POSTED: October 19th 2017

JOHN GOODBODY: Could the IOC award two Winter Games at same time?

Sion just received government backing for their 2026 Olympic bid © Bigstock
Sion just received government backing for their 2026 Olympic bid © Bigstock

THE JOHN GOODBODY COLUMN / An authoritative and exclusive series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) The more one reflects on the decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to award the 2024 and 2028 Summer Olympics to Paris and Los Angeles respectively, the more one recognises the shrewdness of the decision.

To appoint both world-renowned cities at the same time was a precedent for the Olympic Movement but was fully justified and it has become even more justified since that decision last month. Why justified? Because in recent years, months and now days, there has been clear reluctance by many European cities and countries to stage either the Summer and/or the Winter Games.

After all, Paris and Los Angeles were the only cities still bidding for 2024, after Budapest pulled out, following the withdrawals by Rome and Hamburg, the latter a particular snub to Dr Thomas Bach, the German IOC President.

For the 2022 Winter Games, only two cities had also just remained, Beijing, who secured the vote, and Almaty. Oslo and Stockholm, both capitals of traditional winter sports nations, dropped out as did Lvov and Krakow.

With the IOC, fully satisfied and indeed heartened by its decision about the 2024 and 2028 Summer Games, has now to concentrate on the 2026 Winter Olympics. But this ambition has already suffered setbacks.

With the 2018 and 2022 Winter Games in the Far East, it was widely hoped that the next edition would return to Europe. Innsbruck in Austria, a heartland of Alpine skiing, was an early contender only for a referendum of the country's 279 municipalities to show that 53.35 percent of the population was against bidding.  The vote against the Games was particularly pronounced in Innsbruck, where 67.41 percent of electors was also against.

This is not all. Sion in Switzerland, who was unsuccessful when Turin were hosts in 2006, would be an ideal candidate. After all, the country has a huge tradition in several winter sports, has not held the Games since 1948 (St. Moritz) and houses the headquarters of the IOC. At least now the Swiss government has now decided it would back the bid but could still be affected by a referendum.

Following these two pieces of news, the IOC promptly reiterated in a press release how bidding for the 2026 Games had changed, saying that "it has been reformed and redesigned to enable cities and NOCs to have even more sustainable, feasible and cost-effective Olympic Winter Games  and to align with their local, regional and national long-term development goals."

Among those changes were a simplified and less expensive bidding process and stronger IOC support, which "will include an IOC contribution to the success of the Games estimated at U.S.$925 million". It was a strong reminder to candidates the value of hosting the quadrennial event.

 Although ideally, the Winter Games should return to Europe in 2026, several cities from other parts of the world have expressed their interest for that year, including Almaty in Kazakhstan (again), Calgary in Canada, Erzurum in Turkey and Sapporo in Japan, who hosted them in 1972.

There is also the distinct possibility of the United States. Although its Olympic Committee will be focussed on the Summer Games of 2028 in Los Angeles, Larry Probst, its chairman, said they were looking at 2026 and 2030, although the organisation seemed to prefer the latter. Given how important the revenues from American television and sponsorship are, the IOC might well be persuaded of the value of having the Winter Games in the United States for the fifth time.

However, Probst also raised the intriguing idea that if the IOC were to copy the precedent of awarding two Summer Games at the same time, it might like to think about doing the same for the Winter Games and if so the USOC would "want to be in that conversation".

That is certainly something for Dr Bach and the IOC to ponder in the months to come.

** JOHN GOODBODY covered the 2016 Olympics for The Sunday Times, his 13th successive Summer Games and is the author of the audio book A History of the Olympics, read by Barry Davies, the BBC commentator. He was Sports News Correspondent of The Times 1986-2007, for whom he received journalistic awards in all three decades on the paper, including Sports Reporter of The Year in 2001.  

****The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sports Features Communications. 

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