POSTED: March 6th 2014

NEIL WILSON: PyeongChang 2018 must aim to do as much on less

Alpensia Resort in PyeongChang / POCOG
Alpensia Resort in PyeongChang / POCOG

THE NEIL WILSON COLUMN / An exclusive, authoritative series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) Follow that, PyeongChang! No, on second thoughts, don’t.

Sochi gave us an outstanding winter Olympic Games. No arguing with that. Security and the weather defied predictions. The sporting facilities – if not the hotel rooms of the media – were ready on time and a joy to behold, and small protests against Russia’s LBGT laws did not affect the sport.

This was the first winter Games since 1980 at which I have not been present in person but by all accounts in the social and international media it ranks among the best.

So PyeongChang in four years follows a class act but the biggest mistake South Koreans could make would be to feel they must emulate it. Sochi must remain in the annals of winter Games a one-off.

The Olympic Movement will lose friends fast if it associates again with a city that throws more than $50 billion at hosting a winter Games.

Yes, we appreciate that much of that was to create a winter resort that did not exist when the city bid. Just possibly the magnificent sporting facilities will not be a herd of white elephants but a useful legacy which persuades Russians that they do not need to winter holiday in the French Alps.

But perceptions are everything, and world-wide that $50 billion figure sticks like a stain to the five rings. Sochi must remain the most expensive Olympic Games in history. We do not want to see its like in that respect again.

The Winter Olympics can never be a truly global event. Far fewer than half of the Olympic family of nations turned up. Too many of those did so in tiny numbers and were not competitive.

Only 26 countries won medals in Sochi. None did from Africa, South America or Central America. Only three from Asia won anything.

The winter Games remains a niche event, a gathering of a small clan. To spend $50 billion on bringing them together is obscene.

That is being recognized in cities where the people have a vote. Why else have Germans, Swiss and Swedes voted against their cities bidding? And of the five remaining bidders for 2022, Oslo, the most highly developed, must be a doubt with polls showing more than half its citizens opposed.

So the IOC must be breathing a sigh of relief that PyeongChang has seven of its venues existing and has budgeted to spend $9  billion on its Games.

I will not say ‘only’ $9 billion because that should be more than enough for 16 days of minority sports. The hope now must be that PyeongChang does such a good job in four years on that budget that no city ever contemplates spending more again.

NEIL WILSON reported his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. He has since covered another nine summer and nine winter Olympics for various newspapers, including The Independent and the Daily Mail with whom he has worked for the last 19 years as Athletics and Olympic correspondent. He was Britain's Sports Journalist of the Year in 1984 and is the author of seven books. 

Keywords · PyeongChang 2018 · Neil Wilson · Winter Olympics · Sochi 2014

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