Andrew Zimbalist, an economist at Smith College and the author of Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup, said during a speech last month that people should be skeptical of promises that no taxpayer money will be used for the proposed Boston 2024 Olympics.
Zimbalist said that past Olympics have been marked by massive cost overruns and taxpayers ended up paying for it. Zimbalist said that while Boston 2024, the group trying to organize the Olympics, has said the games will cost about $4.5 billion, he expect them to cost somewhere between $15 and $20 billion.
"When the Olympic organizers are trying to convince a political body to support their ideas, they always come out first with a bare bones sketch of what they want to do. Once there's a political go ahead, then they start adding the frills and the bells and the whistles and the prices go higher and higher," Zimbalist said.
Zimbalist said that because the Olympics requires an “enormous amount of construction,” host cities often end up having to pay higher costs to rush construction jobs in order to meet deadlines.
Zimbalist also said that private companies may pledge funding and resources for the games, but then later walk away, leaving taxpayers to cover the cost.
“At the end of the day, the public bodies, whether it's at the city level, or the state level, or the federal level, are required by the International Olympic Committee to back up in case the private money doesn't come through,” Zimbalist said.
Zimbalist said that while the Olympics are often presented as being an economic benefit to host communities, research by economists shows the opposite. For instance, Zimbalist said research shows that the Olympics decreases tourism.
Zimbalist spoke to the group No Boston Olympics during a meeting on January 4. The group later shared a video of his speech last week.