympic Games at Pampeloponnisiako Stadium. | Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Despite all these things, people absolutely love the spectacle of the Olympics. Looking at the numbers for the Rio games, there was an estimated $5.4 billion lost in productivity from people watching the games, rather than working. As many as, and possibly more than, 3.4 billion people tuned in around the world to watch the games.

Next: If people love it so much, how can it be saved?

8. There need to be drastic changes

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach delivers remarks as he dedicates a mourning space inside the Pyeongchang Olympic Village prior to the 2018 Winter Olympics February 5, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach delivers remarks as he dedicates a mourning space inside the Pyeongchang Olympic Village. | Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images

The president of the IOC, Thomas Bach, made a list of 40 recommendations to create a better future for the Olympics. Those changes included changes to the candidature procedure that would “present a project that fits their sporting, economic, social, and environmental long-term planning needs.”

It also plans to increase transparency, strengthen ethics, and engage with communities. These are all goals set to make the Olympics more sustainable in the future.

Next: Some think more drastic measures need to be taken. 

9. Maybe a permanent venue is needed

Journalists visit the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as the IOC Evaluation Commission continues with its visit in front of the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California

Journalists visit the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as the IOC Evaluation Commission continues with its visit. | Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Some people think that there needs to be a permanent venue for the Olympics. A place like Los Angeles already has all the existing stadiums, infrastructure, and the ability to house all the athletes, personnel, and international guests. The IOC will need to choose another location for the Winter Games, but it is a challenging prospect. Most locations are becoming more unreliable for producing enough natural snow, a factor many blame on climate change.

Next: So are we really going to lose the Olympics?

10. They aren’t going away just yet

High priestess passes the Olympic flame at the Temple of Hera during a dressed rehearsal of the lighting ceremony of the Olympic flame in ancient Olympia

High priestess passes the Olympic flame at the Temple of Hera during a dress rehearsal of the lighting ceremony of the Olympic flame in ancient Olympia. | Milos Bicanski/Getty Images

The fact is the Olympics have become ingrained in the human spirit. It’s one of the few times in a decade when all the countries around the planet come together in peace. Will it die? Maybe. But, that is only if the IOC doesn’t change the way it operates. The only way to completely safeguard its existence is to make changes toward a more sustainable future.

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