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Rio Games a Success at ‘Only’ 51% Overbudget



Rio Games a Success at 'Only' 51% Overbudget

Rio Games a Success at ‘Only’ 51% Overbudget

Will the 2016 Rio Olympic Games be remembered as a success or a failure? It’s hard to know the answer yet.

What we do know, however, is that in the bizarro world of hosting Olympic Games, the cost overruns for Rio are actually quite favorable compared to numbers from past events.

Always Overbudget

The above graphic from, a cost information site, visualizes data from a recent study by Oxford University to compare the budgets of previous games.

The study found the average cost overruns for Olympic Games to be a whopping 156% from 1968 to 2016. This means that the Rio Games were a budgeting success, at least in relative terms, by ‘only’ running 51% overbudget.

It should be noted that the study accounts only for sports-related costs, such as those relating to operations or building venues. The study excludes indirect capital costs such as upgrading transport or hotel infrastructure, since data on these costs is harder to come by, and is often unreliable. Also, some Olympic Games were omitted from the study, as they did not have available public data on the costs involved.

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

The good news for organizers is that cost overruns, as a percentage, are generally going down.

The 1976 Summer Games in Montreal caught everyone off guard after going 720% overbudget, and the city was saddled with debt for 30 years. Lake Placid (1980), Barcelona (1992), and Lillehammer (1994) were all grossly overbudget as well with 324%, 266%, and 277% overruns respectively.

However, recent games – with the exception of Sochi (289%) – have all been pretty good as far as Olympics go. The average cost overrun since 1998 has been just 73%.

The bad news for organizers is that costs, in general, are still going way up. Organizers are just getting slightly “better” at budgeting for them.

Here are the total costs for all games in the study – note that costs are adjusted to be in 2015 terms.

Olympic Games Costs

Lastly, the ugly part for future Olympics organizers?

The study found that the budgeting problems for Olympic Games are without precedent, as far as megaprojects go:

The Olympic Games have the highest average cost overrun of any type of megaproject, at 156 percent in real terms. In comparison, Flyvbjerg et al (2002) found average cost overruns in major transportation projects of 20 percent for roads, 34 percent for large bridges and tunnels, and 45 percent for rail; Ansar et al. (2014) found 90 percent overrun for megadams.

A major difference, however, is that sometimes infrastructure projects do get built on budget. Olympic projects, on the other hand, always go overbudget by amounts that seem almost unfathomable.

And, it is only in this bizarre context that the Rio Games can be seen as a budgetary “win”.

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Ranked: America’s Best Universities

Evaluated on 19 different metrics, here’s the list of America’s best universities, led by 14 private schools.



Ranked: America’s Best Universities

The latest ranking of America’s best universities is here, perfectly timed for the approaching admissions season.

“Best” is of course subjective, and U.S. News and World Report has compiled 19 metrics on which they evaluated more than 400 national universities. Some of them include:

  • Graduation rates & performance: A four-year rolling average of the proportion of each entering class earning a bachelor’s degree in six years or less. Performance is measured against predictions made by the publishers, and when beaten, the university gains a higher scoring.
  • Peer assessment: A two-year weighted average of ratings from top academics—presidents, provosts and deans of admissions—on academic quality of peer institutions with which they are familiar.
  • Financial resources: The average per student spend on instruction, research, student services and related educational expenditures in the 2021 fiscal year.
  • Debt: A school’s average accumulated federal loan debt among borrowers only.
  • Pell graduation rates & performance: the same calculation as stated above, but focused only on Pell Grant students, adjusted to give more credit to schools with larger Pell student proportions.

The website’s methodology section details how they sourced their data, the weights assigned to each metric, and their changes over the years.

From the hundreds assessed come the nearly 50 best universities that offer a variety of undergraduate majors, post-graduate programs, emphasize research, or award professional practice doctorates.

Which are the Best Universities in America?

At the top of the list, Princeton University is the best university in the country, known for its physics, economics, and international relations departments. Notably, it’s a rare Ivy league university that does not have a law, medical, or business school.

Here’s the full ranking of America’s best universities, along with annual tuition requirements.

RankSchool NameStateTuition
1Princeton UniversityNew Jersey$59,710
Institute of
3Harvard UniversityMassachusetts$59,076
3Stanford UniversityCalifornia$62,484
5Yale UniversityConnecticut$64,700
6University of
7California Institute
of Technology
7Duke UniversityNorth Carolina$66,172
9Brown UniversityRhode Island$68,230
9Johns Hopkins
9Northwestern UniversityIllinois$65,997
12Columbia UniversityNew York$65,524
12Cornell UniversityNew York$66,014
12University of ChicagoIllinois$65,619
15University of
California, Berkeley
California$48,465 (out-state)
$15,891 (in-state)
15University of
California, LA
California$46,326 (out-state)
$13,752 (in-state)
17Rice UniversityTexas$58,128
18Dartmouth CollegeNew Hampshire$65,511
18Vanderbilt UniversityTennessee$63,946
20University of Notre DameIndiana$62,693
21University of
Michigan, Ann Arbor
Michigan$57,273 (out-state)
$17,786 (in-state)
22Georgetown UniversityWashington, DC$65,082
22University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill
North Carolina$39,338 (out-state)
$8,998 (in-state)
24Carnegie Mellon UniversityPennsylvania$63,829
24Emory UniversityGeorgia$60,774
24University of VirginiaVirginia$58,950 (out-state)
$22,323 (in-state)
University, St. Louis
28University of
California, Davis
California$46,043 (out-state)
$15,266 (in-state)
28University of
California, San Diego
California$48,630 (out-state)
$16,056 (in-state)
28University of FloridaFlorida$28,658 (out-state)
$6,381 (in-state)
28University of
Southern California
32University of
Texas, Austin
Texas$41,070 (out-state)
$11,698 (in-state)
33Georgia Institute
of Technology
Georgia$32,876 (out-state)
$11,764 (in-state)
33University of
California, Irvine
California$47,759 (out-state)
$15,185 (in-state)
35New York UniversityNew York$60,438
35University of
California, Santa
California$45,658 (out-state)
$14,881 (in-state)
35University of Illinois
Illinois$36,068 (out-state)
$17,572 (in-state)
35University of
Wisconsin, Madison
Wisconsin$40,603 (out-state)
$11,205 (in-state)
39Boston CollegeMassachusetts$67,680
40Rutgers University,
New Brunswick
New Jersey$36,001 (out-state)
$17,239 (in-state)
40Tufts UniversityMassachusetts$67,844
40University of WashingtonWashington$41,997 (out-state)
$12,643 (in-state)
43Boston UniversityMassachusetts$65,168
43The Ohio State UniversityOhio$36,722 (out-state)
$12,485 (in-state)
43Purdue University,
Main Campus
Indiana$28,794 (out-state)
$9,992 (in-state)
46University of
Maryland, College
Maryland$40,306 (out-state)
$11,505 (in-state)
47Lehigh UniversityPennsylvania$62,180
47Texas A&M UniversityTexas$40,607 (out-state)
$12,413 (in-state)
47University of GeorgiaGeorgia$30,220 (out-state)
$11,180 (in-state)
47University of RochesterNew York$64,384
47Virginia TechVirginia$36,090 (out-state)
$15,478 (in-state)
47Wake Forest UniversityNorth Carolina$64,758
53Case Western
Reserve University
53Florida State UniversityFlorida$21,683 (out-state)
$6,517 (in-state)
53Northeastern UniversityMassachusetts$63,141
53University of
Minnesota, Twin
Minnesota$36,402 (out-state)
$16,488 (in-state)
53William & MaryVirginia$48,841 (out-state)
$25,041 (in-state)

MIT places second, and Harvard and Stanford tie for third. Yale rounds out the top five.

Private universities, including seven Ivy League colleges, dominate the top of the rankings. Meanwhile, the highest-ranked public schools are tied at 15th, both state schools in California.

For affordability, since the higher ranks are populated by private universities, there tends to be a broad correlation of better universities being more expensive. That said, the most expensive school in the top 50 ranks is actually the University of Southern California, tied at 28th, for $68,237/year.

As it happens, also tied at 28th, the University of Florida is the most affordable public school for in-state students ($6,381/year) and Florida State University tied at 53rd, is the most affordable for out-of-staters at $21,683/year.

However these costs are tuition-only, and don’t account for other necessary expenses: accommodation, food, and textbooks.

Best University versus Best “Fit”

Finding the best university for prospective students is more than just perusing a long ranking list.

Aside from the numerous schools present within each university—which can often be the best for specific majors—factors like location, proximity to family, campus culture, the non-academic pursuits (sports, extracurriculars, internships) are also taken into consideration.

In fact, research has found that just attaining a university degree improves future earnings potential and employability.

Furthermore, individual engagement at college (irrespective of the rank of the school in question) plays a far bigger role in learning and general well-being than simply attending a highly-ranked school.

However, for low income and minority students, attending a top-ranked school does improve future earnings considerably. For women, it also often results in delaying marriage and kids, which results in more work-hours and as a result, more pay.

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