London 2012 to be most expensive Olympic Games ever

London 2012 is on course to be one of the most expensive Olympic Games to date, according to research from Oxford University.

With the Olympics now under five weeks away, the university’s Saïd Business School has projected the cost of the Games to be £8.4bn in real terms, some 101% over budget.

The research does not take into account expensive infrastructure projects, but instead looks at “sport-related costs” such as security, technology, transport and ceremonies, along with the cost of constructing venues and the athletes’ village.

It compares the cost of both summer and winter Olympic Games over the last 50 years.

While the eventual cost of the events is routinely over budget and the current overrun for London 2012 is largely in line with previous Games, it is significantly higher than events within the last decade.

Researchers believe this year’s Games will rank alongside Beijing, Barcelona and Montreal as the most expensive in history.

The sport-related budget was set at £4.2bn when the bid was declared the winner in 2005, but it has now increased to £8.4bn in real terms.

Lead researcher Professor Bent Flyvbjerg said: “While all major programmes are prone to cost overruns, due largely both to optimism and conscious strategic misrepresentation, overruns of the Games are in a league of their own.

“When compared with typical overruns on other major programmes, such as transport and IT programmes, budget overruns for the Olympic Games are extreme, both for their size and frequency.”

The Beijing Games in 2008 were widely believed to be the most expensive on record, with many estimates putting the total at £22bn. But researchers believe the bill may have been a more reasonable £3.13bn due to China’s cheaper labour.

Former foreign correspondent for The Times, Christopher Walker, said: “The surprising thing with the 101% jump in costs since the bid was launched in the public eye, it has come during a period of relatively calm inflation in Britain.

“It just seems inevitable because there is really one lot of people who are purely interested in trying to spin the costs to be as low as possible at all times.”

He continued: “What is surprising perhaps is the comparison with the Beijing Games and the enormous cost of their opening ceremony to ours. Although even our relatively modest ceremony came to more than people expected when they heard what was involved.”

The London 2012 Organising Committee (LOCOG) had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

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