The Olympics have weathered world wars, boycotts and corruption scandals. These days, the IOC has a new crisis on its hands - finding cities willing to host the games.
The troubled race for the 2022 Winter Olympics is a case in point. High costs and internal political opposition prevented several potential contenders from bidding. Two candidate cities withdrew and two others could still drop out.
The way things are going, the winner could be decided next year by default. Take the games, please.
“I have not seen anything like this before,” senior Norwegian IOC member Gerhard Heiberg said. “This is urgent. We need to sit down and discuss what is going on. We are at a crossroads here.”
It’s a challenge the International Olympic Committee and new President Thomas Bach need to resolve quickly to ensure the long-term viability of the world’s most prized sports event.
Changes to the bidding process and efforts to reduce the cost of the games are among the key issues being addressed by the IOC as part of Bach’s “Agenda 2020,” his blueprint for the future of the Olympic movement that will be voted on in December.
Watching closely are countries and cities considering whether to bid for the even bigger and more expensive Summer Olympics of 2024.
The financial burden is worrying potential host cities. Specifically, the $51 billion price tag associated with February’s Winter Olympics in Sochi. Olympic officials say most of that huge sum went to long-term projects and that the operations costs of the Olympics were no higher than previous games.
No matter. The public perception is that the games cost too much.
The Olympics continue to succeed as a spectacle, with huge audiences on television and online. But the field for 2022 has taken one hit after the other.
Munich and St. Moritz-Davos withdrew planned bids when voters in Germany and Switzerland voted ‘no’ in referendums. Stockholm, one of the five declared candidates, pulled out in December after the city government declined to offer financial backing. On Monday, the Polish city of Krakow dropped out after 70 per cent of voters rejected the bid in a referendum.
That leaves four cities in contention for now - Almaty, Kazakhstan; Beijing; Lviv, Ukraine; and Oslo, Norway.
The bid from Lviv has been on hold because of the turmoil in Ukraine.
It’s possible only three bids will still be in play when the IOC executive board meets in Lausanne, Switzerland, from July 7-9 to decide which cities go to the final stage. Rather than cut the field, the board would likely keep the remaining three. The host city will be selected by the full IOC in Kuala Lumpur on July 31, 2015.