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Taxpayers Carry 2002 Olympics Load
Salt Lake Winter Games costing U.S. some $1.3 billion 
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US Olympic Committee (USOC)

As American Olympians mined Australia Olympic gold in 2000, American Taxpayers began digging into their pocketbooks for the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

A sizable number of federal government dollars are spent assisting U.S. cities chosen to host the Olympic Games.

Government funding and support provided or planned for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City alone is estimated to amount to almost $1.3 billion according to a Sept. 8, 2000 General Accounting Office (GAO) report titled, Olympic Games - Federal Government Supplies Significant Funding and Support

The GAO prepared the report in response to a request from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Rep. John D. Dingell (D-MI). McCain and Dingell asked the GAO to collect information showing:

(1) The amount of federal funding and support provided to the 1984 and 1996 Summer Olympic Games, and planned for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, and the types of projects and activities that were funded and supported and,

(2) the federal policies, legislative authorizations, and agency controls in place for providing the federal funds and support to the Olympic Games.

Here are some findings from the GAO report:

Cities Host the Games -- Not the Country
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) awards the Summer and Winter Olympic games to a host city, not to its country. Since 1904, the IOC has awarded Olympics Games to eight U.S. cities -- more than to any other country in the world.

In other countries, the central government does typically covers the costs of hosting the Olympics, but in the United States, the host city, not the federal government, is generally responsible for these costs.

In 1987, amendments to the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act of 1978 (Title 36, Chapter 17, U.S.C.) gave the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC), according to the GAO report, "exclusive jurisdiction over all matters pertaining to the participation of the United States in the Olympic Games, including the representation of the United States in such Games and the organization of the Games when held in the United States."

Federal Olympic Funding Has Increased Steadily Since 1984

GAO researchers found that 24 federal agencies reported providing or planning to provide a combined total of almost $2 billion, in 1999 dollars, for Olympic-related projects and activities for the 1984 and 1996 Summer Olympic Games and the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.

  • 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles -- $75 Million
  • 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta -- $609 Million
  • 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City -- $1.3 Billion

According to the GAO, about $513 million of the above was provided or planned to be provided for projects or activities such as providing security or transporting spectators. That $513 million, says the GAO, would not have been spent had the Games not been held in the United States.

The other $1.4 billion either went to or will go directly to the cities of Atlanta and Salt Lake City for Olympics-related projects such as highways, mass-transit, and capital improvements (utility improvements, buildings, arenas, etc.). Of course, these improvements will continue to benefit the host cities and states long after the Games. While the GAO found that most of these funds might have been provided to the cities or states through other federal programs, the funds could have been provided later if the cities were not Olympic hosts.


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