Beijing Olympics: Over Budget but still Profitable

By Paul Pennay
Published: 2009-06-19

The operation and construction costs associated with the 2008 Beijing Olympics were well over initial budgets, but thanks to revenue also exceeding expectations, the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2008 Olympics (BOCOG) was able to make an operating profit of approximately 1.16 billion yuan ($170 million), according to a report released by the National Audit Office (NAO) on Friday.

BOCOG's operating revenues totaled 20.5 billion yuan ($2.999 billion), far beyond the initial projections of $1.625 billion that Beijing had budgeted for back in 2001 and also much larger then the adjusted figure of approximately $2 billion that was announced at the start of the games.

Major sources of revenue included broadcasting rights, sponsorship, merchandise, lottery funds (2.75 billion yuan) and tickets (1.28 billion yuan).

Total costs to BOCOG amounted to 19.34 billion, with big ticket items including broadcasting, accommodation, transport and medical services. The opening and closing ceremonies set organizers back 831 million yuan. And over 300 million yuan was spent on the global torch relay.

The over 1 billion yuan in operating profit was over ten times the original estimate, and puts the Beijing Olympics in the same league as the Athen's games in terms of profitability.

In a separate section, the audit also revealed details about the 19.5 billion yuan that was spent on building and remodeling venues and training facilities for the Olympics.

At a pre-games press conference held in Beijing last year, senior members of BOCOG assured reporters that expenditure on Olympic venues would come in at under 13 billion yuan.

The report did not raise the issue of the large discrepancy between the initial publicly announced figure and their final total, although, the report did note that the National Stadium, or Bird's Nest, was 450 million yuan over its 3.14 billion yuan budget.

The NAO also reported problems with the bidding and outsourcing process in 14 of the 93 projects that they audited. Some projects that relied on private investment, like the National Stadium, were still owed money by investors.

The report was confined to auditing BOCOG's finances and also the cost of constructing the Olympic venues. Various other estimates that include the huge investment in infrastructure that Beijing undertook in the lead up to the 2008 games, have put the total figure of investment at close to 300 billion yuan, over $40 billion.

Links and Sources
National Audit Office: Report(Chinese)
WSJ - China Journal: Beijing Sheds (Some) Light on Olympics $$$ Tally
China Daily: Beijing Olympics' profit exceeds 1b yuan
People's Daily: Surplus of Beijing Olympic Games exceeds 16 million USD
Beijing 2008: Press Conference on cost-efficiency Olympic Games

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