Blog From The Balcony: Musings On Olympic Bids

This blog post is coming to you live from my balcony on a beautiful 70-degree day here in Colorado Springs.

Blog from the balcony

Just thought I'd brag for a second, because blogging from the balcony is pretty glorious. It's hard to get too worked up out here on a day like this, but I felt the need to share some thoughts that've been clanging around in my head for a while now. Namely, thoughts on Olympic bids, specifically those for 2022.

(Before I continue, I kind of feel the need to say that these opinions are strictly my own and not those of the U.S. Olympic Committee. I'm also not an "expert" per se, but since I do read a lot about this kind of stuff in my free time, that probably makes me more qualified than most hacks out there on the interwebz.)

If you haven't heard much about the 2022 bids, read the following articles and you'll be pretty much up to speed. Actually, you really only have to read the titles of the first two: Has Russia "destroyed" the Winter Olympics? and The Sochi effect and the unwanted Olympics and Winter Olympics: A Look At Potential Host Cities For 2022.

In a nutshell, potential bid cities for the 2022 Winter Olympics are dropping like flies. Of the four that haven't officially withdrawn due to lack of support, two are all but dead in the water (Oslo, Norway and Lviv, Ukraine), and the two that are still alive are in countries in which the people don't have a say in the matter (Almaty, Kazakhstan and Beijing, China).

Experts, journalists, and pretty much everyone else with a keyboard and an internet connection are freaking out about how Sochi's enormous price tag has effectively killed the Winter Olympics, no city will ever want to host the Winter Olympics again, yada yada yada. But I, for one, am not buying it.

For one, a huge portion of the $51 billion it cost to host the Olympics in Sochi was not put to effective use. It was a corrupt operation. The cost would've been high otherwise, yes, but it could've been kept way, way down had business been conducted legitimately. $51 billion is by no means the new benchmark cost. Unless, of course, the future host cities want to build every single venue from the ground up and then flush billions of dollars down the toilet.

But, okay, so the most recent Winter Olympics cost $51 billion and no cities seem to want to host the 2022 Winter Olympics because of it. Those are the facts. But let's look at bids of the past, shall we? 'Cause there are some facts there too. All we need is a little context, which is where I come in!

Exhibit A: 

Bids for Olympic Games

(I underlined the year in which each host city was picked, and the arrow indicates the Games that this year corresponds to/immediately follows.)

The 1976 host city was chosen in 1970, which came after the Mexico City 1968 Olympics. Those Games are most famous for the controversial black power salute, and were also marred by the Tlateloco Massacre only 10 days before the Opening Ceremony, as well as tons of opposition. In 1970, there were only three bid cities.

The 1980 host city was chosen in 1974, which came after the Munich 1972 Olympics. I'm sure everyone is aware that those Games are known for the Munich Massacre. It's no small wonder that only two cities cared to bid in 1974.

The 1984 host city was chosen in 1978, which came after the Montreal 1976 Olympics. Those Games were an absolute financial disaster that left Montreal still paying for Olympic debt well into the 2000s. So, in 1978, only Los Angeles was crazy enough to want to bid. ('Murrica.)

The 1988 host city was chosen in 1981, which came after the Moscow 1980 Olympics. Those Games were boycotted by a large portion of the Western world. (Fun fact: people thought that the boycotts of 1980 and 1984 would kill the Olympics. So clearly experts are right on the money with their deathday predictions! /sarcasm) In 1981, only two cities wanted to bid.

Something important to keep in mind: The Los Angeles 1984 Olympics changed everything. Everything. They were the first Games ever to involve sponsors in a major way, as well as other serious corporate funding, and they were the first Games to earn a profit. This forever altered the face of the Olympic movement. That being said...

Exhibit B:

Bids for Olympic Games

The 1992 host city was chosen in 1986, which followed those 1984 Games. As you can see, suddenly there were SIX bid cities. Coincidence? Uh, how about NOPE! Seoul and Barcelona also earned profits, so bidding remained pretty stacked up through the 2000 Games. After that, the amount of bid cities slowly declined. (Three cities bid for the 2020 Games.)

Now let's look at Winter Olympic bids, since this whole bid issue is surrounding a Winter Olympics.

Exhibit C:

Bids for Olympic Games

Note about 1980: I crossed out Vancouver, the only other applicant city, because it ended up withdrawing its bid before the final vote. So Lake Placid was ultimately the only bid city.

Let me draw your attention to that first circled bit. Denver was originally awarded the 1976 Games in 1970. But in November of 1972, Denver was like LOL NO THANKS and decided to withdraw, so Innsbruck took over. The people of Denver were concerned about the huge cost and the environmental risk... but please also note that the Munich Massacre occurred in September 1972, and Denver withdrew in November 1972. This could be a coincidence, but I'm thinking that at the very least it didn't help the situation.

The 1980 host city was picked right after all of this, in 1974. Again, no small wonder that Vancouver peaced out at the last second.

The 1992 host city, as you can see I've circled, was picked in 1986, after the huge successes of 1984 (Sarajevo 1984 earned a small profit as well). And, oh hey, SEVEN bid cities! Like the summer bids, winter bids have slowly declined afterwards. (Three cities bid for the 2018 Games.)

MORAL OF THE STORY: Olympic bids are not an accident. And if you take a look at the Wikipedia page I got my info from, you can see that this stuff happens in cycles. Bidding goes from being WILDLY POPULAR to like the plague in a really short period of time depending on the circumstances (just look at 1936 and 1940). And all it takes to fix it is a couple of Games done right. Clearly Rio 2016 isn't going to be a shining example of a Games done right, but I do think that PyeongChang 2018 and Tokyo 2020 have a good chance of changing peoples' minds.

It's also kind of funny that the two times (in the post-war era) that the Olympics have been awarded to a city because it was the only one in contention, it was an American city (L.A. and Lake Placid). And now people are crying doomsday again, as America is gearing up to pick a city to bid for the 2024 Olympics. So don't worry, guys, we got this! We'll fix it! :P

Holy crap, this became so much longer than I intended it to be. Whoops. In the time it took me to write this post, it got cloudy. And then it hailed. And then it got sunny again, and now it's cloudy. (Though this says as much about the Colorado weather as it does about this post. But I digress.) So here, have a picture of Charlie as a thank you for sticking with me this long.

Dog pictures make everything a win, right?

So what was I saying? Ah, yes. I honestly think all these "Olympic experts" should just chill out and stop crying wolf about the destruction of the Olympics. Baron Pierre de Coubertin himself thought it was a miracle that the Olympics survived Paris 1900, and the movement has weathered this financial, controversy-ridden storm before. It'll be fine.

Hope you're having a happy Sunday!
post signature

No comments :

Post a Comment