Hard to believe, but true—a country has rejected the possibility of hosting the Olympics. Rome had intended to bid for the 2020 Summer Games, but the Italian government has nixed the application. Italian Premier Mario Monti said it would be irresponsible to use taxpayer money to fund the Olympics with a guarantee that the government would cover any deficit, as required by the International Olympic Committee. How refreshing. If the Greek government had exercised the same sense of responsibility toward the 2004 Games, a project we now know it couldn't afford, the country might not have dug itself into such a deep economic hole.
Greece had estimated the cost of the 2004 Games at $6-billion and wound up paying $15-billion. And this is the drift into financial never-never land the Olympics tend to experience, cost overruns being a major part of the Olympic legacy. Canadians have some experience with this—the 1976 Montreal Games cost 12 times the original budget and weren't fully paid off until 2006. The 2010 Vancouver Games only cost four times the original budget.
With Rome out, five cities are left in the race: Madrid, Tokyo, Istanbul, Doha (Qatar) and Baku (Azerbaijan). Can their governments afford it? Spain is in a more fragile economic state than Italy and Japan's economy has been stagnant for years, so there's certainly doubts there. Turkey, on the other hand, is booming, while Qatar is petro-rich and rapidly getting richer, as is Azerbaijan. So some of these countries can afford the lavish demands of the International Olympic Committee; others—and, yes, I'm pointing a finger at Spain here—would be well-advised to adopt a little of Premier Monti's sense of responsibility.