Thursday, May 29, 2014

Let The Games Begin… Someplace Else

Nobody wants to host the Winter Olympics in 2022.

The next Olympics to be awarded, a little more than a year from now, will be the 2022 Winter Games. Rather than going to the strongest bid, the games may end up going to the last city standing—a long list of potential hosts have given up on their Olympic dreams because the whole thing is one huge, useless waste of money.

Yesterday, Krakow, Poland, officially withdrew its bid for the games, a day after a citywide referendum where 70 percent of voters came out against hosting the Olympics. “Krakow is closing its efforts to be the host of the 2022 Winter Games due to the low support for the idea among the residents,” said mayor Jacek Majchrowski.

In January, another of the six original finalists pulled out, when Stockholm, Sweden‘s ruling political party declined to fund the games. They cited the pointlessness of paying hundreds of millions for facilities that would be used for two weeks and then rarely again, a story common to almost all Olympic hosts. “Arranging a Winter Olympics would mean a big investment in new sports facilities, for example for the bobsleigh and luge,” the Moderate party said in a statement. “There isn’t any need for that type of that kind of facility after an Olympics.”

In November, voters in Munich, Germany, rejected a proposed Olympic bid. “The vote is not a signal against the sport,” said one lawmaker, “but against the non-transparency and the greed for profit of the IOC.”

Last March, a joint bid from Davos/St. Moritz, Switzerland, fell apart after being rejected by a public referendum.

About the only places left still showing any interest are Kazakhstan and China.

One’s an oil-rich state ruled by a president-for-life, and the other’s, well, China. That’s no coincidence. With the Sochi games raising the bar to an absurd $51 billion, hosting the Olympics no longer looks like a winning proposition. The failed and aborted 2022 candidacies all have one thing in common: When actual citizens are allowed to have a say, they say they don’t want the Olympics.

The problem is that the Olympics are a huge money pit no matter where they go, not to mention a constant annoyance for people who watch anything on the many channels of NBC, who have just landed the rights to broadcast them into the 2030’s.

Here’s an idea: NBC should just buy a country that can host both winter and summer games and set up permanent venues.  That way they wouldn’t have to move around every two years.  I’ll bet that North Korea could be picked up cheap.

3 barks and woofs on “Let The Games Begin… Someplace Else

  1. Reading about the mess that is the venues in Brazil that have to be and aren’t ready in another week, I suspect few other places will want to put people through the inconvenience and expense of summer games too. Even if the summer activities are by and large cheaper to stage the stadiums and infrastructure facilitating crowd movement aren’t cheap and are mostly turning to rust and dust after the fun is over.

  2. Seems like they should find two places (one winter, one summer) and just make them permanent homes. They could build them to the appropriate level, with facilities that have life beyond one event. They would be athletic meccas for the entire world, probably making money in the off years as people flock there to practice and train on the actual olympic venues.

  3. The issue that no one ever talks about is the tension between the idea that the Olympics should only be hosted by “deserving” countries vs. the idea that every country in the world should have a shot at hosting, not just the rich ones. The bottom line is that poorer countries (countries that are sometimes called “developing” or “third world”, even though technically Kazakhstan is “second world”) tend to have worse human rights records than wealthier countries. So what is it: are the Olympics just a festival for rich countries (with poorer countries invited to join but not to ever host), or do we let poorer countries host once in a while even if it means that the host country falls short from the standards of the developed world. (I discussed this in some detail in this post from last year)

    Which is why I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Kazakhstan or China hosting the Olympics (in fact, China already has. 2008 was not that long ago, why is it taken for granted that there’s something inherently wrong with China as a host?)

    I also think that the author misrepresents Kazakhstan a bit. I mean, it is true that the presidential elections held in Kazakhstan have not been free or fair. But President Nazarbayev is actually quite popular. He probably would win if the elections were up to Western standards. And back when I was there in 2010 and Kaz was gearing up to host the winter Asian games, widely seen as a dress rehearsal for a later Olympic bid, the locals I knew were uniformly in favor of hosting the Olympics. So I don’t think that Kazakhstan is a good example for the thesis that: “When actual citizens are allowed to have a say, they say they don’t want the Olympics.”

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