2024 bid budgets lower, but are they realistic?
All four cities bidding for the 2024 Summer Olympics have proposed campaign budgets smaller than what recent winners spent to win over the International Olympic Committee.
The announced budgets raise the question of whether the bid groups are lowballing their estimates or the IOC’s austerity reforms, dubbed Agenda 2020, are actually altering the landscape, experts say.
On Jan. 12, Rome 2024 Chairman Luca Montezemolo said his group would spend $27 million, two weeks after the Hungarian government increased funding to finalize a $65 million budget for the Budapest bid. In 2015, Paris released a spending plan of $65 million, and Los Angeles 2024 has raised $35 million, which officials have said could rise but is sufficient for now.
Between now and the IOC’s vote in September 2017, the bid committees must pay staff and consultants in marketing, communications, real estate development, government relations and other fields. They must travel the world, produce expensive briefing documents, and negotiate with landowners and regulators.
Along with hosting costs, bidding costs grew rapidly in recent decades. In figures unadjusted for inflation, Tokyo spent $75 million to win the 2013 race for the 2020 Summer Games, Rio spent $90 million in 2009 for the 2016 Games, and London spent at least $55 million in 2005.
“In theory, Agenda 2020 is supposed to make the bid process more affordable,” said Alan Abrahamson, a journalist who has covered every bid race since 1999 and a lecturer at the USC School of Journalism. “It remains to be seen whether that is remotely possible.”
Chicago, the last American bid in 2009, cost more than $71 million and failed to make it out of the first round of voting. This time around, Los Angeles’ preliminary bid document called for raising $65 million to cover the bid, but leaders have backed off that figure. American bids are alone in relying exclusively on private donations.
In some ways, cost pressures on bid cities have truly relented, bid veterans and consultants say. The IOC is asking for three or four major presentations instead of more than 10, and bid documents can be distributed digitally, saving millions in printing and shipping costs.
However, the basic nature of the bidding competition will still drive costs up, Abrahamson suggested. IOC voters are under no obligation to reward cities for cost effectiveness. “After all, when you are going after arguably the biggest prize in sport, what’s a million here or a million there?” he said. “And soon those millions start adding up. Big time.”
The first tranche of bid proposals is due to the IOC on Feb. 17.