The Olympics’ lesser known cousin the Universiade is coming to Taipei at the end of this week. The city has gone through years of preparations and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of hand-wringing to clean house and get ready.

But how does Taipei stack up against past events? It’s worth getting some perspective.



In 2015, Gwangju, South Korea hosted the last summer Universiade. Organizers bragged about how frugal their event was going to be, even forgoing flower bouquets and renting used wrestling mats to pinch a Won or two. They ended up spending US$248 million on the event, mostly using existing facilities.

But even the scaled-down games failed to turn the expected profit, with the Gwangju city government embroiled in a debt dispute after the games finished.

KAZAN 2013


In 2013, the Russian city of Kazan held a more extravagant event. The government doled out US$4.5 billion for extensive renovations to the city and its sports facilities, by far the most expensive Universiade to date. These facilities have stayed in use after the games – the capital of Tatarstan held an aquatics tournament in 2015 and will be one of the cities to host the FIFA World Cup in 2018.

The number most quoted in Russian state media, US$4.5 billion, is an astonishing amount for a sporting event with such a limited following – it is 40 percent of what London claimed to have spent on the Olympics and Paralympics in 2012.

Russia might be growing weary of holding huge parties. Krasnoyarsk (the third largest city in Siberia) will host the winter Universiade in 2009, but Putin is grumbling at the US$668 million allotted for the event.



Like Russia, China has been willing to devote tons of cash on glitzy venues for athletes in the past decade, spending upwards of US$2.1 billion on the Shenzhen Universiade in 2011. They failed to recoup the vast majority of their investment, leading to criminal investigations for years after.



Taiwan, according to media reports, will spend approximately US$568 million on the games. This is a significant burden to the city – it amounts to more than the city government receives in revenue in a month.

Ticket presales may have been underwhelming, but, hopefully, the hype will kick in and Taiwan will make some of its money back. If Gwangju is any lesson, it isn’t a realistic expectation to turn a profit from the event, but the press coverage will be nice.

Taipei is already much more of a household name than Kazan or Gwangju, and the city could attract more off-brand Olympics in years to come.

The Taipei Dome might even be finished by then.

Read more: Security Beefed-Up as Taiwan’s Biggest-Ever Event is Politicized

Editor’s note:

All currency conversions are in 2017 dollars.

Special thanks to Moon Dongsung for translation.