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How much did the Beijing Winter Olympics cost?

After 109 events within 16 days, Beijing has doused its Olympic flame, closing its Winter Games on Feb. 20.

Eight years ago, in 2014, when bidding to host this year’s Games, Beijing told the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that it intended to spend just above $3 billion, leaving it to become the lowest-budget Winter Games in the last two decades.

Since 2014, Olympics cost has been within the $13-billion to $59.7-billion range. While the most modest came from Brazil’s 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, the 2014 Sochi Winter Games ultimately cost Russia the most. After the Sochi Games, Russia withdrew from bidding for the 2021 Winter Olympics.

The Financial Times calculated that China had spent at least $8.8 billion, doubling its original budget.

According to The Wall Street Journal, China spent at least $16 billion on the 2022 Winter Olympics, including more than $800 million in cost overruns on Olympic venues and more than $13 billion in indirect expenses.

In a more financially serious estimation, according to the Insider study, the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics might cost China more than $38.5 billion, 10 times more than the country’s original estimate of $3.9 billion.

The Insider reported that Beijing authorities uncovered many hidden costs.

The first account is expenses for several venues and transportation facilities that could total hundreds of millions of dollars. Still, The Insider cannot find them in the accounting of the games.

They include:

  • Beijing, the New National Speed Skating Oval (The Ice Ribbon) is estimated to cost $186.6 million dollars in 2017.
  • Yanqing village, the second Olympic venue, was built brand new with a total of $442.9 million dollars, according to a 2018 estimate.
  • National Ski Jumping Center, a landmark mountain venue in Zhangjiakou Village.
  • A brand-new driverless bullet train can travel at over 200 mph, transporting passengers between Zhangjiakou and Beijing in 50 minutes. Its total cost is $9.2 billion, more than double the official Olympic budget.
  • Zhangjiakou’s regional airport, Ningyuan, cost $205.6 million to spruce up.
  • Beijing Winter Olympics Subway—installing a new subway line cost $773.5 million.
  • The highway project to connect venues in Yanqing and Zhangjiakou cost $15 million.

The second unveiled expense is related to the environment. For example, China covered a hillside in steel and then blanketed it with artificial snow to create an Olympic ski jump. Next, engineers blasted tunnels across the neighboring mountains to build a high-speed rail network connecting the venues to Beijing.

This year’s Winter Games is the first to use 100% fake snow. While Beijing and the IOC claimed that the Games are carbon-neutral, the snowmaking process is highly energy-intensive. It is estimated that up to 500 million gallons of water would be required to make the snow. The enormous fleet of snowmaking equipment was shipped from Italy, then carried over 100 miles from Beijing to the venue mountains. Before a single machine had been turned on, emissions were already excessive.

Social cost also plays a vital role in China’s off-the-book prices, which is challenging to tally up. An Insider’s report on Feb. 4 indicated that farmers were forced from their land to make way for solar energy.

The IOC told Insider that more than 1,500 inhabitants had been resettled or compensated for being displaced for the Games.

Lastly, China has also purportedly not included the spending on safety measures for its Covid-19 bubble. The expense of coronavirus prevention alone for last summer’s Olympics in Tokyo was $2.8 million. China’s “Zero Covid” approach, which centers on eradicating outbreaks, has resulted in much more elaborate infection control measures. Workers are doing tens of thousands of PCR tests on Games participants every day to keep the coronavirus at bay.

The Beijing Olympic Committee has stated that six months after the Games, it will report the Games’ costs.

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