The average cost of bidding to host the Olympic Winter Games in 2026 dropped by 80 percent from the previous cycle, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced Friday, and it was further claimed “15 parties” have expressed interest in hosting various events.
IOC President Thomas Bach and Commission Chairs made the claims during the organization’s 136th all-members Session held by video conference due to the coronavirus pandemic. He credited the cost savings to reforms introduced in 2014.
“With Olympic Agenda 2020, we have a more flexible and collaborative approach to help interested parties align the Games with their long-term ambitions,” Bach said.
“This has made creating Olympic Games projects much more affordable and accessible, which was proven by the Candidature Process 2026 and the many expressions of interest we have received for future Olympic Games.”
In June 2019 the Italian Winter Games bid represented by Milan-Cortina defeated Stockholm-Åre by a 47-34 vote, but only after four other cities including Graz in Austria, Sion in Switzerland, Sapporo in Japan and Calgary in Canada dropped out of the race. Another project represented by Erzurum in Turkey was dismissed from the running by the IOC after failing to meet technical requirements.
An independently audited account revealed the average budget between the two final 2026 candidate cities was (USD) $5 million, a significant drop from the average of $35 million measured during the 2022 Games bid process when Beijing defeated Almaty, Kazakhstan.
The IOC helped cut costs by removing many of the required deliverables from the process and by reducing travel commitments. Additional services and support were provided to the bids at no cost, further lowering the financial outlay.
A bid by Calgary in Canada had budgeted at least $22 million (CAD $30 million) for its campaign before it became the last city to drop out of the race when it lost a city-wide referendum. According to local reports over $7 million had been spent preparing plans before the project was abandoned. The city was not included in the calculations.
“Before the 2026 race the budget of the Winter Games bid was $35 million, now the average of the two (2026 bids) is less than $5 million,” Bach said to Session members.
“You can see the difference that the new system makes, even before the IOC session reforms with the addition of the future host commissions.”
IOC Members did not elaborate on the details of the 15 parties interested in hosting either the Summer, Winter or Youth Games.
Prior to the coronavirus outbreak campaigns to host the 2032 Summer Games had emerged from Southeast Queensland in Australia, Jakarta in Indonesia, North and South Korea, India, Germany and Shanghai in China. Sapporo, Barcelona and Salt Lake City were in discussions for a future Winter Games.
Bangkok and Chonburi Province in Thailand along with Mumbai in India and Colombia had proposed bids for the 2026 Youth Olympics, but on Wednesday the IOC Executive Board moved to delay Dakar’s 2022 Games to 2026 – pushing others out of the way.
A statement by the IOC Friday said that it recognized current interested bidders might have other priorities during this pandemic, but it remains flexible with its approach.
Last year the IOC made further bid reforms that dismantled much of the process used for the 2026 Games to instead leverage the new future host commissions designed to proactively choose and elect candidates with a private dialogue. This will further cut costs but will put much of the host city decision in the hands of the Executive Board.
The latest reforms will significantly reduce the transparency the process had gained since the Salt Lake City vote buying scandal led to the expulsion of several IOC members in 1998.
The most recent Summer Games bids took place in 2017 when Paris was awarded the 2024 Games and Los Angeles was chosen to host in 2028. These campaigns ran prior to the implementation of measures used for the Winter Games, but bid costs were reportedly in the tens-of-millions of U.S. dollars.
In the past, costs have soared upwards to $100 million dollars, with Tokyo’s 2020 bid said to have reached that mark in cash and in-kind services.
The Session was originally scheduled to take place in Tokyo ahead of the now postponed 2020 Olympic Games but instead became the first to be held remotely by video due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. During the Session, members approved the Executive Board recommendation to postpone the Dakar 2022 Youth Olympic Games to 2026.
Amid the disruptions, Chairman of the Future Winter Games Host Commission Octavian Morariu recognized that the Movement remains viable.
He said “the current crisis has not changed the future interest in the Games,” indicating that cities remain in active dialogue to host in 2030 and beyond.
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.