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The Oxford Olympics Study 2016: Cost and Cost Overrun at the Games


  • Bent Flyvbjerg
  • Allison Stewart
  • Alexander Budzier


Given that Olympic Games held over the past decade each have cost USD 8.9 billion on average, the size and financial risks of the Games warrant study. The objectives of the Oxford Olympics study are to (1) establish the actual outturn costs of previous Olympic Games in a manner where cost can consistently be compared across Games; (2) establish cost overruns for previous Games, i.e., the degree to which final outturn costs reflect projected budgets at the bid stage, again in a way that allows comparison across Games; (3) test whether the Olympic Games Knowledge Management Program has reduced cost risk for the Games, and, finally, (4) benchmark cost and cost overrun for the Rio 2016 Olympics against previous Games. The main contribution of the Oxford study is to establish a phenomenology of cost and cost overrun at the Olympics, which allows consistent and systematic comparison across Games. This has not been done before. The study concludes that for a city and nation to decide to stage the Olympic Games is to decide to take on one of the most costly and financially most risky type of megaproject that exists, something that many cities and nations have learned to their peril.

Suggested Citation

  • Bent Flyvbjerg & Allison Stewart & Alexander Budzier, 2016. "The Oxford Olympics Study 2016: Cost and Cost Overrun at the Games," Papers 1607.04484,
  • Handle: RePEc:arx:papers:1607.04484

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Robert A. Baade & Victor A. Matheson, 2016. "Going for the Gold: The Economics of the Olympics," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 30(2), pages 201-218, Spring.
    2. Flyvbjerg, Bent, 2016. "The Fallacy of Beneficial Ignorance: A Test of Hirschman’s Hiding Hand," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 84(C), pages 176-189.
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    Cited by:

    1. Martin Schnitzer & Lukas Haizinger, 2019. "Does the Olympic Agenda 2020 Have the Power to Create a New Olympic Heritage? An Analysis for the 2026 Winter Olympic Games Bid," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(2), pages 1-21, January.
    2. Eva Kassens-Noor & John Lauermann, 2017. "How to Bid Better for the Olympics: A Participatory Mega-Event Planning Strategy for Local Legacies," Journal of the American Planning Association, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 83(4), pages 335-345, October.
    3. Kassens-Noor, Eva, 2019. "Transportation planning and policy in the pursuit of mega-events: Boston's 2024 Olympic bid," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 239-245.
    4. Storm, Rasmus K. & Thomsen, Frederik & Jakobsen, Tor Georg, 2017. "Do they make a difference? Professional team sports clubs’ effects on migration and local growth: Evidence from Denmark," Sport Management Review, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 285-295.
    5. Flyvbjerg, Bent & Ansar, Atif & Budzier, Alexander & Buhl, Søren & Cantarelli, Chantal & Garbuio, Massimo & Glenting, Carsten & Holm, Mette Skamris & Lovallo, Dan & Lunn, Daniel & Molin, Eric & Rønnes, 2018. "Five things you should know about cost overrun," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 174-190.
    6. Pasquale Lucio Scandizzo & Maria Rita Pierleoni, 2018. "Assessing The Olympic Games: The Economic Impact And Beyond," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 32(3), pages 649-682, July.
    7. Matthias Firgo, 2019. "The Causal Economic Effects of Olympic Games on Host Regions," WIFO Working Papers 591, WIFO.
    8. Deneckere, Raymond & de Palma, André & Leruth, Luc, 2019. "Risk sharing in procurement," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 65(C), pages 173-220.
    9. Olmos, Lorena & Bellido, Héctor & Román-Aso, Juan A., 2020. "The effects of mega-events on perceived corruption," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 61(C).

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