Hosting the Olympics is nice and all, but after watching host city after host city get bludgeoned by the International Olympic Committee, and the media, for their prep work as they try to pull together what has become a colossus of an event, perhaps we’ve reached a tipping point—nobody really wants to host the Olympics anymore. While that may be a bit of an overstatement, perhaps this is more accurate: Beijing is set to be the perma-host of budget-busting Olympic Games.
How bad has it gotten for would-be hosts? Take the 2022 Winter Olympics. On Monday, the IOC announced its three host city finalists—Oslo, Almaty, and Beijing. And the problem with that announcement is that it’s uncertain if one of the finalists—Oslo—will even keep its bid in the game and one of the cities—Almaty—is in Kazakhstan. If financial volatility and political stability concerns were enough to torpedo Istanbul’s 2020 Summer Olympics bid, Kazakhstan—a wild west feeling petro-state—surely doesn’t seem like a safe bet. Lovely country, lots of oil, not ready for prime time. Or as the New York Times describes it: “a nation with an autocratic government and a dubious human rights record.” That kind of leaves Beijing—although China, in fairness, could also be described as “a nation with an autocratic government and a dubious human rights record”—as the already tested frontrunner to be the first host of both the summer and winter games.
“No matter which city is awarded the Winter Olympics, these games will forever be known as the one no one wanted to host,” the Associated Press reports. Here’s more from the AP on the ever-dwindling field of host city hopefuls:
In May, Krakow joined the growing list of cities who do not want to host the Winter Games that year. The Polish city withdrew its bid this week after residents overwhelmingly voted against the plan. Krakow had proposed co-hosting the games with neighboring Slovakia, but more than 70 percent of the voters in Krakow's referendum said they did not want to host the event. It is the latest city to reject the opportunity to host the games: Stockholm, Sweden, withdrew its bid in January citing cost; voters in Munich, Germany, rejected a proposal to host the games citing "greed" of the International Olympic Committee; and voters rejected a bid for Davos and St. Moritz to jointly hold the games. Just last week, Lviv, Ukraine, became the latest city to drop out, citing the country's ongoing political turmoil.
Why the reluctance to put on the Winter Olympics? Here’s one pretty good reason for most countries: the Sochi Games cost Russia some $51 billion to host. The “winner” of the 2022 Games will be announced next July.
* July 9, 2014: This post has been updated for clarity.