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1. The power of gold

woman hand raised, holding gold medal against sky. award and victory concept
tomertu / Shutterstock

The International Olympic Committee does not pay athletes for wins, but individual countries do. The United States Olympic Committee pays out $25,000 bonuses for a gold-medal win by a U.S. athlete. Elite athletes with name recognition may earn additional bonuses from their sponsors, though this is not very common.

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2. Bling, bling

Gold medal on black background?
sumire8 / Shutterstock

A gold medal typically is worth $5,000, if you were to scrap the medal. However, at auction a gold medal may bring between $10,000 and $2 million, depending on the athlete, the event or the notoriety. The gold medal won by 1980 U.S. hockey team member Mark Wells sold in 2010 for $310,700.

3. Is it real gold?

The surface of cast gold bullion. The texture of the surface of the gold bar. Selective focus.  (shallow DOF)
VladKK / Shutterstock

An Olympic gold medal is really 93% silver. Only a little over 1% — at least 6 grams — is actual gold. The other 6% is copper.

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4. High-cost hosting

Beautiful winter landscape with snow covered trees and asian temple Odaesan Woljeongsa in Pyeongchang, Korea
Sanga Park / Shutterstock

When the 2018 Winter Olympics were awarded to Pyeongchang, the South Koreans had expected the costs of the games to fall between $7 and $8 billion. However, due to some unforeseen circumstances and a larger-than-expected construction budget, the Games are expected to cost around $12 billion.

5. The record price tag

Views of Olympic Park from a bird's flight. Sochi, Russia.
Yevtushok Tatyana / Shutterstock

The most expensive Winter Olympics ever held were the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. They were originally budgeted at $12 billion, but with cost overruns and increased security the final price tag came in at $50 billion.

6. Want the Winter Games in your town?

Olympic rings in the Olympic museum in Lausanne, Switzerland
Tatiana Zinchenko / Shutterstock

Cities interested in hosting must first invest in a proposal or bid to be submitted to the International Olympic Committee. The total cost of planning, hiring consultants, holding PR events and travel just to make the bid can fall anywhere between $50 million and $100 million.

7. Return on investment

TV camera in the hockey palace of sports
Maxim Tarasyugin / Shutterstock

For the host, profit is earned through four main categories: 47% from Olympic broadcasting rights; 45% from sponsorships; 5% from ticketing for the various events; and 3% from licensing and merchandise.

8. Bells and whistles

Tracks of the Dorasan Station is a railway station situated on the Gyeongui Line, which once connected North and South Korea and has now been restored
meunierd / Shutterstock

Since it's a relatively isolated city, Pyeongchang’s bid included plans for an ultra-fast rail line to the South Korean capital, Seoul, about 78 miles away. Thanks to the new rail line, visitors, athletes and coaches can make the trip in less than an hour.

9. More Olympic 'training'

The new Canada Line, a rapid transit commuter train, crosses the Fraser River from Richmond and the airport into Vancouver at dawn.
Max Lindenthaler / Shutterstock

Although not officially part of Vancouver's bid to host the 2010 Winter Games, the Canada Line from Vancouver International Airport to the city's downtown cost the taxpayers $2.1 billion. It is still in use today and might be one of the longest-lasting effects of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

10. The cost of admission

Incheon airport
Pyast / Shutterstock

Spending a week at the 2018 Winter Games would cost you an estimated $4,683, according to Money. This would include a round-trip plane ticket from the U.S. to Seoul, a rail pass from Seoul to Pyongchang, a week of hotels and food, plus tickets to alpine skiing, figure skating, speed skating, men's hockey game and snowboarding.

11. Package deals

Two blank winter sport ski pass tickets with scenic background. Concept to illustrate winter sport admission fee
Konrad Mostert / Shutterstock

Winter Olympics packages often roll the costs together into one price, but it gets a little complicated. Depending on demand, a host may issue only individual tickets, or make available ticket packages for individual countries. Pyeongchang has offered country-specific packages, but during Vancouver 2010 some tickets weren't available through packages and had to be issued via a lottery system.

12. The value of 2nd place

Silver medal in the foreground on yellow blue ribbon
sergign / Shutterstock

Like the gold medals, Olympic silver medals are normally 93% silver. The other 7% is copper. At auction, a silver medal may fetch upwards of $50,000, but the raw materials are worth roughly $300.

13. The golden era

Panoramic overview of the Old Town of Stockholm from above. Historic buildings colored in warm tones by setting sun. Beautiful reflections in frozen water.
SvartKat / Shutterstock

The last Winter Olympics to hand out pure gold medals were the 1912 Games in Stockholm. Now those are some priceless medals!

14. Going for the green

Olympic Cauldron at Jack Poole Plaza, Vancouver, British Columbia
Hadimorphotography / Shutterstock

The 615 Olympic medals and 299 Paralympic medals at Vancouver 2010 were made from 6.8 tons of landfill-bound circuit boards. Gold, silver, bronze and copper was recycled to make the prizes and help ensure that the Vancouver Winter Games were "green" from the initial bid to the closing ceremonies.

15. Build it and they will come

Opened door of hotel room with key in the lock
Dragon Images / Shutterstock

The International Olympic Committee requires hosting cities to have a minimum of 40,000 hotel rooms, plus upgraded airports, roads and highways. For the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, some 85% of the $50 billion in building costs was poured into transportation infrastructure to simply meet the influx of people into the area.

16. At these prices?

Beijing Jinshanling snow the Great Wall
LU JINRONG / Shutterstock

For some time, the favorite to host the 2022 Winter Games was Norway, but the Norwegians backed out due to costs. Beijing, China, went on to win the next hosting duties. If a country is willing to spend a fair amount of money for security and world-class facilities, then the games are worth it. But for Norway and a growing number of countries, the costs are too high.

17. Costs vs. rewards

Canadian flag in front of view of False Creek and the Burrard street bridge in Vancouver, Canada.
Hannamariah / Shutterstock

The 2010 Winter Olympics generated $2.8 billion in revenue but had a total price tag of $7.6 billion for Vancouver. The ginormous economic obligations should be priority No. 1 for a city deciding whether to make an official bid.

18. Host with the most

Mike Tirico, an American sportscaster
By Jeffrey Beall - Own work, CC BY 4.0

NBC's Olympics programming will have a new face: Mike Tirico is replacing the network's usual prime-time Olympics host Bob Costas for the 2018 Winter Games. Tirico, a long-time sports announcer on the college circuit, is worth an estimated $6 million and makes a yearly salary of $3 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

19. Change is good

Canadian Lucky Loonie

A "lucky loonie" — Canadian $1 coin — was placed on center ice by the ice makers at the Vancouver 2010 hockey arena. It was meant to give good luck to the Canadian men’s and women's hockey teams at the Games, which seemed to work. Canada won double gold in hockey, a first in Winter Olympics history.

20. Way outta line

Downhill View from the Ski Jump at Lake Placid - Place of 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Games
Artefficient / Shutterstock

The 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics in upstate New York went 320% over the original budget. This left the local organizing committee with an $8 million debt, which had to be made up through taxes.

21. Expensive China

University of Science and Technology Beijing gymnasium, china
chinahbzyg / Shutterstock

The 2022 Winter Olympics will be the first hosted in China. The infamously expensive 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing cost $43 billion; the estimated budget for the 2022 Winter Games is a mere $3.9 billion.

22. Not the cheap seats

beautiful firework over stadium with sky at night
BaLL LunLa / Shutterstock

As of mid-January, tickets to attend the 2018 Winter Olympics opening ceremony cost $1,563 via the official ticket seller. Tickets for the men's hockey gold-medal game were selling for $977. But tickets for some other events were available for as little as $70.

23. The main event

Defocused and blur background of the sport arena with ice hockey, olympic games
Leonid Sorokin / Shutterstock

Generally, the most sought-after ticket for the Winter Olympics is the gold-medal game in men's hockey. During the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver 2010, "cheap" tickets to the final featuring Canada and the U.S. sold for $10,000 U.S.

24. Commercial costs

Watching TV and using remote controller
Concept Photo / Shutterstock

Compared to the stratospheric rates to air ads during the Super Bowl, Olympics commercial time seems cheap. The average ad costs $100,000, and Olympics advertisers have two weeks to reach their audience.

25. The Olympics superpower

Hockey equipment including a stick and puck on an American flag to infer a patriotic American sport.
Joe Belanger / Shutterstock

Largely due to its massive television audience, the United States is given a higher percentage than other countries of the revenue redistributed by the International Olympic Committee. Although some nations cry foul, the simple fact is that 47% of the Olympic revenues come from broadcast rights, so it's no wonder the IOC treats the U.S. better than the rest.

26. Setting the stages

Pyeongchang, Gangwon-do, South Korea - Daegwallyeong Yangtte Farm with heavy snowfall.
SiHo / Shutterstock

Venues are generally one of the most expensive parts of putting on any Olympics. Pyeongchang will have 13 Olympic venues spread across two areas. The PyeongChang "mountain venues" are hosting the skiing and slide events, while the Gangneung "coastal venues" will host the figure skating, hockey, curling and speed skating.

27. Coaches may need career coaching

coach on the ice hockey bench with tactic board looking at player after hockey match.
kovop58 / Shutterstock

Olympics coaches are not well paid and earn an average of $34,000 a year, only a fraction higher than the U.S. median pay for athletic coaches. However, if you can say you coached an Olympic champion, that allows you to raise your rates significantly.

28. Security!

fighter jet from below
jointstar / Shutterstock

Security was one of the major reasons for the high costs of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games. Due to Vancouver's proximity to the U.S., the security budget skyrocketed to almost $900 million because of U.S. demands for safe air spaces and other protections.

29. A winner for the economy?

View from river thames over millennium dome in London and river Thames.
Ingus Kruklitis / Shutterstock

The 2012 Summer Olympics in London pumped an estimated $13.5 billion U.S. into the British economy, through trade and investment. Studies have predicted that South Korea can expect to see a $61 billion benefit from investments, spending, and construction related to the 2018 Winter Olympics.

30. Jobs, jobs, jobs?

Downtown Salt Lake City skyline Utah in USA
f11photo / Shutterstock

Cities and nations bidding for the Olympics often boast that the Games will create jobs. But, after the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, economists concluded that there was no long-term increase in employment. The jobs tend to be temporary and often go to the workers who were already employed, instead of people who were previously unemployed.

31. Jobs with no pay

Ski Patrol and Equipment
Karin Hildebrand Lau / Shutterstock

The Olympics would not be able to run without a corps of volunteers. Over 91,000 men and woman applied to fill just 22,400 volunteer positions available. More than 1,500 of those applications came from American citizens who were looking to experience South Korea from a volunteer's point of view.

32. Sponsorship now...

Coca Cola ad
Coca Cola

Nine companies — including Coca-Cola, Omega watches and Visa — invested roughly $900 million in sponsorships for both the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and the 2012 Summer Games in London. The sponsorship money guaranteed the brands would be front and center for everything from preliminary rounds to the closing ceremonies.

33. Sponsorship then...

Olympic Rings
Public Domain

In 1948, advertisers were charged the equivalent of $338 to showcase the familiar Winter Olympics symbol of five rings. This would be equal to $9,138 in today's dollars and is one amazing deal.

34. Exit through the gift shop

Blurred shopping mall : Book store and gift shop
Blur Day Blur Night / Shutterstock

Olympics organizers in South Korea have opened more than 30 shops selling some 50 officially licensed items, including plush toys of official mascots Soohorang (a white tiger) and Bandabi (an Asiatic black bear). The pair can be purchased on eBay for around $60.

35. The break-even point

Vancouver Olympic Flame Plaza.  Sunset shot of Vancouver 2010 Winter Games flame.
GordYVR / Shutterstock

The Vancouver 2010 Winter Games were the last Olympics to officially break even for its organizing committee, but only after significant government funding was kicked in. The Canadian government contributed $74.4 million, British Columbia gave $113.4 million and other governments ponied up $176 million. The International Olympic Committee coughed up $659 million in sponsorships and contributions to cover the rest of the tab.

36. Costly upkeep

New complex of ski springboards against the blue sky in  Russia, in city Nizhniy Tagil
S.Z. / Shutterstock

South Koreak's bid for the 2018 Winter Games was led by the provincial government of Gangwon. It is estimated that the management of the six Olympic sites as attractions for tourists and world-class athletes after the games will put the province in a yearly deficit of $8.5 million.

37. The forest through the trees

Professional competition in nordic ski - world cup in north of Europe - Concept image for winter olympic games 2018 in Pyeongchang - South Korea
kovop58 / Shutterstock

The area where the downhill ski course will wind its way through the Korean mountains is regarded as a sacred place by the local population. Part of the deal made by the South Korean organizers was to restore the naturally forested area back to its original state after the games, which will cost organizers an estimated $95 million dollars.

38. It's only temporary

Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium
SBS News

After the 2018 Pyeongchang games, the national stadium built for the Winter Olympics at an estimated cost of $78 million will be torn down. It has a capacity for 35,000 spectators, but the town where it's located is home to just 40,000 people!

39. Thanks, but no thanks

Innsbruck, Austria. Aerial view of Innsbruck, Austria during the winter morning, with snow and mountains at the background.
Madrugada Verde / Shutterstock

In 1972, Denver became the first and only city to formally reject an offer to host the Winter Olympics. The local organizing committee informed the International Olympic Committee that Denver couldn't go forward in the role because of a lack of funds, facilities and infrastructure. The 1976 Winter Games were held in Innsbruck, Austria, instead.

40. Watch what happens live

Hand of man holding remote control  TV on sport channel program background
Love the wind / Shutterstock

NBC has been infamous in the past for tape-delaying events and replaying them in prime-time — when the network can demand the most ad dollars. From hockey games to short-track speed skating, no matter when the big events happened you'd have to until 5 p.m. to midnight local time to watch in the U.S. However, for the first time, NBC plans to broadcast all events live.

41. Staying in the neighborhood

Nagano 98
Public Domain

The first Winter Olympics ever hosted outside of Europe or North America were held in 1972 in Sapporo, Japan. Now, Asian nations have won the right to host to back-to-back Winter Games, in Pyeongchang and Beijing.


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Scott was formerly a freelance contributor to Moneywise.

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