Lack of interest in hosting Winter Games has IOC on the back foot | South China Morning Post
  • Thu
  • Mar 26, 2015
  • Updated: 2:40pm
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PUBLISHED : Saturday, 31 May, 2014, 11:29pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 31 May, 2014, 11:29pm

Lack of interest in hosting Winter Games has IOC on the back foot

Lack of international interest in hosting Winter Games in 2022 leaves the door wide open for Beijing to make it a double

BIO

Tim Noonan has been crafting uniquely provocative columns for the SCMP and SMP for more than a decade. A native of Canada, he has over 20 years’ experience in Asia and has been a regular contributor to a number of prominent publications, including Time magazine, Forbes, The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune and The Independent.
 

Hey, you a little flush these days? Well, if you are cash heavy and thinking of cleaning some of it we need to talk. I have a unique investment opportunity.

How about hosting the Winter Olympic Games? Of course, we will have to incorporate ourselves as a nation but that's a minor issue to overcome. Of greater significance is the fact the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is in desperation mode right now and would be more than willing to take our call. Last week, officials in Krakow, Poland, announced they would pull out of the bidding to host the 2022 Winter Games because of overwhelming public disapproval.

Krakow joins Munich, Stockholm and a joint Swiss bid of Davos and St Moritz in withdrawing from consideration, leaving Oslo, the Ukrainian city of Lviv, Almaty in Kazakhstan and Beijing as the remaining suitors. However, Oslo is reeling from lack of political support and the IOC will not go to Ukraine with the on-going turmoil there. So that basically leaves two suitors: Beijing and Almaty.

The Swiss Alps hardly need the exposure of a Winter Games to become a desirable destination
Tim Noonan

Without a long list of potential host cities competing against each other, the IOC is now finding it has much less leverage and when that self-entitled group is not dealing from its usual position of strength, it gets very edgy. Like I said, I am fairly certain the IOC has time for us. And while I did say it would be a unique investment opportunity, I have to be honest and add it might not be a good investment opportunity. The IOC has long enjoyed great success and fabulous wealth by insisting hosting cities construct their sprawling infrastructure through public funds. If there is a financial deficit, as there often is, the risk rests entirely with the host.

It's not exactly a secret anymore that the IOC is playing with a loaded deck. Over the past 40 years only one summer or winter host has ever reported a profit and that was Los Angeles in 1984, which relied on a number of facilities that were already in place. In most cases, hosting the Games has brought about financial doom and in Greece the public expenditure, estimated between US$10 and US$15 billion, to host the 2004 Summer Games in Athens is acknowledged by many as the catalyst for the country's financial failure.

According to the IOC, though, not everything about hosting the Games can be found on the profit and loss ledger. There are, apparently, ancillary benefits like sustained global exposure that are invaluable. But places like the Swiss Alps hardly need the exposure of a Winter Games to become a desirable destination. They already are and, likewise, with most of the Alpine regions in western Europe, who are now routinely shunning the IOC's demands, and without them the Eurocentric IOC is deprived of the ancestral soul of their Winter Games.

With Pyeongchang, South Korea, hosting the 2018 Games, it looks like the IOC will have little choice but to come back to Asia in 2022. There is lots of stupid money in the Gulf, as evidenced by Qatar getting the 2022 World Cup. But there is no snow. Both Canada and the US have no interest in hosting and, with Europe on the sidelines, what's left?

It's also quite telling that the last two real bids remaining for 2022 are both places where public approval is a totally alien concept. But does anybody really believe the IOC will go to an unknown and uncertain place like Kazakhstan when they are having a disastrous time getting a first-timer like Rio de Janeiro ready for the 2016 Summer Games? They need a sure thing, so this is basically a one-horse race for Beijing, which will become the first city to host both a summer and winter Olympiad. And I guess that's a good thing, because they have a massive stadium in place for the opening ceremonies that has basically been empty since the 2008 Summer Games ended.

Apparently, the new head of the IOC, Germany's Thomas Bach, is open to fresh ideas on how to restructure hosting the Games and well he should be. But those changes are a ways off and the final list of candidates will be announced in July, so we still have time to get a bid together. We don't need to spend US$51 billion like Russia did either, because we don't have the sprawling network of corruption to pad that Vladimir Putin did. Four or five billion should get us in the game and, believe me, the IOC needs us much more than we need them.

So what do you say, got some money that needs to be cleaned?

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