Last week, the Italian Premier nixed Rome's chances at bidding for the 2020 Olympics.  The reason, he said, was the financial crisis gripping the country.  While some in the IOC apparently were surprised, there's no doubt that Italy made the right move.  The IOC requires bid cities to provide guarantees that their government will cover the cost of any deficit.  And given the austerity measures that Italy must enact to avoid going the way of Greece, it could be considered reckless to spend billions of dollars on securing the games.

Speaking of Greece...  It's difficult to look at the current debt crisis in Greece without looking at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.  The Athens games went wildly beyond their projected budget (the Guardian says they were at least €2.4 billion over), a tab that still haunts the tiny country's economy.  Greeks had emotional reasons for bringing the games to Athens--Greece is the birthplace of the Olympics, after all--but they don't have the stomachs for the austerity measures that now have to be force-fed by the government.

Lesson number 1: Regardless of their size, games MUST have the financial backing.

Which leads to Salt Lake City.  The projected budget was nearly that of the much larger summer games in Sydney 2000, but Salt Lake had the backing of the world's largest economy.  And the Salt Lake games paid off: "[Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce Spokesman Marty] Carpenter said the Salt Lake Chamber credits the Olympics witw(sic) $4.8 billion in sales, 35,000 job years of employment, $1.5 billion in earnings for Utah workers and, as well as $250 million in venture capital, from 1996 to 2002."  The 2002 games themselves cost $2.1 billion, but over a 5 year period from 1998 to 2003, they generated a net revenue of $76 million for the state and the country.  The lesson from Salt Lake: big games must have big backing.

The 2010 games in Vancouver will likely have the same effect, though it's too soon to tell for sure.  A few effects have been measured: "Two other reports released by the provincial and federal governments earlier on Friday said the 2010 Olympics created more than 45,000 jobs and generated as much as $2.5 billion in real gross domestic product."  What's more significant is this: VANOC reports that the games came in on budget and on time, something "remarkable" given the global economic climate of the years leading up to Vancouver 2010.  Likewise, Vancouver had the backing of a moderately sized and what is generally viewed as a responsible economy.  The lesson from Vancouver: well-managed games leave a positive legacy and can make money even in a poor economic environment.

Let this be the "no-duh" outcome of the story, for 2020 bids and future bids: Olympic bid cities must first show financial backing.
In the past week, the United States and Canada celebrated two anniversaries. 

Salt Lake City
Ten years ago last Wednesday marked the start of the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.

These were the first Olympics with Jacques Rogge as the head of the IOC, the first after the September 11th attacks, and the first in what could be arguably a new age of global awareness for the entire world.  These games also proved to be a huge benefit to Salt Lake City and to Utah.  The state has been left with no debt; instead the ripple effect from the games have resulted in $56 million net revenue.

But these were also the last games in the United States.  And this could cause problems according to USA Today:
"Not having a home Games on the horizon, [USOC CEO Scott Blackmun] says, affects Olympic awareness among fans and impacts to some extent how much sponsor and donor money the USOC raises to train Olympians. Over time, it could diminish how well U.S. athletes perform."

Eventually the games will come back to the United States, and this site hopes that it will be in 2024 in Minneapolis.  But if this city isn't chosen, the Olympics are due for a return stateside.  Team USA is craving a home field advantage.

Our neighbors to the north still seem to be enjoying the afterglow of the latest Olympics: Vancouver 2010.  Two years ago today, Wayne Gretzky lit the Olympic cauldron marking the start of the Vancouver games.  The Canucks reigned supreme at the games, claiming their first official gold medal in a home Olympics (they were unable to do so in Montreal in '76 and Calgary in '88) as well as the first Olympics to honor first nations as host nations. 

Two years ago tonight audiences must have been wondering if the opening ceremonies could compete with the previous Olympics' ceremonies in Beijing.  While they couldn't compete with Beijing 2008 in size, it triumphed in its simplicity, flow, and technical effect.  David Atkins (known for the Sydney 2000 ceremonies) created a spectacular show--and did so in an entirely enclosed stadium.

What's next for Canadian Olympics?  There might be a Toronto bid on the table for 2024 (the mayor nixed the effort for the 2020 games).  For now, though, Toronto might just be content to host the next Pan-American Games in 2015