GamesBids.com presents the fifteenth annual Top Ten list of Olympic Bid Stories for 2022. These stories impacted the course of Olympic host bids, or the Olympic bid process, and formed interesting plot lines and story arcs for the year.
Sports got back to close-to-normal this year, but it was anything than a normal year. It was the third year impacted by the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) new Olympic bid process that now throws standard process out the window and makes bidding more ‘freestyle’ – at least for those running the process. For bids vying to host the Games, it is now more confusing than ever.
Here’s your year-end list that will make you reminisce, smile, curse or shake your head – and maybe all of those. We follow these simple rules: only stories that played out in 2022 and are directly related to Olympic host bids qualify for the list. Tap the links to follow along. Here goes!
#10 – Qatar, and not really because of the FIFA World Cup
Most of you were glued to your televisions or devices, watching some or all of the 2022 FIFA World Cup matches that played out in November and December in Qatar. So how did this make our Olympic bid list?
In 2010, when Qatar won its controversial bid to host the FIFA event, capital Doha had already bid for and lost their campaign to host the 2016 Olympic Games. The IOC dismissed the bid before the final vote because Qataris had proposed staging the Games in October in order to avoid the blistering Summer heat. According to requirements, the IOC will only consider staging the Games in July and August in order to accommodate international sports schedules and the needs of broadcasters who bankroll most of the operation.
In order to secure the FIFA World Cup Qatar promised a summertime event cooled by stadium air conditioning. But, they later changed their minds and held the event in the fall.
Doha tried bidding for the Olympics again, this time for 2020, but to no avail. A 2032 bid was also elusive when Brisbane was named host without contest
Now that Qatar has a major event under its belt, the nation has once again set its sites on the next available Summer Games in 2036. But will the IOC forget that organizers changed the dates of the event twice, and seriously upset major sponsor Budweiser by canceling beer sales at stadiums only hours before the World Cup was to open? Immediately after Argentina was crowned FIFA World Cup champs, Qatar announced a renewed effort to finally snatch an Olympic Games.
This will be interesting to watch over the next few years before the host is elected sometime after 2025. How the IOC works with the aggressive yet unpredictable and unrelenting Gulf nation will create a storyline ahead.
Doha digs in its heels as it watches 2032 Olympic bid slip away to Brisbane
#9 – Nusantara (where?) and a cast of other regions step up with bids to host the 2036 Summer Games
In August Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo announced that plans were in motion for Nusantara to bid for the 2036 Olympic and Paralympic Games. If you’re wondering why that city doesn’t sound familiar, it’s because it does not yet exist. Nusantara is a new city to be built from scratch and replace Jakarta as the capital of Indonesia. Construction has just begun in a remote location in Java for the planned city that will feature world class sport facilities, according to the President.
If you don’t believe that Nusantara has any chance, consider this: outside of the scope of this list but deserving an honorable mention is the election of Trojena 2026 as host of the 2029 Asian Winter Games. It will be staged at a yet-to-be-built ski resort in the desert-bound Sarawat Mountains of Saudi Arabia. Snow never falls and temperatures rarely dip below freezing – but these Winter Games were confirmed this year and will move forward.
Other bidders that have stepped up to join the race that won’t be decided until after 2025 include India where Ahmedabad could be site of the Opening Ceremony; Germany that will hold domestic dialogue and a referendum to decide a place and time to host; United Kingdom that looks to host in London for a record fourth time; Turkey where the five-times unlucky Istanbul will give it another try; Egypt, looking to host the first-ever African Olympic Games; Qatar trying to leverage the 2022 FIFA World Cup a s a springboard to an Olympics in capital Doha; South Korea that looks to center a bid in Former host city Seoul and perhaps jointly with another city; Mexico that is exploring possible sites that could follow Mexico City’s 1968 Games; and other regions that will emerge in the future. The IOC claims several places are involved in discussions to host in the future.
Indonesia’s new, yet-to-be-built capital will bid to host the 2036 Olympic Games
#8 – Sanctions against Russia for invasion of Ukraine and previous anti-doping infractions put a chill on bidding
Russia’s war on Ukraine that began with a February 24 invasion has had an enormous impact felt around the world. It has had a global effect on food, energy and financial markets – and even more tragic consequences for the people of Ukraine. Its effect on the IOC’s Olympic site selection process pales in comparison, but these next two storylines sum them up as necessary items on our top ten list.
Though Russia has been banned from Olympic participation due to the state supported doping conspiracy in the lead-up to the Sochi 2014 Winter Games, two-year penalties that include the exclusion of the Russian flag and anthem at the Games – and a ban from hosting or bidding to host Olympic events – were set to end this month. But with war-related sanctions imposed by the IOC and many nations worldwide, there won’t be any bids coming from Russia anytime in the near future.
This is significant for the IOC. Several cities across the nation had already been organizing for possible 2036 bids, some that would have been given serious consideration last year. But more importantly, at a time when the IOC has been struggling to find a suitable host for the 2030 Winter Games, 2014 host Sochi would have been a likely offering.
It may be a long time before the IOC considers a potential Russian bid. The invasion began just hours following the Closing Ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Games while the world remained under the United Nations Olympic Truce of which Russia is a signatory. The IOC places great importance on the truce and will likely continue to penalize the Russian state heavily for the infraction.
At least six regions in Russia are interested in hosting 2036 Olympic Games
#7 – Russian invasion ends Ukraine’s Olympic dreams – for now
Meanwhile Russia’s aggression has ended Ukraine’s Olympic dreams for a second time.
Lviv had been in the 2022 Olympic bid race but was forced to withdraw after Russia’s 2014 incursion of Crimea, leading to the election of Beijing instead.
Last year Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told IOC President Thomas Bach that his nation would enter the 2030 Winter Olympics race and the bid was confirmed by the nation’s sport minister only five days before Russian tanks crossed the border in February. Plans have since been abandoned.
But this time it’s an even bigger loss for the beleaguered nation. With a Spanish bid dropping out and Canadian and Japanese bids pressing pause, only Salt Lake City remains to host in 2030 when it prefers the 2034 edition. Instead of moving forward with the U.S. city the IOC has decided to extend the race. If Ukraine had remained a contender, it might already have been chosen as the preferred host and be getting ready for a spring election.
This has become a story that will never be told.
Ukraine reaffirms 2030 Winter Olympics bid in shadow of Russian threat
#6 – Salt Lake City trying to be everything to everyone
In 2018 the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) chose Salt Lake City as a future Winter Olympics bidder without naming a specific year. But with Los Angeles already elected to host the 2028 Summer Games the USOPC has since revealed it prefers for the Utah capital to host in 2034 to allow for a gap between the two events and maximize revenue potential. But Ukraine and Spain left the race, Canada and Japan have hit pause and no other clear contender for 2030 has emerged.
The USOPC has admitted it is on shaky ground with the IOC due to the U.S. government’s comments on China’s human rights record and its actions leading up to the Beijing 2022 Winter Games. USOPC leadership has said that it remains at the service of the Olympic Movement and will offer Salt Lake as host in 2030 if necessary and other sites aren’t available. But it seems neither side is ready for this deal as the IOC, earlier this month, decided to extend the race indefinitely and open it up to new interested parties.
This tricky USOPC balancing act has been a central theme in the 2030 bid process throughout the year.
USOPC prefers Salt Lake City 2034 Games, but ready to step in if asked to host in 2030
#5 – Spain’s 2030 Pyrenees-Barcelona bid fails to launch after partner regions refuse to agree on venue allocation
I’ll kindly ask you to click the article link below to read more details about this complicated storyline that led to the demise of Spain’s 2030 Winter Olympics bid. I found it very difficult to get my head around Spanish regional politics, especially pertaining to Catalonia, and why this bid ultimately failed. But it did – and in a big way.
This bid was more than three years in the making, and was joint among different partners at different times. But the final Pyrenees-Barcelona project was promising and seemed to be the right mix of city infrastructure in the former Summer Games host – and mountain venues. However, the partisan bickering was relentless and it became clear that the project could never move forward. It was finally called off when the two sides could not agree to the venue allocation before a set deadline, with both pointing fingers at the other for negotiating in bad faith.
Instead of compromising, someone took the ball and walked off the pitch.
However, now that the IOC has extended the Olympic bid race perhaps the Spanish Olympic Committee can come up with a new plan.
Spain officially cancels joint Barcelona-Pyrenees 2030 Olympic Winter Games bid
#4 – Again, due to politics that I don’t want to get into, the BC 2030 (aka Vancouver) Winter Olympic bid goes into hiatus
Nobody’s really sure of the status of the Vancouver-centered BC 2030 bid. It depends on who you ask.
The indigenous-led bid organized by four First Nations leaders say they are behind the Games – if plans make sense. They say a bid could be an important step in Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation journey.
But provincial leaders, who are dealing with a health and financial crisis, say they have no appetite for an Olympic project. Bid leaders were snubbed, without discussion and in October were told ‘no means no’. Indeed, leadership aside, the Province ultimately controls the financial faucet and has the final say.
The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) claims the Province doesn’t have enough details to make an informed decision, and they welcome the time extension given by the IOC (in December when the race was delayed) so parties can come to the table to discuss. The Province has since reiterated ‘no means no.’
What happens now? Without a Provincial blessing the IOC will have to pass. The COC doesn’t seem to want to give up. Do they make other plans? Maybe Calgary? There is still time.
Vancouver’s 2030 Olympic bid welcomes “more time” given by IOC, with more options for Province to consider
#3 – Sapporo sends 2030 Winter Games bid into hiding while Tokyo 2020 corruption scandal rages
When the year began, Sapporo looked set to host a reprise of its 1972 Games in 2030. But then dirty secrets from the organization of Japan’s Tokyo 2020 Summer Games began to emerge and discussions about bid rigging, bribery and indictments hit the headlines just as Sapporo was about to be seriously considered by the IOC. The anger among Japanese was so great that IOC President Thomas Bach stayed away from Tokyo’s one year anniversary celebration.
Sapporo city government had been so confident in the bid that they dismissed the possibility of a referendum, claiming earlier surveys showed great support among respondents across Hokkaido province. But the endless negative headlines began to sour public opinion forcing the bid, in December, to announce that it will go into hibernation.
They will stop “momentum-building activities,” or campaigning it seems. The bid will hide until the bad news passes.
In the meantime organizers will continue to review the project, get public feedback and possibly hold a public vote on the project.
But the bid remains in limbo and may never recover now that the IOC has reopened the race to new contenders and extended deadlines.
Sapporo suspends promotion of 2030 Winter Olympics bid to review, and survey public nationwide
#2 – The rest of the year didn’t matter as IOC, in December, hits reset on 2030 Olympic bid race
The top two stories happened on the same day, in December, just in time to make the list – and making the other 2030 stories almost pointless.
IOC President Thomas Bach along with his Future Host Commission led by Octavian Morariu hit reset on the 2030 Olympic bid race after an Executive Baord meeting on December 5. And they hit it hard.
They said that due to the climate crisis, environmental requirements for potential Winter host cities would need to change and experts would need more time to figure it all out. That delay would buy time to consider a double allocation for 2030 and 2034 editions in order to build stability for the Olympic Movement. Then, they said, the IOC would be in a position to consider a permanent rotation of host cities to lock in climate-capable venues for the foreseeable future (spoiler alert: more on that below).
That was a lot for one day.
Bach had instead promised earlier in the year that his Executive Board that day would name preferred host cities for an election in 2023. Was it the pre-existing climate crisis that caused the delay or was it because Spain had dropped out, B.C. and Sapporo were unready to move forward and Salt Lake City was eying 2034 and so… doing the math… there were no bids at the table? None.
Bach’s team did not reframe the schedule moving forward, only assuring that the 2030 host would not be chosen in 2023. That makes an IOC Session in Paris ahead of the July 2024 Olympics as the next possible election date – if it’s that soon. And – new bids are welcome to apply.
So it’s a new race. Go back to your marks, get set, wait!
Olympic Bid 2030 Reset: IOC removes timelines, considers double allocation and will allow new bids to enter race
#1 – Someone came up with the crazy idea that a permanent Winter Olympics host rotation could be set, and that’s what the future Winter Games will look like
It’s true. That’s the plan the IOC is investigating. Choosing a pool of scientifically-based climate-capable regions that could host the Winter Games in a fixed rotation, eliminating the need for Olympic bids and building stability for the Winter Olympics this century and beyond. If this moves forward it wouldn’t just be the top Olympic bid story of the year – but maybe of this century.
The IOC had few answers for us reporters when the news was unveiled early in December, but here are my questions:
- If there are so few bids ready to elect for 2030, where is this ‘pool’ of climate-capable regions that will agree to hosting multiple times coming from?
- What if new emerging winter sports regions decide to get involved a decade from now? Will they be excluded?
- What if a region in the rotation wants out later, because of, say a change in government? Or a change in public opinion? Or financial issues? But this never happens, right?
- Will it be a continental rotation, and if so how will sites be chosen? Will it be easy to pick just one place in Europe? In Asia? Will excluded places feel alienated? Rejected? Or to coin a phrase by Thomas Bach: “losers”?
Salt Lake City was first to raise its hand for this opportunity. Others, I’m sure, are just very confused.
Let’s hope we get more answers next year!
Salt Lake City “well positioned” to be among permanent Winter Olympics hosts: USOPC CEO on new, long term vision
That was 2022!
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Happy New Year, and all the best in 2023 from GamesBids.com.
A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of GamesBids.com as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. Robert Livingstone is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians.