Most Expensive Winter Olympic Games In History

The Sochi winter games were the most expensive in history. Editorial credit: Zotov Dmitrii /
The Sochi winter games were the most expensive in history. Editorial credit: Zotov Dmitrii /

According to an Oxford Olympics Study in 2016, the Olympic Games incur a higher cost overrun than any other megaproject in the world. About 47% of the games go beyond their budget by more than 100%. As revealed in the study, an average of $8.9 billion (all figures US$) is the sport-related amount that countries spent on hosting the games in the past ten years. Generally, the Summer Games are more expensive than the Winter Games, with the exception of Sochi 2014, the most expensive Games ever. From 1960 to 2013, the average cost of the winter games stood at $3.1 billion while the average cost of summer games stood at $5.2 billion. The most expensive Summer Games was London 2012, costing $12 billion, while the most expensive Winter Games was Sochi 2014 with a cost of $22 billion.

Most Expensive Winter Olympic Games In History

Sochi, Russia (2014): These were by far the most expensive Olympics ever. With its budget set at $12 billion by the Russian government, Sochi fiercely overrun its budget, costing Russia $22 billion according to the Oxford Olympics Study. The high cost overrun is thought to have resulted from the drastic measures put in place to ensure there was enough snow on the ground owing to Sochi’s subtropical climate in summer. Besides, a lot of construction was needed, among them the 50km road between Sochi and Polyana. Polyana hosted the ski and snowboard events. The high cost is also attributed to security concerns some money is thought to have been stolen through corruption.

Torino, Italy (2006): The Torino Winter Olympic Games cost $4.36 billion, making it the second most expensive Olympic Winter Games. This amount includes the sport-related expenses only such as the operational cost and the direct capital costs while excluding the indirect capital cost. Operational costs were the costs of staging the games such as technological costs, transport, labor, administrative, security, and medical and catering costs. Direct capital costs were related to the establishment of competition venues, a media and press center, an international broadcast center, and the Olympic village. The total cost overrun for the Torino 2006 was 80% in real terms.

The Olympic cauldron from the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. Image credit: i viewfinder/Shutterstock

Vancouver, Canada (2010): The Vancouver Games are the third most expensive Winter Olympics, costing $2.54 billion. With an estimated expected cost of $2.25 billion, the games exceeded the budget with a cost overrun of $0.29 billion. The total cost of $2.54 billion encompasses the operational cost that was majorly raised from the auction of national broadcasting rights, sponsorship, and taxes as well as security costs.

Salt Lake City, United States (2002): The Salt Lake City Games were the fourth most expensive Winter Olympics. From an estimated budget of $2.03 billion, the games cost $2.52 billion exhibiting a cost overrun of $0.49 billion.

Lillehammer, Norway (1994): The Lillehammer games are notable to mention having cost a total of $2.23 billion, with a cost overrun of $1.64 billion from an expected cost of $0.59 billion.

Indirect Costs Of Hosting The Winter Olympic Games

Despite the fact that host countries incur operational costs, direct capital costs, and indirect capital costs, the Oxford Olympics Study did not factor in the indirect capital costs related to hosting the Winter Olympic Games. These indirect costs are the most expensive part of hosting the games. However, exact data on indirect capital costs is hard to come across and can be unreliable.

Most Expensive Winter Olympic Games in History

RankGamesCountryCost (in billions of US$)
1Sochi 2014Russia21.89
2Turin 2006Italy4.36
3Vancouver 2010Canada2.54
4Salt Lake City 2002United States2.52
5Lillehammer 1994Norway2.23

More in World Facts