The Sports Examiner: IOC ready to disassemble Winter Games due to climate

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The International Olympic Committee has loudly worried about where mid-century editions of the Olympic Winter Games will be held.

Continuing climate issues have clouded the future adequacy of potential hosts for the snow events to the point where the event may be rotated among safe sites, or completely disassembled.

In a lengthy post for the site, former longtime Associated Press Olympic correspondent Steve Wilson (GBR) explored the current thinking about what to do about Winter Games as early as 2050.

Said Christophe Dubi, the IOC’s Olympic Games Executive Director:

“I don’t think there is a Doomsday scenario where we say, ‘OK, by 2050 no more Olympic Winter Games.’ But the Games will have had to have adapted themselves to the conditions at that point in time.

“Sometimes the period you are in requires longer-time thinking and sometimes it’s immediate actions that are needed. I think for the Winter Olympics we are at a point where both are needed. We need to find some really compelling evolutions for the immediate future.”

The short-term answer came on 29 November as the IOC Executive Board selected the French Alps bid for “targeted dialogue” with a view to selection as host for 2030, Salt Lake City for 2034 and a “preferred” dialogue with Switzerland to modify its bid in order to be selected for 2038. That will give the IOC some time to figure what to do in the 2040s.

The story also specified requirements in finer detail:

“The [Executive Board] recommended that the IOC targets future potential hosts that use, if possible, only existing or temporary venues and offer snow sports venues that would be climate-reliable until at least 2050, with projected average temperatures below 0 degrees Celsius [32 F] during the Games period.”

The IOC’s own study indicated that suitable Winter Games hosts – by weather – are currently available in 15 countries, in which at least 80% of the sites required for the Games are extant. That number could drop to 10-12 by 2050 and possibly less by 2100.

A rotation system for the Winter Games is possible, but also has issues, such as if a country or community sours on the idea.

But there is also now consideration of disassembling the organization of the Winter Games, described with much more detail by Wilson:

● “The idea is to introduce a decentralised system in which the cost of organising the Olympic competitions would be based on the costs associated with world championships in each sport. [IOC Future Host Commission/Winter Chair Karl Stoss (AUT)] noted that the cost of certain Olympic events was four times higher than at world championships.

“‘There is no reason for such a difference in costs,’ he said. ‘There is a difference between ‘nice to have’ and ‘need to have’.”

● “Organisation of certain Olympic sports competitions would be outsourced to the experienced international and national event organisers who run World Cup and World Championship events on a regular basis. This would of course be contextual and depend on the experience in each market. …

● “Procurement would be left to separate organising committees at each of the venues. Hosts would sign up local sponsors earlier to lock in revenue for their Games budgets. Major budget items would be front-loaded to ease financial strains.”

This is a completely new concept for an Olympic Games of any kind. It foresees no requirement for an Olympic Village, and creates a hub for the Games wherever the ice events are – curling, ice hockey and the skating disciplines – and leaves the snow events to be distributed widely. That includes alpine skiing, biathlon, bobsled-luge-skeleton, the Nordic skiing disciplines, freestyle and snowboard and so on.

It’s not a traditional Winter Games, but more a collection of world championship-class events tied together by a common schedule, environmental graphics and worldwide television.

It may or may not be better, but it is a sustainable future concept, in which the Olympic program could be completely exploded to create a 24-hours-a-day “Winter Games” in which events are held in multiple countries on multiple continents across a two-week period.

Observed: Dubi has been clear in news briefings that this kind of thinking should also take the Olympic Games into account as well. The future of events, from the IOC’s point of view, is dependent on the weather and how it will be controlled to allow athletes to compete at their best and allow spectators to watch them in reasonable conditions.

This is a much better way to approach the Olympic Games from a cost standpoint than currently used, but the true discipline – not specially mentioned by Dubi, but obvious – is to rein in the wishes of the International Federations, who insist on Olympic perfection at any cost, since they aren’t paying for it, even if they expect less from their world championship hosts.

That may be more challenging than finding acceptable winter weather.

~ Rich Perelman

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