The Most Profitable Olympics in History, 1984 Los Angeles

Time's cover for Los Angeles profit

With recent economic uncertainty surrounding the coming Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, a number of government officials worldwide continue to view hosting the Olympics, not as a historical opportunity for their city, but rather as an economic death-sentence. Unfortunately, a history of the Olympic Games from a monetary standpoint entirely supports this. Cities across the globe, from Athens to Montreal, have seen their debt skyrocket and their economies crumble due to the “privilege” of hosting the games. One of the costliest Games being the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics, commonly cited as one of the main causes of the Greek Debt Crisis. Spending upwards of USD $14 billion on facilities that are largely unused today, the Greek government was plummeted into debt. The question remains, is it even possible to host the Olympics and make money doing it? For the city of Los Angeles, the answer is   “yes”.

Following the absolute financial disaster of the 1976 Montreal Olympics, Los Angeles was actually the only city worldwide to bid on the 1984 Summer Olympics. As there was no competition, the city of LA did not have to promise extravagant favors in order to win the Olympic bid; an unfortunate, but common, reality in attempting to host the Olympic Games. This set the motif for the rest of the Games, as LA city officials spent the absolute bare minimum in hosting. Hardly any new facilities were constructed; instead the Olympic events took place in already existing stadiums. The myriad of other costs that usually plagues the host-city’s treasury were simply taken up, not by the L.A. government, but by corporations like McDonalds and 7-11, seeking sponsorship deals. Televising the Olympic Games even proved to be a large source of revenue for the Olympic Committee as lucrative contracts were awarded to networks seeking exclusive television broadcasting rights.

Los Angeles 1984 Olympics

Image: Slate

Between the frugality of the L.A. government and the large volume of revenue brought in by corporate sponsorship, the 1984 Summer Olympics ended with the city of Los Angeles earning a profit of USD $200 million; this was an achievement that, at the time, hasn’t been done since 1932. Even today, the city of L.A. continue to reap the rewards of 1984, as facilities are often used for youth-sports and city events.

As the Rio Olympic Games draw ever closer, many are doubtful that the Games will bring anything but economic downfall for the city. However, If Rio de Janeiro city officials take notes from the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, these games could possibly “take the gold-medal” in Olympic financial success.

P.S. Los Angeles is a candidate for the 2024 Olympic Summer Games, along with Rome, Paris, and Budapest.

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