Uphill Battle for the IOC and Olympic Venues
November 7, 2018
There is a great deal of anxiety that arises when the IOC searches for a potential city, that generally includes the country in which the city is located, both of whom would consider hosting the Winter Olympics.
The problem with this process in the 21st century is the staggering cost that is attached to hosting this event. Expenditures include the construction of new sporting facilities that may be coupled with revitalization of any existing venues, accommodation for the competing athletes and all the other participants coming from afar who are needed to work during the games. One cannot forget the security for such an event and this has become a significant cost.
What seems to be happening because of the cost of this one-off event is the difficulty of finding and convincing a city and its supporting country to be a host.
I am also not sure that a decision in the past has needed to clear the hurdle of having a plebiscite for a yes or no vote to become a host. With this happening in Calgary, it means there is something wrong with the process.
The athletes give a part of their life to hopefully, have the good fortune of becoming a participant competing in the Olympics. I don’t think anyone will debate that point and all of us applaud those competitors. There is little doubt by any of us that the Olympics are not a worthwhile international event.
There needs to be a solution to this dilemma. If the costs continue to rise for a singular event lasting around two weeks with a cost in the $5 billion range for the 2026 Olympics to be held in Calgary in 2018 dollars, and who knows what inflation and other cost overruns will be, the future may be bleak for the games. Even with facilities left behind, that cost is incredible.
What could be a solution is to change the process of choosing a host. The games could be bid on for two (or maybe three) successive times. In this instance, Calgary would host the games in 2026 and 2030. The capital costs of facilities would then be used for two consecutive games resulting in much less spending the way it is currently happening There would probably be additional costs for Calgary the second time around but it would be a fraction of the cost of a new build in another host city or country. The IOC would be responsible for ensuring that in this instance, a host (Calgary) would be provided with additional capital to upgrade the facilities, as needed, for the second time around in 2030. The result of some process like this is that instead of a games cost in 2026 of $5 or $6 billion and 2030 by some other host at $7 or $8 billion, conceivably totalling up to $14 billion for those games at the top numbers, it is more likely to be ½ of that $14 billion for the combined two games. The purpose test is being met – the games are for the athletes and the spectators and not about construction.
A by-product of this process could very likely be a renewed interest in bidding for the games when the costs are essentially cut in half. The current process is resulting in fewer and fewer parties stepping up to the plate and what if no one does? Certainly not what was intended.
Competitors and their support team? If there was a venue for two consecutive times, they may even be compelled to set up shop in the host city (Calgary) before the first date and between the first and second date because there are new facilities and the location has been settled for a fixed time line. A big win for everyone – both athletes and host city.
How could this happen?
Our politicians (and the IOC) have to become more responsible for our dollars. A common political solution to a financial problem is to raise all forms of taxes and to borrow. There needs to be some creativity thrown into the mix. The legacy of hosting the games and the afterglow of having succeeded should not be at all costs. That legacy and afterglow could come from a successful proposal for consecutive games with much less anxiety and a split of supporters for or against the event.
Without some change both yahs and nays will suffer the same consequences in the end – paying the bills.