Bid delegations preparing to travel to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics to learn about hosting the Games have had to change their plans. Last week the International Olympic Committee (IOC) canceled the so-called National Olympic Committee (NOC) Observer Programme that has been designed to allow potential bid cities to experience the nuances of hosting a Winter Olympics. Officials blamed the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The programme has been a staple on Olympic Games’ agendas for decades where candidates in line to host the next event up for bid would liaise with IOC members and the organizing committees and pitch their plans to the media.
“The IOC will not host a National Olympic Committee (NOC) Observer Programme in Beijing,” an IOC spokesperson wrote in an email when asked by GamesBids.com.
“This decision has been taken in discussion with, and is supported by, all the participating NOCs,” the statement continued. “It will allow the teams on the ground in Beijing to focus on delivering the Games in the context of the current global pandemic.”
A delegation promoting Salt Lake City’s 2030 Winter Games bid (SLC-UT) was booked to travel to Beijing but last week was forced to cancel plans. Bid president Fraser Bullock, bid chair Catherine Raney Norman and bid lead Darren Hughes will instead stay in Utah to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Salt Lake City 2002 Games.
The milestone event will reportedly also include high-level planning meetings among government partners in mid-February to look forward to the future potential Games.
The SLC-UT delegation had already made plans to travel to IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland in the spring for formal talks about the bid.
Bid delegations from Sapporo and Pyrenees-Barcelona had also planned to attend the Beijing Games before the programme was canceled. Other possible bidders for the 2030 Winter Games including Vancouver in Canada and Ukraine remain in the early stages.
Under similar COVID-19 restrictions during the Tokyo 2020 Games last summer, Brisbane had just been elected to host the 2032 Summer Games and a high-level delegation from Australia was in attendance.
The IOC spokesperson said arrangements have been made to make up for the lost learning experience.
“All learnings from the Games will be incorporated into the Beijing 2022 Debrief in Milano-Cortina later this year, which will provide an opportunity for NOCs and potential future Olympic hosts to discover topics such as vision and culture; legacy and funding; operating a mountain cluster; impact and reach; and evolutions and innovations.”
Milano-Cortina is scheduled to host the 2026 Winter Games in Italy.
The Beijing 2022 Games will open on Friday, with competitions held in front of invited local spectators only and within a closed-loop protective bubble to try to stave off coronavirus outbreaks.