The Sports Examiner: IOC designates France, Salt Lake City and Swiss for Winter Games 2030-34-38

International Olympic Committee Winter Future Host Commission Chair Karl Stoss (AUT) at Wednesday's news conference. (IOC video screen shot)

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Salt Lake City’s confirmation as the International Olympic Committee’s “target” to host the 2034 Olympic Winter Games was the only expected outcome of Wednesday’s IOC Executive Board meeting in Paris.

Continuing to make up the new selection process on the fly, the Future Host Commission recommended – and the Executive Board approved – the selection of the French Alps proposal for 2030 for “targeted dialogue” and created a new concept of “privileged dialogue” for Switzerland’s bid for 2038. Sweden’s bid was, for a second consecutive time, left behind.

Winter Games Future Host Commission Chair Karl Stoss (AUT) detailed the reasons for the selections in a 56-minute news conference, including:

“The IOC will now start more detailed discussions with the preferred hosts, led by their [National Olympic Committees] with the aim to award the two editions at the 142nd IOC Session in July in Paris.

“In addition, the IOC Executive Board decided to grant the non-edition-specific project Switzerland 203x a special status by inviting it into ‘privileged dialogue’ for the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games 2038.

“Why? As you know, there are four current parties with an interest in hosting the Olympic Winter Games: France, USA, Sweden and Switzerland. Commission members were deeply impressed by all four projects: technical excellence, passion for Olympic Winter sport and commitment to the sustainability principles of Olympic Agenda 2020+5.

“What really stood out about the French Alps and Salt Lake City-Utah projects were the vision for the athlete’s experience, alignment with the regional and national socio-economic development plans, and the very strong support from the public and from the levels of government.

“The Commission felt strongly that the other interested parties would benefit from more time to optimize the athlete’s experience of their future Games, and to continue to build on the burgeoning foundations of public and political support.

“Switzerland 203x has great potential with its project aligned with Olympic Agenda 2020+5, and the principles of sustainability, cost reduction, environmental protection and legacy. Today’s decision was made on these positive elements.”

Stoss made specific mentions of the attractiveness of the French and American programs:

● “Positives for the French Alps project: the vision of the rejuvenation of the Alps and [to] bring sustainable tourism in this region; the Games plan: maximum use of venues, five to four clusters, alignment with the development plans and Olympic Agenda 2020+5. Experience and skills in winter sports hosting and best practices of Paris 2024, that means sustainability integrated in every area from transport to finance, aligned to the Paris Agreement on climate change.

“And public, private sector and the highest possible government support.”

He noted that the French will be required to specify a venue for speed skating, not included in the present submittal, either on a temporary basis, or elsewhere in France or even in another country. A new ice hockey hall is proposed in Nice, but has not been confirmed; the bid organized from two regions: Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes (AURA) and Provence Alpes Cote d’Azur (PACA).

● “Positives of the Salt Lake City-Utah: that was the vision of build on the legacies on 2002 and create a future for venues and sports programs. Games plan: very compact master plan, no capital investment required. Experience in U.S. of hosting major international events in most Olympic winter sports. Exceptional public support and the highest level of national, state and city government support.”

As for the Swiss concept, while Stoss commended the available venues and expertise in winter sports competitions, but underlined that further demonstrations of public support – possibly through a referendum – and business and political support are needed. Moreover, the Swiss plan to distribute the event across the country, without an Olympic Village, has to be refined. Said Stoss:

“They have to show us a more comprehensive venue plan. The venue master plan was spread all over the country and they have to bring it more closer to some hubs, that means maybe four clusters and to bring the Olympic spirit to the Olympic Villages. So at the moment, we don’t have Olympic Villages, we have just different accommodations all over the country, and we have to discuss now in the next few years, it means latest ‘til [the end of] 2027 to bring up this new master plan as well as hopefully the guarantees and maybe a referendum. … We will encourage them – go for a referendum – then the situation will be clear for all of us.”

There is a lot of work to be done on this project. If the Swiss program cannot be formulated by the end of 2027, the bidding for 2038 will be re-opened.

Sweden’s program was praised as sustainable and “technically excellent,” but the Commission believes more has to be done to drum up enthusiasm from the public, from government and from the business sector. The financial projections for domestic sponsorship and for ticket sales were felt to be too high.

Stoss also gave a rough timeline of the next steps, saying the selected bids “have now to do their homework”:

● Feb. 2024: Submission of more detailed plans
● Mar. 2024: Submission of the required guarantees
● Apr. 2024: Site visits
● May 2024: Future Host Commission evaluations reports
● Jun. 2024: IOC Executive Board review
● Jul. 2024: IOC Session vote

Multiple questions were asked about Sapporo (JPN), once the front-runner for 2030, but now in chaos. The Japanese Olympic Committee told the IOC it was not a candidate last October, but it would be welcome to bid for 2038 if the Swiss are not able, or for 2042 as there would interest in an Asian candidature on the basis of continental rotation.

The IOC Executive Board will continue to meet on Thursday and visit the 2024 Olympic Village on Friday.

“This is one of the great opportunities for the French bid, to use all the sponsors from 2024, and they discussed already with some of the big companies in the country, and they would like to support it as well, so they have a really great [foundation] for the sponsorship. …

“With all the experience from Paris 2024 and to use it also for the next step to the Winter Games, that is a big advantage comparing to the other competitors here.”

That was IOC Future Host Commission Chair Stoss, speaking about the decisions which will likely place Olympic and Winter Games in the same countries six years apart for France (2024 and 2030) and the U.S. (2028 and 2034). And experience and money are at the heart of it.

The IOC’s Olympic Games Executive Director, Christophe Dubi (SUI), commended the Salt Lake City-Utah bid, noting:

“They have brought all the guarantees needed already, at this point in time, so it is extremely strong. …

“In Salt Lake City, we’ve had a partner now for three years now, and they’ve been incredibly patient, incredibly thorough and were able to rally everyone behind what is a superb project.”

In discussing both bids, Stoss and Dubi underscored the tie between the organizing expertise of the Paris 2024 team and the ability to turn that around for 2030. And for 2034, the IOC very much wants and needs a U.S. bid:

● The $7.65 billion, six-Games NBC television rights contract will expire in 2032 and the IOC can now offer a home Winter Games to NBC and/or other American broadcasters, and a possible Winter Games in Europe for 2038. The staging of the 2020 Olympic Games and the 2018 and 2022 Winter Games in Asia were ratings-killers for NBC.

● Stoss noted the strong desire of the Salt Lake City-Utah bid – and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee – for a cooling-off period between LA28 and its own hosting to allow for better domestic sponsorship sales options.

● Stoss also emphasized the continuing expertise of winter-sport organization in Utah, dating back to the highly successful 2002 Winter Games. The Utah Sports Commission reported that 2023-24 international competitions are already scheduled for biathlon, bobsled, luge, skeleton, cross country skiing, freestyle skiing, short track and speed skating.

There was no mention of the discussion within the Future Host Commission for the Winter Games on a possible permanent rotation of sites that will have natural snow into the foreseeable future. However, all three of the preferred bids for 2030-34-38 are in such places, allowing the IOC to continue its review of the possibilities while expecting to host its next three Winter Games in possible rotation locations.

And for the critics of the IOC’s choices of sites in places such as Beijing (CHN) in 2008 and 2022 and Sochi (RUS) in 2014, it will be difficult to harder to screech wildly about future Winter Games in France, the U.S. and Switzerland, with all three expecting to finance the events from IOC television rights, sponsorships, ticketing and licensing.

No doubt, there will be other things to complain about.

An interesting answer concerning the IOC’s compliance with its own regulations was given by Dubi. He was asked about Rule 33.4 of the Olympic Charter, which states:

“The election of the host of the Olympic Games takes place in a country having no candidature for the organisation of the Olympic Games concerned.”

Following the rule as written would prohibit the French bid for 2030 from being elected by the IOC Session meeting next July in Paris, right?

No, said, Dubi, replying that this rule only applies to a competitive election – “there are no other bids for the same Games” – and that the confirmation of an already-targeted candidature would not violate the Charter.

Really? Really?

~ Rich Perelman

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