IOC to sign Olympic hosts further in advance – Sportico.com
The lack of qualified and enthusiastic bidders seems to worry the International Olympic Committee, forcing it to change its policy to circulate the Olympic flame around the world.
In less than six months, sports fans will reconnect with the Olympics, this time for the Beijing Winter Games. The 3,000-year-old Chinese capital will be the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Games. After competing against 10 cities and spending $40 billion to host it in the summer of 2008, Chinese organizers didn’t have to rush for the upcoming winter festival. Their nearest competitor, Oslo, pulled out of the bid, leaving Beijing to beat only Almaty, Kazakhstan for February’s event.
“Rather than having five or six bidders, they are now down to one or two bidders, and possibly in some cases zero bidders,” said Andrew Zimbalist, an economist and co-author of the book. No Boston Olympicsexplained in a telephone interview. He believes the IOC has “acknowledged” there is a problem, as the Games have become too “expensive, destructive and disruptive”, and fewer cities are willing to bid.
Since 2019, the IOC has been holding closed-door bid sessions. “The public won’t be able to see the absence or disinterest of possible host cities,” Zimbalist said. “And so the IOC could avoid the embarrassment of having plebiscites or referendums where the people vote and not the host of the games.”
Anita DeFrantz, former US Olympian and longtime IOC delegate, says there is a simple solution. “What we need is a city that can host every Games,” DeFrantz said in a phone interview. “We don’t need a bunch of cities looking to be on the world stage as a potential host city and all the glory that goes with it. We got out of the promotion business.
DeFrantz explained that the IOC evaluates bidders privately, studies potential cities and invites qualified candidates to its selection session. “If the city does not respond to what the session deems appropriate, then that city will not be selected,” she said.
Ten years ago, cities were clamoring to host the Olympic Games. Government officials touted hosting the Games as an important opportunity for foreign investment, publicity and tourism. However, since the bidding war in 2013 for Tokyo 2020, fewer cities are lining up to host what could end up being a multi-billion dollar burden. From expensive sports facilities to athletes’ villages, hosts must foot the bill for the infrastructure needed to accommodate millions of visitors.
“The problem with the Olympics is that it is a very expensive and complex event,” explained Victor Matheson, professor of economics at the College of the Holy Cross. “Normally we have around 11,000 athletes in around 35 disciplines. Many of these disciplines are very obscure, and most places do not have large, world-class sports facilities set up for these events.
At the same time, pre-event economic impact studies often exaggerate the potential benefits of hosting the games. According to Jules Boykoff, a former Olympic soccer player and professor at the University of Oregon, over the past 50 years, each Olympics “has gone over budget by an average of 179 percent.” Boykoff argued that construction companies and hotel businesses are thriving after the city won the Olympic bid, but there’s no one to hold accountable when things go wrong.
“The problem with the Olympics is that the positive examples are so rare,” he said in a telephone interview. “I think it’s important to remember that the Olympics make money for people; they just don’t make money for everyone. They bring money to those who are already doing very well financially.
In Tokyo, organizers estimated the event would cost $7.4 billion. Although they tried to keep costs as low as possible, the bill to host the Olympics without spectators was around $16 billion. The IOC will publish its annual report later this year with exact figures.
There are successful examples of hosting the Olympic Games, but a significant number of cities are on the brink of bankruptcy. The cost of the Athens Summer Games in 2004 is seen as a contributor to the country’s debt crisis. Rio de Janeiro, the only South American city to host the games, lost $2 billion. The Montreal Olympics left the city with a $1.3 billion debt, which took 40 years to pay off. The 1980 Lake Placid Games, fondly remembered for the “Miracle on Ice” of American hockey, needed two government bailouts to pay off multimillion-dollar debts left as a result of the event. The actual cost of the Nagano Winter Olympics in Japan remains unknown as the deputy secretary of the Olympic bid committee reportedly told organizers to burn the documents after the staggering loss.
Some experts say that following examples of how host cities have suffered, more cities will pull out of tenders to avoid the economic downturn and backlash from the public. Every recent Olympics has seen cities drop out. The IOC has started confirming cities 11 years in advance to give local authorities more time to plan and build infrastructure. Previously, host cities were selected seven years before the Games.
Paris will host the next Summer Olympics, and in 2028 the Games return to Los Angeles for the third time. During the Tokyo Games, the IOC announced that Brisbane, Australia will host the 2032 Summer Games. All three cities seem happy to host the world’s most famous global sporting event. The IOC’s argument is that feeling proud should be enough. Expecting a comeback is not what the Olympics are about.
Judith Grant-Long, an associate professor of sports management at the University of Michigan, agrees that disappointment mostly comes when cities expect a significant return on investment. “If you’re planning on having a wonderful party and you invite all your friends to this wonderful party, you expect to foot the bill,” she said. “And maybe you’ll get benefits from it in terms of relationships and social media and so on. But the return on investment is negative. And that’s what the Olympics are. It’s basically a party.”