The wheels are in motion for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games and countries aren’t exactly falling over each other to play the host. Munich, Davos, St. Moritz and Krakow (Poland) have already withdrawn after lack of public support. Oslo is facing political reluctance and the Ukraine’s Lviv, facing a national crisis, seems certain to throw in the towel. This may mean that only two options remain for the International Olympic Committee (IOC); Beijing, which hosted the Summer games just 6 years ago, and Almaty, Kazakhstan, which has never hosted the Olympic Games. Both of these cities are rapidly developing and presumably want to create a more impressive image of themselves for the rest of the world. It’s unsurprising that there are so few Western European contenders; the Olympics are an expensive opportunity to show off their city as being economically developed which isn’t often necessary, but to some up and coming cities it’s a vital boost to the economy.
One of the discouraging factors for bidding cities may be the ludicrous investment made during the Sochi Winter Olympics earlier this year, which is said to be around $51 billion. This is most likely an exaggeration, taking into account infrastructural alternations and other external factors as well as the cost of the actual venue. Still, when the bar has been set that high, hosting the Olympics becomes a daunting challenge that many countries are not prepared for financially or socially, with few citizens in favour of such expenditures.
One of the suggestions to reduce this reluctance is that the IOC should introduce a permanent specialised team that would work on the Olympic events with the winning bidders from the outset, reducing the amount of unnecessary spending. However, one could argue that this may prevent countries putting their own individual signature on the Games.
It is also believed that cities that are suitable and financially versatile enough to host particular Olympic Games should be targeted and worked with in advance, instead of leaving it to a chance that could potentially leave a country pressured into hosting an event that has an unnecessarily detrimental effect on its economy. This would obviously go against the tradition of bidding for the Games, but the 2022 bid has proven that the system is not without its flaws.
What certainly need to be taken into consideration are the environmental consequences of preparing a city for such an elaborate event. It is simply irresponsible to disregard the damage caused by the excessive burning of fossil fuels to expand a city for the Games especially since the Winter Games rely on the rapidly-receding ice and the conditions needed for it. All this wastage of energy just to build an arena which will undoubtedly fall into disrepair following the summer of sport.
An excellent way to tackle this would be to simply reuse the stadiums of previous years – the Olympics are their single function, after all. This would drastically reduce the cost of hosting the games, and perhaps if it no longer becomes accepted that a magnificent, brand-new, lavish stadium is needed for every event, there will be more than a handful of bids for Summer 2026.