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June 23, 2009

Beijing Olympic Games called a money-maker

BEIJING

Beijing Olympic organizers say they made a profit from last year’s Summer Games.

According to figures released by the government audit bureau, 19.3 billion yuan ($3.2 billion) was spent on organizing and staging the Summer Games, including the Paralympic Summer Games that followed.

That compares to income of 20.5 billion yuan ($3.4 billion) thus far, leaving a profit of 1.2 billion yuan ($199 million), the bureau said. The biggest chunk, accounting for 40 per cent, came from broadcast and marketing rights, along with sales of tickets, souvenirs, and commemorative coins and stamps.

The expenditure figures cover only operating expenses, leaving out spending on venues and infrastructure such as airports, roads and subways for the sprawling city of 18 million people.

According to the bureau, construction and upgrading costs for 36 new Olympic venues and 66 training facilities totalled 19.5 billion yuan ($3.2 billion).

The showpiece “Bird’s Nest” Olympic stadium alone ran almost half a billion yuan ($83 million) over budget due to design modifications and higher prices for construction materials, coming in at a final cost of 3.1 billion ($513 million).

Infrastructure costs were met largely by the city governments of Beijing, Shanghai and other cities that hosted events, who together contributed 8.26 billion yuan ($1.4 billion), and the central government, which kicked in 3.5 billion yuan ($579 million). Another 1 billion yuan came from contributions from Chinese overseas, while the Olympic organizing committee and Education Ministry paid close to four billion ($662 million) each.

An unidentified auditor quoted in an interview posted on the bureau’s Web site said Beijing’s operating budget was lower, adjusted for inflation, than both the one for the 2004 Athens Summer Games and that forecast for the 2012 London Olympics.

The entire budget, including infrastructure, for Athens was nearly US$11.6 billion — double the original estimate — while London’s operating budget is US$2.9 billion, with another US$13.6 billion for venues, infrastructure and urban regeneration.

Budgets for cities bidding for the 2016 Games range from US$4.4 billion to US$5.6 billion.

The cost of staging the Olympics is commonly a cause for debate among prospective host cities, but not for Beijing, where the games enjoyed strong support from government, the public and business.

However Beijing does face difficulty making venues self-sufficient now that the Games are receding into memory.

Less than a year after fans packed into it for the strikng opening and closing ceremonies, the “Bird’s Nest” has yet to host another sports event and sits almost entirely vacant except for a steady trail of tourists.

Associated Press

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