Seven countries, two in a combined effort, met Thursday’s International Olympic Committee deadline to submit a bid city for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
If the IOC wants to avoid its perpetual hypocrisy about qualifications to be host – and save everyone a lot of time, energy and money in a two-year bid campaign – it can award those Games right now instead of waiting for the planned July 31, 2015 vote.
Then the IOC could finally say it cared about spiraling costs and legacy and not leaving white elephant arenas and venues.
The six cities / regions that have filed applications are Stockholm, Sweden; Oslo, Norway; Almaty, Kazakhstan; Lviv, Ukraine; Beijing (ice) – Zhangjiakou (snow), China; and a joint Polish (Krakow) – Slovak (Jasna) bid. The $150,000 candidature fee is due Dec. 1 and formal applicant file by next March 14.
This is a no-brainer, which means some dummies within the IOC membership won’t get it.
And the winner is. . .
. . .Oslo.
1. Atmosphere. The 1994 Lillehammer Olympics were by far the best by every standard of the nine I have covered for one simple reason: nowhere are winter sports more a part of the culture than in Norway. In 1994, it was as if Norwegians said, “Okay, we have this carnival of ice and snow sports every winter, so why not just invite the world to the party one year?” Norwegians love and understand most of these sports, and their athletes are good at them, and they know how to put them on.
2. Cost. Oslo is proposing to stage the Winter Olympics, from soup to nuts (or gravlax to reindeer steaks) for $5.3 billion. Compare that to the financial obscenity of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, where the skimming probably has reached $5.3 billion of infrastructure and operating costs in excess of $50 billion.
3. Oslo can keep costs down because it has several venues already in place (like the legendary Holmenkollen ski jump and Nordic competition areas), and it plans to re-use some facilities from Lillehammer, about 90 miles away.
4. Sweden, whose only Olympics were the 1912 Summer Games, also would be a wonderful place for a Winter Games, and Stockholm is one of the world’s most beautiful and vibrant cities. But it proposes having some of the Alpine ski events 400 miles away in Are. Although the Olympics are consumed as a TV event by all but a relatively few people, 400 miles still is a bit of a stretch.
5. The IOC cannot allow itself to be hornswoggled by Kazakhstan, an oil-rich country with corruption issues alleged to taint even its president. In Transparency International’s 2012 Perceived Corruption Index, only 37 of 176 countries are ranked more corrupt than Kazakhstan. (Where have we heard that before? Oh, yes, Sochi. Coincidentally, Russia is tied with Kazakhstan on that corruption index.)
6. Beijing broke promises a million ways to Sunday after getting the 2008 Olympics. Its winter air quality is among the worst in the world. Zhangjiakou’s air the past two days has been only moderately polluted while Beijing’s is listed as unhealthy.
7. Ukraine and the Poland-Slovakia bid just don’t cut it against European competitors based in magnificent Scandinavian capitals like Oslo and Stockholm.
8. That Oslo is bidding constitutes a mild surprise, given the Norwegians' history of disdain for the IOC, expressed with no reservations during the Lillehammer Olympics. By rewarding Oslo, the IOC would show it can rise above itself and counter the equal disdain Bavarian voters showed new IOC president Thomas Bach of Germany by rejecting the idea of another Munich bid. There is a fear only countries on the make will be interested in hosting the Olympics, as my colleague Alan Abrahamson explained in an incisive column headlined “Big problem: no Munich 2022.”
9. The Norwegians had to put up with the Tonya-Nancy circus in 1994. The Lillehammer organizers handled that with such grace and aplomb they deserve an Olympics free of such lunacy, especially since figure skating may be the one winter sport they don’t give a flying fig about, Sonja Henie notwithstanding.
10. An Oslo Games would give everyone the chance to explore all the locales frequented by detective Harry Hole in author Jo Nesbo’s mysteries. They are so much better than Stieg Larsson’s Stockholm-based books as to be reason alone for picking Norway over Sweden.