It’s no secret that the Olympic Games cost a lot of money to produce. After all, it’s the largest international sports competition and it’s an event that attracts the attention of the world.
With the grand stage also comes an equally grand budget to make it all happen. Consider that the most recent Olympics, the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, reportedly cost around $42 billion. While some of the cost was for turning the Russian city into a mountain resort, a large chunk of that money went into the construction of the sports facilities and infrastructure.
Speaking of facilities, when it comes to the Summer Olympics, typically most of the attention is paid to the main stadium. Not only is it the home of the track and field events, it’s also the host of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. Not surprisingly, no expense is usually spared on these venues. With the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro quickly approaching, here is a list of the eight most expensive stadiums in Summer Olympics history.
8. Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (Los Angeles, United States) 1984 Summer Olympics - $13.3 million*
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was commissioned in 1921 as a memorial to area World War I veterans and cost about $955,000 to build ($13.3 million in 2016 US dollars). Already the largest stadium in Los Angeles with a capacity of 75,144 when it opened in 1923, the stadium was expanded to 101,574 in 1930 in preparation for the 1932 Summer Olympics. The stadium has been the home for numerous professional sports teams, hosted musical concerts and other major events, including the 1984 Summer Games. Currently, the Coliseum serves as the primary home of the USC Trojans as well as the temporary home of the NFL's Los Angeles Rams.
7. Estádio Olímpico João Havelange (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) 2016 Summer Olympics - $192 million
The venue for this year’s Summer Games, Estádio Olímpico João Havelange, was opened in 2007 after costing six times the stadium’s original construction budget. Surprisingly, the stadium was not used when Rio held the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but has been used for the soccer club Botafogo de Futebol e Regatas’s home games. The Brazilian national soccer team uses the stadium, which has hosted the 2007 Pan American Games, as well as multiple concerts. The seating capacity for the Olympics is expected to increase to 60,000.
6. Centennial Olympic Stadium (Atlanta, Georgia, United States) 1996 Summer Olympics - $207 million
Construction on Centennial Olympic Stadium started in 1993 with it being completed just two months before the start of the 1996 Summer Games. The venue for the Opening and Closing Ceremony, as well as track and field events, the stadium held 85,000. After the conclusion of the Summer Games, the stadium was reconfigured into what became Turner Field, the home of MLB’s Atlanta Braves. The presence of the nearby Georgia Dome, which originally opened in 1992, meant there was no need for a second permanent track and field venue in downtown Atlanta. The Braves’ first season at Turner Field was 1997 and this current season is set to be their last. In 2017, the Braves will call SunTrust Park, a brand-new stadium built in nearby Cobb County, home. The stadium site was sold to Georgia State University last December, and the school has plans to renovate Turner Field and use it as a football stadium.
5. Olympic Stadium of Athens “Spyros Louis” (Athens, Greece) 2004 Summer Olympics - $291 million*
Olympic Stadium was built in 1982 to host the 1982 European Championships in Athletics. It also hosted the 1991 Mediterranean Games and the 1997 World Championships in Athletics to prove that it was capable of hosting major sporting events after failing to win the bid for the 1996 Summer Olympics. The stadium underwent extensive renovation prior to the 2004 Summer Games, at an estimated cost of $265 million Euros, which converts to $291 million US dollars using current exchange rates. Capacity was reduced to 71,030 for the Games, although only 56,700 seats were made available for the public for track & field events and slightly more for the soccer final. Since the Olympics, the stadium has held the 2007 UEFA Champions League Final, but no other major sporting event. Unfortunately, the astronomic cost (reported $9 billion Euros or $11 billion US) that Greece incurred to hold the Summer Games contributed to the economic crisis that has plagued the European nation.
4. Seoul Olympic Stadium (Seoul, South Korea) 1988 Summer Olympics - $430 million*
Seoul Olympic Stadium was built in 1984 for the 1988 Summer Olympics. The stadium was built for around 491 million won, which translates to $430 million US dollars (using current exchange rates). The venue was first used to host the 10th Asian Games, a multi-sport event held every four years for athletes from throughout Asia. However, it's most known for being the centerpiece of the Summer Olympics in the South Korean capital. The stadium seats 69,950 and is currently used by professional soccer club Seoul E-Land FC.
3. Beijing National Stadium (Beijing, China) 2008 Summer Olympics - $465 million*
Beijing National Stadium, also known as the Bird’s Nest, was designed for the 2008 Summer Olympics and will be used again in the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics. Built for what amounts to $465 million (2014 US dollars), the stadium is set to become the first venue to ever host both the Summer and Winter Games. Construction stared in 2003 and took five years to complete. During the 2008 Summer Games, the stadium held 91,000 people. Since the Olympics, the stadium has largely been used for soccer games. However, many clubs have backed out of using the stadium due to it not being able to draw many spectators. The Chinese national soccer team has played some of its 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches in the Bird’s Nest.
2. Stadium Australia (Sydney, Australia) 2000 Summer Olympics - $690 million
Stadium Australia, also known as ANZ Stadium, was completed in 1999 to host the 2000 Summer Olympics. The venue was the largest Olympic Stadium ever built, holding 110,000 spectators. The evening track and field sessions on day 11 had 112,524 spectators, which remains the world record for attendance for any Olympic event. Today, the venue hosts a variety of sports, including the National Rugby league, Australian Football League, cricket, and racing, as well as a variety of concerts.
1. Olympic Stadium (London, England) 2012 Summer Olympics - $767 million
Olympic Stadium was built in 2011 for the 2012 Summer Olympics. Although the stadium is the most expensive Olympic venue ever built, construction actually finished under budget, albeit with a reported price tag of $486 million pounds ($767 million US). The design received mixed reviews from “magnificent” to “tragically underwhelming,” which were a result of the comparisons to the Beijing National Stadium and due to the extreme cost of construction. The site is currently under renovation to replace the lower bowl seating with a retractable seating system to allow for both athletics and pitch sports. Once reopened later this year, seating capacity will be 60,000. Since the Olympics, the stadium became the host of the West Ham United Football Club as well as hosting several 2015 Rugby World Cup matches, the 2017 International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) World Championships in Athletics and the 2017 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletics World Championships.
*For the sake of comparison, some costs referenced have been converted to account for inflation and/or current exchange rates and are close approximations.