This past week saw some major decisions made at the 125th IOC Session in Buenos Aries, Argentina. The biggest decision, which will affect the Olympic Movement the most over the next decade was the election of Thomas Bach of Germany, to be the next President of the International Olympic Committee. Right out of the gate, President Bach stated he wants to change the way the bid process works. According to Gamesbids.com, Bach said he wants to make the process more inviting and more original. President Bach also has ideas on the Youth Olympic Games and the way sports are selected for the Summer Games. However, most pressing at this time, is the upcoming Sochi Olympics. In a few weeks, the torch relay will get underway and there are still many questions remaining about how IOC will handle Russia’s new anti-LGBT laws. In order for him to be seen as affecting the change he wants, and being a strong leader, President Bach must address Russia’s discriminatory laws. The longer he waits to do this, the harder it will be for the Olympic Movement to be seen as an open and welcoming organization.
The second major decision made at the Buenos Aries meetings was the selection of the host city for the 2020 Summer Olympics. Tokyo beat out Madrid, Spain and Istanbul, Turkey. Not taking anything away from Tokyo, their bid was magnificent, and they will host a superb Olympics. But, let’s face it, this was not the dramatic bid process as it was four or eight years ago when cities such as Paris and London and New York were bidding. Six months ago, the Games looked to be heading to Istanbul and the first mid-east, predominantly Muslim nation. However, after the protests and governmental crackdown of the late spring and early summer, the Games were Tokyo’s to lose. What probably sealed Istanbul’s fate was when it’s Prime Minister said, during its presentation, that his country is about peace. This coming from the same man who ordered the arrests and tear gassing of protesters. Madrid, although it finished second to Rio for the 2016 Games did not present a bid nearly as good as its previous one. That, along with continued drug use among its athletes and a significantly scaled down (austerity) games plan, and Madrid suffered a crushing defeat, not unlike Chicago’s first round elimination for the 2016 Games. The defeat was so resounding, that the mayor of Madrid has said that it will not pursue a 2024 bid.
Where to Next?
So what’s next for the Olympic Games? The race for the 2022 Winter Olympics gets under way in earnest in the next few months as cities begin to line up with bids. Since the 2018 Games will be held in South Korea and the 2020 Summer Games are now going to Japan, a bid from Asia seems improbable. Also, the United States Olympic Committee has said it will skip bidding for the 2022 Games in favor of a bid for 2024. That leaves Europe. According to Gamesbids.com, the following cities are preparing bids to host the 2022 Winter Olympics: Oslo, Norway, which just passed a referendum on hosting the Games on Tuesday, September 10. Almaty, Kazakhstan has announced its plans to bid. Krakow, Poland will submit a joint bid with Slovakia. Barcelona, Spain is conducting a feasibility study and is likely to announce its bid shortly. Bids are also expected from Munich, Stockholm, Lviv, Ukraine; Sarajevo, and possibly Beijing (though the Beijing bid looks less likely to happen now). The deadline for applicant bids is November 14, 2013. Munich will hold a referendum on November 10, to judge whether is popular support for another bid. If this list stands, there will be four cities bidding to host the winter games which has already hosted the summer games; Barcelona, Stockholm, Munich and Beijing. Of those cities, cross Beijing off the list and put a question mark next to Munich. Lviv, Krakow, Oslo, and Almaty are all but certain, with Oslo being the only the only city to have hosted a previous winter games.
The race for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games will come down to three cities: Oslo, Stockholm and Munich (if there is a Munich bid). The other cities could be seen as too much of a risk at this time and with the IOC coming under fire from its current handling of Russia’s anti-LGBT laws, the Olympic Committee may want a “safe” place to send the next few games. Lviv, Krakow, and Almaty could be seen as too “experimental.” And Barcelona, though it will bring with it warm memories of the 1992 Summer Olympics, may be seen as a summer destination and not provide the backdrop needed for a Winter Olympic Games. The dark horse could be Sarajevo. They hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics, which were and still are regarded as one of the best ever. During the Balkan crisis and its civil war, there were many heavy hearts about what happened to this glowing city and its friendly people. A strong bid could bring the Olympics back to the Balkan capital as a “coming out” party.
The Bach Effect
Since the election of Thomas Bach to President of the IOC, there are many questions surrounding a potential Munich bid. Would the IOC award the Games to Germany since they just awarded the Presidency to one of their own? There are two ways to look at this; yes or no. Bach could use his new-found influence to bring the Olympics back to Germany for the first time since Munich in 1972. This is not unheard of; the late, great former President of the IOC, Juan Antonio Samaranch used his influence to bring the 1992 Summer Games to his native Barcelona. However, bidding is done differently now. Would that same kind of influence peddling be frowned upon now? Or would Bach want to save his influence and attempt to bring Summer Olympics back to Berlin? The three times the Olympics have been held in Germany (1936 Summer and Winter and 1972 Summer), a cloud has hovered over the proceedings. Hitler cast a dark shadow over the 1936 Games and the 1972 Games will always be remembered for the terrorist attack which left 11 Israeli athletes dead. A successful bid and games would help, not erase those memories, but to help bring about closure for so many people. If Munich does not bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics, look for a strong bid from Berlin for the 2024 Summer Games.
When all is said and done, the applicant list for the 2022 Winter Olympics will look like this:
- Oslo, Norway
- Stockholm, Sweden
- Almaty, Kazakhstan
- Barcelona, Spain
- Krakow, Poland
- Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina
- Munich, Germany
- Lviv, Ukraine
After the initial technical report, the applicant cities will be narrowed down. The candidate list will look like this:
- Oslo, Norway
- Stockholm, Sweden
- Barcelona, Spain
- Munich, Germany
- Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Ultimately, the winner will be one of three cities: Munich, Oslo or Stockholm. The last time Norway and Sweden went head-to-head in an Olympic bid, Lillehammer, Norway was awarded the Games over Ostersund, Sweden. This time around, if Stockholm bids, it will prevail. In a three-way race, Munich will prevail.
2024 and Beyond…
The race for the 2024 Summer Olympics is going to match that for the 2012 Summer Olympics. The capitals of several European cities are already lining-up and biting and the bit to submit their bids. As mentioned in a previous post, Paris, Rome, are likely to stage a bid. Don’t be surprised to see another bid from Istanbul. Four years removed from the unrest which foiled its 2020 bid could be just what it needs to come back stronger than before. Durban, South Africa will most likely submit a bid and look for the Aussies to enter the race as well with Brisbane or Melbourne. The real contest will take place on the North American continent. Toronto is starting to look like a strong contender and after finishing second to Beijing for the 2008 Olympics, and hosting a successful Pan Am Games, Toronto could be the city to beat. The United States Olympic Committee is still considering whether to submit a bid for the 2024 Games. Chances are they will decide enough time has passed since the debacle of the Atlanta and the Salt Lake vote-buying scandals to submit a bid. Ultimately, the U.S. race will come down to L.A., D.C., S.F., and Boston. Though Los Angeles has a strong history with the Olympic Movement, and it’s thanks to the 1984 Summer Games the Olympic Movement survived, the winner for the right to represent the U.S. in the bid process will be Boston. Washington would present too much of a security nightmare for the USOC and San Francisco pulled out of the running for 2016 and that is something the USOC may not forget. Boston has a great transportation system and the venues have the potential to be compact. Look for Boston to represent the US in the bid process for the 2024 Summer Olympics.
The list of applicant cities for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games will be:
- Paris, France
- Rome, Italy
- Berlin, Germany (if Munich does not bid and win)
- Durban, South Africa
- Istanbul, Turkey
- Boston, USA
- Brisbane or Melbourne, Australia
- Toronto, Canada
Right now, it is too early to even attempt to figure out who the winner will be. Each city will offer something completely different and will be able to provide an exceptional Games. If the IOC does not want to return to the USA, but still wants to bring in the money which will accompany an East Coast live, prime time viewing audience, they could decide on Toronto. Paris and Rome could be very strong contenders, but if Berlin bids and President Bach has been a superb leader of the IOC, look for Berlin to be an upset winner. If the IOC is looking to again broaden its horizons, then they will send the Games to South Africa and the African continent for the first time. The dark horses would be Brisbane or Melbourne and Rome.
Looking way down the road to the 2026 Winter Olympics, if the U.S. does not succeed in winning the 2024 Games, a Winter Bid would almost be a sure thing. Look for Anchorage, Salt Lake City, Denver and Reno/Tahoe to launch bids to represent the U.S. If Toronto does not bid or win, look for Canada to put forth another winning winter bid from Calgary, with the off-chance Vancouver would want to host again. Quebec City has bid before, but a recent study showed that a bid would lay a heavy burden on taxpayers, as the infrastructure would need considerable updating. There could be a bid from Japan and/or China and several runners’ up from the 2022 contest are sure to re-bid. If 2026 has an American city and a Canadian city, it will be a fierce battle to the finish line. Quebec City lost out to Salt Lake City in 2002 and Toronto lost out to Atlanta in 1996. Another U.S. vs. Canada could swing in Canada’s direction. The Vancouver Olympics set a new standard which will be hard to beat by any future host city.
Finally, the IOC last week decided on a new sport to include on the Olympic program for 2020 and 2024. Wrestling isn’t a new sport, but it was bidding to get back onto the program after being dumped by the Executive Board earlier in the year. The Summer Olympics are HUGE, there is no doubt about that. But, the process for which new sports are selected and old sports dumped has to be reviewed. Wrestling has been a fixture at every Olympic Games dating back to Ancient Greece, the fact that it had to bid to be reinstated is a travesty. In order for Thomas Bach to leave a lasting legacy on the Olympic Movement, he must change the way sports are added to the Olympic roster while ensuring the size of the Games does not spiral out of control. He must also insure that there is male/female parity.
With so much having been decided at this meeting, the next few years in the Olympic Movement is going to see some changes. Whether they are drastic or not and whether they have a long lasting effects on the games will be for only history to decide. The major issue facing the Olympic Movement right now has to deal with Russia. How President Bach handles the Russian laws will say a lot regarding his presidency and whether sports and the Olympic Movement is truly moving in the direction of true equality.