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Why are there never as many opportunities as risks?

We are always encouraged to consider opportunities as well as threats (risks* ) in project risk management. However, whatever the project, there are always many risks to consider and manage but only a few small opportunities. Why is this?

Why are there never as many opportunities as threats Fig 1

Consider a plane with opportunities at the top and threats at the bottom. Call it ‘project space’. In the status quo there are as many opportunities out there as there are threats.
When we set up a project to take advantage of these opportunities we move the boundary between threats and opportunities deep into the opportunity side of project space.

Why are there never as many opportunities as threats Fig 2

Any project can be considered as a massive set of opportunities. The project manager and the sponsor will claim all the opportunities and sell them as project benefits to the client. What we are left with is the threat or risk that a particular benefit or benefits may not be realised. There will be opportunities around the margins of the project but these will be few and of less benefit compared with the threats taken on by the project
In summary most opportunities will be claimed as benefits by the project when it is set up leaving the threat that these benefits may not be realised.
* Risk management encompasses threats and opportunities. However colloquially, threats and risks are synonyms.