Olympic hosting model needs radical redo
No city in its right mind would take on such a financial boondoggle
What if they had an Olympics, but no one was willing to host it?
That day could be coming, and sooner than you might think.
With news Friday that Stockholm is likely to pull out of the race for the 2026 Winter Games — just days after it was approved as a candidate city by the International Olympic Committee — there’s an ever-increasing chance no one will be left to hear its name called when the final decision is made next year.
The only other cities interested in hosting are Calgary, Canada, and the combined Italian bid of Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo. But Calgary’s proposal faces a crucial referendum next month — and polls suggest it hardly has overwhelming support — while Italy’s plans are marred by a lack of government backing and the memory of Rome dropping bids for both the 2020 and 2024 Summer Games .
As if cities needed any further reminder of what a boondoggle the Olympics is: Pyeongchang is already pondering whether to raze some of the venues it built for this year’s Winter Games because there’s simply no use for them, while Tokyo is set to spend a staggering $25 billion on the next Summer Games — and maybe more.
“They’ve got to rethink the whole model,” said Mark Conrad, who runs the sports business program at Fordham University.
One idea: rotating hosts. This idea has been thrown around for years but never taken seriously by the IOC.
At the very least, the Winter Games should move toward this concept as soon as possible given its more limited appeal and having fewer cities capable of even hosting the snow and ice events (maybe even fewer in the years to come, given the potentially devastating impact of climate change ).
Previous hosts such as Salt Lake City, Calgary, Japan (with Sapporo and Nagano sharing the load) and Norway (a similar arrangement between Oslo and Lillehammer) would be obvious candidates to serve on a rotating basis, since they have all the necessary facilities in place. Winter sportsloving countries such as Germany, Switzerland and Austria might be willing to get on board, too, if they could be assured costs wouldn’t spiral out of control.
On the Summer Olympics side, Sydney (perhaps co-hosting with Melbourne), Seoul, Los Angeles, London and Beijing all have the potential to become permanent rotating sites. It also would be a fitting gesture to include Athens, the birthplace of the modern Olympics, but the IOC would need to cough up a few billion dollars so the Greeks could fix up all the decaying, abandoned facilities left over from the financial debacle that was the 2004 Games.
“There was more resistance to this when everyone wanted to host,” said Matthew Robinson, a professor of business administration at the University of Delaware who has worked with the IOC. “Now, I think you’re going to see more of an open mind to the rotating idea.”
Also, why does a single city have to host an entire Olympics?
The size of the games is simply too much for one locale to bear, so the IOC should consider awarding them to entire countries — maybe even neighboring countries (much like soccer’s World Cup). That way, the plethora of sports could be divvied up among existing venues.