IOC Mulls Incentives for Future Winter Olympic Applicant Cities

A source familiar with the plans told that the International Olympic Committee will consider offering special incentives to cities that bid to host the Olympic Winter Games starting from 2022.

The campaign to find a host for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games only attracted three bidders; Annecy France, Munich Germany and PyeongChang Korea – that’s down sharply from the seven applicants for 2014 and eight applicants for 2010. In fact, it’s the lowest number of bidders since the 1980 campaign when Lake Placid was awarded the Games uncontested after Vancouver-Garibaldi withdrew from the race.

The lack of applicants can be blamed on a number of factors including the recent international economic crisis, the growing perception that the Winter Games is a consolation to the more prestigious summer edition, and the small number of cities that have the geographic characteristics necessary for a winter Games.

Incentives that may be offered to cities that are selected as candidates but are unsuccessful include endowments to local universities to set up permanent athletic scholarships; grants towards the construction of permanent amateur sports facilities and possibly financial assistance for national teams that attend following Olympic Games.

For the winning bid, the IOC may be willing to bear 50% of the financial risk of organizing the Games – including cost overruns of any non-capital expenses. The IOC is apparently in talks with major insurance companies about the feasibility of underwriting such a risk.

“The landscape has changed and the IOC understands that they must evolve in order to attract quality host cities to protect the Olympic brand and their high-level sponsorships” the source said, asking not to be named.

It would be a new landscape indeed. Only 12 years ago the IOC was hit by a vote-buying scandal and IOC members were expelled for taking cash and gifts for their support of various bids. Now, it could be the IOC supplying cash rewards to site the Games.

It has been a strict requirement for bid cities to provide full financial guarantees and to grant IOC full indemnity in this regard – it is a fixture in the host city agreement signed by winning bidders. In fact, Chicago had to pass a new city ordinance to allow the Mayor to sign the host city agreement with this financial stipulation in order to keep its 2016 Olympic bid viable.

A proposal will be reviewed at the next IOC Executive Board meeting scheduled at the SportAccord convention in Dubai at the end of April. “Fools believe that constituents of qualified winter cities will continue to spend millions pursuing this risky venture without any IOC accountability. The IOC understands – and they are prepared to act to protect the future of their valuable brand,” the source said.

[Editor’s Note: In case you missed the hint in the final paragraph, this article was published in honour of April Fools’ Day – an annual tradition for dating back to 2004 when we published this very popular item. While many facts in today’s piece are accurate, the plan to offer incentives is fictitious. We hope you enjoyed reading it.]