David Owen ©ITG

Here's the thing: the now notorious Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games made a profit of $53 million (£34 million/€47 million) at then ruble exchange rates.

No, I have not lost the plot, or got Sochi 2014 mixed up with Pyeongchang 2018, which we were told - more often than strictly necessary - this week achieved a $55 million (£42.1 million/€48 million) surplus.

You can read insidethegames Editor Duncan Mackay’s piece about it, from 2015, here.

My point in raising this is two-fold.

Firstly, it should not really be all that taxing to achieve break-even or better on a Winter Games operating budget, which tends to weigh in at somewhere around $2 billion (£1.5 billion/€1.75 billion).

It is certainly not the minor miracle that Pyeongchang's feat of coming in with revenue of $2.245 billion (£1.71 billion/€1.95 billion) and expenditure of $2.19 billion (£1.66 billion/€1.9 billion) has been portrayed as in Buenos Aires this week.

But, equally, it is far from the whole story.

As Mackay went on to point out: "The [Sochi] Games will always be remembered for the headline figure of $51 billion (£39 billion/€44 billion), the amount Russian officials reportedly spent on constructing the venues and infrastructure to host the event."

This colossal sum has been weaponised successfully, and often unfairly, by Games opponents to scare the living daylights out of taxpayers in other cities who are considering bidding for the Games.

Sochi 2014 is often associated with a mammoth $51 billion pricetag ©Getty Images
Sochi 2014 is often associated with a mammoth $51 billion pricetag ©Getty Images

Result: lost plebiscites, a dramatic reduction in the number of potential Winter Games candidates and the passing of the halcyon era when staging the Olympics was the dream of any city with serious aspirations of attaining global stature.

As I say, deployment of the $51 billion bombshell has often been unfair.

It has certainly driven the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to distraction.

But you would have to acknowledge, I think, that in any assessment of whether Sochi 2014 was "worth it" for Russian people, it makes infinitely more sense to base one's judgement on that overall figure - even if it has never, to my knowledge, been confirmed officially - than on the $53 million operating profit.

And actually, though the doping scandal has rather spoiled things, it is just about possible to construct an argument to the effect that, yes, even that gigantic sum might be considered money well spent in exchange for transforming a little-known seaside town into a top-notch winter and summer resort and Formula One Grand Prix venue.

Of course many more, I suspect, would argue that the money would have been better spent on hospitals, pensions and the like.

But Sochi is an extreme example; the lower the overall price-ticket for an event, the greater the proportion of people one would expect to conclude in a grown-up debate that the investment was worth it - provided that investment was spent on genuinely worthwhile civic amenities and not vanity projects or white elephants. 

Such assessments rarely lend themselves to sound-bites, and unfortunately you can wait a long time for a grown-up debate on social media.

Nonetheless, my sense from long-running public debates in my neck of the woods, such as Brexit, and from reaction to Donald Trump's itchy Twitter finger, is that more people are finally starting to see the limitations of the simplistic worldview social media, for all its plus points, seems so good at promulgating.

So, the most important takeaway, I think, from this week's at times excruciating IOC Session in Argentina is that it is starting to look like that august body just might be getting its act together on this critical issue of the cost-benefit equation underlying its products - and doing so in the nick of time.

Lausanne has been passing through its own equivalent of the five stages of grief in the years since this widespread, but particularly West European, downer on hosting the Games descended.

At last, after denial, anger, bargaining and depression, it seems not only to have reached a state of acceptance of what has happened, but to have woken up to the need to do something fairly fundamental about it.

John Coates and Christophe Dubi have been toiling away in the salt-mines, paring cost from pre-existing Games projects for some time.

But the figure who convinced me that the IOC finally "gets" that its attitudes need to change every bit as much as the sometimes over-hasty judgements of those frightened by the spectre of the $51 billion price-tag was Juan Antonio Samaranch.

To my slight surprise, the Spaniard has come out from behind the outsized shadow cast by his illustrious father to emerge in the Bach era as a talented administrator with a ready phrase, a sparkle in his eye and, it is starting to appear, at least a sprinkling of his old man's legendary political nous.

"Talk about the economics of the Games, not the cost," Samaranch advised his fellow IOC members, prior to introducing a video which, while I would not concur with every phrase, and while the voice reminded me more than somewhat of one of those irritating satnavs, represented a big step forward in articulating the IOC's pitch to a suspicious and cost-conscious citizenry.

The plain fact is, the Winter Olympics is a buyers' market at present.

With every little bit the IOC becomes more generous with its offered cash contributions and less onerous in its demands - and the basic change here is that the old insistence on compactness has (needs must) been completely and utterly ditched - the closer we are inevitably getting to the point where hosting the Games will make reasonable financial sense, or at least appear a worthwhile, relatively low-risk punt, to one city/region or another.

Have the one-time masters of the sporting universe come to their senses in time?

We should know very soon.

Samaranch was playing up the three-strong field for the 2026 Games in Buenos Aires; but it remains quite possible that none will survive to breast the finishing-tape. 

In such circumstances, the plebiscite expected next month in the 1988 Host City of Calgary assumes inordinate importance.

Will it bring another humiliating reverse, or go down as the moment when the tide finally turned?

Samaranch and his colleagues had better hope that it is the latter.

Either way, this week's Buenos Aires Session may come to be seen as the point at which they at least stopped shooting themselves in the foot.