23 Olympic cities ranked by property price

Adam Smith 15 August 2016

Olympic cities ranked by price

Which city takes the gold for the most expensive property prices?

The Olympic Games are upon us once again, our quadrennial opportunity to celebrate sportsmanship, unity, diversity and briefly caring about javelin throwing. Twenty-three different cities have played host to the modern Summer Games. In the spirit of competition, we’ve ranked them by their property prices.

23. St. Louis (1904)

$1,820 per square metre

The 1904 Olympics were the first modern games to be held outside Europe. The games were held concurrently with the World’s Fair, with Olympic events serving mostly as a sideshow for more popular attractions. While St. Louis is the cheapest property market in our Olympic competition, home sales in the city have been heating up. Transactions were up 7% year-on-year as of July, according to REALTORS.

22. Atlanta (1996)

Atlanta

$2,715 per square metre

The 1996 Olympics were full of iconic performances: the US Women’s Gymnastics team winning its first team gold after Kerry Strug landed a vault on a broken ankle; Australia’s Kieren Perkins and Daniel Kowalski taking gold and silver in the men’s 1500m freestyle; Michael Johnson’s gold shoes. The Olympics were also marred by tragedy, when a bomb exploded in Centennial Olympic Park, injuring 111 and resulting in two deaths. Atlanta’s property market was hard-hit by the global financial crisis, but is rebounding strongly. House prices grew by 10.3% over the last year.

21. Antwerp (1920)

$3,628 per square metre

The 1920 Olympics saw the games get back on track after they were cancelled due to World War I. Europe still nursed grudges over the war, however, and the International Olympic Committee banned Hungary, Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire from competition. Antwerp is a surprisingly affordable European city. You can find an apartment for sale in the city centre for less than $4,000 per square metre.

20. Amsterdam (1928)

$3,632 per square metre

The 1928 Olympics marked the first time the Olympic flame was lit as part of the Games’ ceremony, though the traditional torch relay wouldn’t make its debut until 1936. The Games also marked the start of the tradition of beginning the parade of nations with Greece and ending with the host nation. Undersupply in Amsterdam has seen the property market surge, and some economists warn it’s in danger of overheating. While the Dutch capital is still relatively affordable compared to other European cities, house prices rose 21% in the first quarter of the year alone.

19. Mexico City (1968)

$3,793 per square metre

The 1968 Olympics resulted in what might be one of the most iconic images in the history of the Games. Men’s 200m gold and bronze medallists Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised gloved fists in the air during the medal ceremony, showing solidarity with the American civil rights movement. Australian silver medallist Peter Norman, who suggested the single gloves to Smith and Carlos, also stood in solidarity, wearing an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge. The fallout from the political statement saw Smith, Carlos and Norman punished by their countries’ Olympic authorities. Norman was even shut out of the opening ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. With more than 21 million people, Mexico City is the largest metropolitan area in the western hemisphere. Property in the city goes for a little less than $4,000 per square metre.

18. Montreal (1976)

Montreal

$4,007 per square metre

Most African nations boycotted the 1976 Olympics due to the International Olympic Committee’s refusal to ban New Zealand following the NZ rugby team’s tour of apartheid South Africa. Other global sporting bodies had instituted a policy of banning any nation which took part in sporting events in South Africa, but the IOC would not follow suit. The Games also saw Romanian gymnast Nadia Comăneci become the first Olympian to score a perfect 10 in an event. Montreal is one of Canada’s most affordable major cities. A study by Workopolis found the average income needed to buy a house in the city was only $69,000.

17. Barcelona (1992)

$4,417 per square metre

The Barcelona Olympics were the first to allow professionals to enter the basketball competition. This saw the formation of the US “Dream Team”, stacked with future Hall of Fame players such as Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Larry Bird and David Robinson. Not surprisingly, the Dream Team cruise to a gold medal, beating their opponents by an average of 44 points. The Spanish housing market plummeted by more than 40% following the global financial crisis, but house prices are finally beginning to turn around. Barcelona, in particular, has seen growing interest from foreign buyers.

16. Athens (1896, 2004)

$4,516 per square metre

Athens is, of course, the birthplace of the ancient Olympics. The city also hosted the first modern Olympics in 1896. The first modern Olympic Games didn’t necessarily draw the world’s top athletes, but instead those who happened to be vacationing in Athens. One such competitor was Australian runner Edwin Flack who came to the Olympics as a spectator, but decided on a whim to compete. He ended up winning to 800 and 1500m. Perhaps no country epitomises the effects of the GFC more than Greece. Athens’ housing market is still declining, though the pace of decline is slowing. Apartments fell in value by 4.9% last year, an improvement from a 6.8% decline in 2014 and an 11.45% drop in 2013.

15. Rio de Janeiro (2016)

$4,878 per square metre

The Rio Olympics are now well under way, and the myriad controversies surrounding Zika virus, polluted water and an athletes' village not ready for habitation seem to have given way to the excitement of competition. Brazil’s economy has boomed in recent years, which has seen property prices soar. House prices in Rio rose a staggering 266% from January 2008 to May 2015.

14. Berlin (1936)

$7,159 per square metre

The 1936 Olympics remain one of history’s most notorious. Held in Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler saw the games as a chance to display Aryan superiority. His plan was upended, however, by the performance of African American runner Jesse Owens, won four gold medals. Germany has one of the lowest home ownership rates in the world, with most Germans choosing to rent. This makes it a market dominated by property investors. According to Institut der Deutschen Wirtschaft, new-build apartment prices rose 79% from 2007 to 2014.

13. Los Angeles (1932, 1984)

$7,418 per square metre

Los Angeles is the only US city to host the Olympics twice. It’s 1984 hosting stint saw most Eastern Bloc countries boycott the games in retaliation for the US-led boycott of the 1980 Olympics. The 1932 Los Angeles Olympics also saw Australia take its first gold medal in cycling, won by Dunc Gray. House prices in LA are at an all-time high, with the median house price creeping above $780,000. As a result, home sales have slowed, dropping 8% from last year according to Redfin.

12. Melbourne

(1956) $7,999 per square metre

The 1956 Olympics in Melbourne marked the first time the Games had been held in the Southern Hemisphere, as well as the first time they had been held outside Europe or North America. The Games saw Australian Murray Rose dominate in the pool with three gold medals, while fellow Australian Betty Cuthbert won three golds on the track. Along with Sydney, Melbourne has been one of the driving forces of Australia’s rising house prices. Capital growth is beginning to slow, with house prices rising 7.5% year-on-year as of 31 July compared to 14.2% per annum as of September last year.

11. Beijing (2008)

Beijing

$8,726 per square metre

Beijing hosted the Games in 2008, and will host the Winter Olympics in 2022. The Beijing Games were beset by controversies over human rights violations, which saw director Steven Spielberg withdraw from directing the opening ceremony. The Games were also noteworthy for American swimmer Michael Phelps’ record-breaking performance. Phelps won eight gold medals at the Games, breaking the record previously held by American swimmer Mark Spitz. While Beijing’s property market has remained stable over the last year, Colliers International reports that the city’s luxury property market is booming. Demand for luxury property has risen more than 100% year-on-year.

10. Sydney (2000)

$9,427 per square metre

The Millennial Olympic Games are widely regarded as one of the best organised and most successful in Olympic history. They also represented some profound cultural moments for Australia. Indigenous athlete Cathy Freeman’s victory in the 400m made her the first athlete to light the Olympic Flame and go on to win a gold medal at the same Games. Sydney takes the crown in Australian property, with median house prices in the city recently edging back over $1 million. While CoreLogic reports house price growth is beginning to slow, Sydney still saw a 9.1% year-on-year increase for the year to 31 July.

9. Rome (1960)

$10,411 per square metre

Rome finally got to host the Olympics in 1960, after being forced to pass on its 1908 bid due to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The 1960 Games saw a number of noteworthy performances, but perhaps none more electrifying than the gold medal won by boxer Cassius Clay, better known as Muhammad Ali. Ali returned home to Louisville, Kentucky after the Games expecting a hero’s welcome. When he was instead refused service at a local diner on the basis of his race, he threw his medal into the Ohio River in disgust. It has never been recovered. House prices in Italy have fallen for seven consecutive years. Rome’s average house price fell by 7.5% last year. But a declining market is presenting opportunities for buyers, and foreign investors have shown renewed interest in the city.

8. Munich (1972)

$10,850 per square metre

The Munich Olympics will forever be defined by tragedy. On September 5, midway through Olympic competition, a group of Palestinian terrorists broke into the Olympic Village and took nine Israeli athletes, officials and coaches hostage. During the ensuing standoff, all nine hostages were killed. Munich is Germany’s most expensive property market. According to German business magazine Handelsblatt, Munich property prices rose 41.1% from 2004 to 2015.

7. Helsinki (1952)

$10,909 per square metre

Helsinki won its hosting bid for the 1952 Olympics after its previously-planned 1940 hosting duties were cancelled due to World War II. The Games saw the Soviet Union, Israel and the People’s Republic of China compete for the first time, while Germany and Japan were invited back to the games after being banned from the 1948 Games in the aftermath of World War II. Property prices in Finland have flatlined in recent years. While Helsinki remain expensive, the price of new dwellings rose by only 0.1% last year, while established dwelling prices rose 1.5%.

6. Stockholm (1912, 1956 equestrian)

$12,273 per square metre

Stockholm hosted the Olympics in 1912, as well as playing host to the equestrian events for the 1956 Olympics. The 1912 Games saw one of the more bizarre race finishes in Olympic history. Japanese marathon runner Kanakuri Shizo stopped at a party midway through his race, then decided to abandon his effort altogether. He returned to Japan without notifying race officials. Shizo was invited back to Stockholm in 1956 to finish his race. He finally crossed the finish line with an unofficial time of 54 years, eight months, six days, eight hours, 32 minutes and 20.3 seconds. The Swedish housing market has been extraordinarily hot in recent years, and economists have warned of a property bubble. Prices in Stockholm rose 13.6% last year.

5. Seoul (1988)

$15,314 per square metre

The Seoul Olympics were the last Olympics that saw the participation of the Soviet Union and East Germany. Both countries ceased to exist before the 1992 Olympics, with the Soviet Union collapsing in 1991 and the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall preceding German reunification in 1990. Property market activity in South Korea is booming, according to Reuters. Transactions hit a seven-year high last year. In spite of this, price growth is more moderate. House prices in Seoul rose 4.29% last year.

4. Tokyo (1964)

$17,976 per square metre

At nearly $18,000 per square metre, Tokyo just misses out on a podium finish. The city played host to the 1964 Olympics, and will again host in 2020. The games saw Aussie swimming legend Dawn Fraser win the 100m freestyle for the third consecutive Olympics. Property in Tokyo is expensive, but Japan’s incredibly low interest rates make home loans inexpensive. Borrowers can get a 35-year loan at around 1.25%, according to Bloomberg.

The podium finishers

Bronze

3. Moscow (1980)

Moscow Olympics

$20,831 per square metre

Moscow snags a podium finish as our property bronze medallist. The city played host to the contentious 1980 Olympics. Sixty-five countries, led by the United States, boycotted the games over the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. The boycott saw Soviet athletes dominate the games, winning 80 gold medals, 69 silver and 46 bronze. Moscow’s housing market saw rapid price appreciation before dropping by nearly 30% last year. In spite of the price drop, Moscow real estate is still incredibly expensive at more than $20,000 per square metre.

Silver

2. Paris (1900, 1924)

Paris Olympics ranking

$23,944 per square metre

Securing the silver medal is Paris, two-time host to the Olympics. The Games of the VIII Olympiad, held in 1924, were notable in that English runners Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams dominated the 400m and 100m track events. Their story was later dramatised in the film Chariots of Fire. Property in the City of Light doesn’t come cheap. An apartment in Paris will cost you nearly $24,000 per square metre. But prices in the city are increasing at a slow pace, rising just 0.4% for the first quarter of 2016.

Gold

1. London (1908, 1948, 2012)

London olympics

$44,899 per square metre

London takes the gold, not only for most expensive property, but also for the city to have hosted the most summer Olympic Games. Its first hosting gig came about quite by accident. Rome was the intended location of the Fourth Olympiad, but the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 1906 forced the Italian government to reallocate funds meant for the games to rebuild ravaged Naples. Property in London sets the gold standard when it comes to price. At nearly $45,000 per square metre, it doesn’t just beat silver medallist Paris, but nearly runs circles around it.

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