Denver looked like a cranky outlier in 1972 when Colorado voters rejected a now quaint-sounding $5 million bond issue to help pay for the 1976 Games, and the IOC moved them to Innsbruck, Austria, instead. But now look: Stockholm's withdrawal follows the Italian government's cancelling of Rome's bid for the 2020 Olympics two years ago over financial fears. Last year, voters in St Moritz, Switzerland, and Munich, Germany, also killed proposed bids for the 2022 Games because of concerns about the cost and environmental impact.
Even some leading members of the IOC admit the current trends are not sustainable.
Gian-Franco Kasper, a longtime IOC member from Switzerland as well as the head of the International Ski Federation, has said he believes the Olympic brand is being damaged and something needs to be done.
"Those costs in Sochi are enormous and a bad example for future candidates -- most nations cannot afford it," the 69-year-old Kasper recently told Reuters. "Switzerland, France could never afford such amounts. Particularly for Winter Games."
IOC President Thomas Bach, who succeeded Jacques Rogge in September, agrees more attention must be paid.
But Beijing's willingness to stay in the bidding for the 2022 Winter Games even as Stockholm bails and the Sochi organizers struggle shows a certain what-me-worry? logic may always prevail nonetheless.
Some countries will always ignore the risks and warning signs and bid on the Olympics because of political reasons or hopes of sparking a national revival or making the world view them as a bigger player on the global stage. They'll turn a blind eye to how facilities in Athens now lie abandoned and decaying. Or that even China, a nation of an estimated 1.35 billion people, can nonetheless find no use for the cycling venue that was used at the Beijing Games. It now sits empty and padlocked.
"Most economists agree with me that in the long run, staging the Olympics are not helpful [to the home cities]," says Arthur Fleisher, a professor of economics at Metropolitan State University of Denver. "Part of the problem is local, state and national level, they don't care what the data seems to say. They just get caught up in the feel-good aspect of chasing these things."
As the bid pullouts of Stockholm, St. Moritz, Rome and Munich suggest, it's getting harder and harder for more would-be Olympic hosts to mimic Sochi's leap of faith and reconcile wanting the Games.
"So there is some sanity -- a little bit of sanity," Fleisher says.
Ironic, right? The Olympics being saved by the fear of failure rather than their long-celebrated ethos of no dream ever being too big.