Why doesn’t anyone want to host the Winter Olympics?

BY Robert Pursell  May 28, 2014 at 6:57 PM EST
Why don't more cities want to host the Winter Olympics? Cost is a major factor. Photo by Flickr user Michael Kötter

Why don’t more cities want to host the Winter Olympics? Cost is a major factor. Photo by Flickr user Michael Kötter

The next Olympics to be awarded is the 2022 Winter Games. But unlike bids of the past, these games might not go to the highest bidding city, but rather, the last one standing.

The city of Krakow, Poland, withdrew its bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics Monday after a Sunday referendum showed that nearly 70 percent of voters are against bringing the games to the city.

Stockholm was the first to withdraw its candidacy in January. The number of cities officially in contention for the games has now dwindled to four from the original six.

Of the four finalist cities left — Oslo, Beijing, Lviv, and Almaty — at least two cities have major issues with their candidacy.

The bid from Oslo, Norway, barely passed its referendum in September and one of the two parties in the coalition government just voted against providing financial guarantees for the games. Now, the candidacy of Lviv, Ukraine, seems to stalled amidst the country’s current turmoil, where the bid chair has announced the city’s candidacy to be “on hold.”

Only two cities remain in viable contention: Almaty, Kazakhstan, and Beijing. But both cities present a unique issue for the IOC — neither country allows its citizens a legitimate say in whether or not to host the games, and both have a history of human rights abuses. The IOC has already been criticized for reports of corruption and neglecting the human rights records of some of its host cities; it seems unlikely the IOC will be able to find a city that will appease the public.

So why aren’t the games more sought after? The answer is multifaceted.

For one, there are the aforementioned questions of corruption. In November, voters in Munich rejected a proposed bid for the 2022 games with one lawmaker citing the, “non-transparency and the greed for profit of the IOC” as the reason the vote failed. Other cities are worried about cleaning up after the Olympics. The joint bid from Davos/St. Moritz, Switzerland, fell apart in March after a public referendum, with many voters voicing worry about the environmental impact.

Another big reason? The cost.

The 2014 Sochi Olympics reportedly cost Russia $51 billion to put together. The accommodations and seemingly hastily built venues that dominated early coverage of the Sochi Games now sit empty and unused. As NPR reported in February, the IOC pits cities against each other to come up with better bids, resulting in an arms race of sorts whereby candidate cities try to outdo themselves with overly ambitious plans. An example of this: Greece spent $15 billion to bring the 2004 summer games to Athens.

With the price tags of the games continually rising, Philadelphia and New York just announced this week that they will not be pursuing bids to host the 2024 Summer Olympics.