Oslo is withdrawing its bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics, and as difficult as it once would have been to believe, the contest to host those Games appears to be reduced to a dark-horse race between Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan.
“The I.O.C. is guaranteed a dictatorship,” said David Wallechinsky, the president of the International Society of Olympic Historians.
This is a winter-shed moment for the International Olympic Committee; one that should not come as a shock but should be a cattle prod to broad and meaningful change.
In a normal bidding cycle, both Beijing and Almaty would have been long shots, and not simply because of their dubious internal politics.
Asia already has the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. It is hardly in a global movement’s best interests to give a third straight Games to the same continent.
“The Western Europeans saying no is clearly a wake-up call, and we need to do something about it,” said Gerhard Heiberg, the Norwegian I.O.C. member who was head of the Lillehammer Olympic Organizing Committee and was a prime mover behind the Oslo bid.
But as Heiberg points out, the I.O.C. already was discussing plenty of change before Oslo’s decision. The new I.O.C. president Thomas Bach, with his Agenda 2020 initiative, is leading a serious attempt to rethink the bidding process and the Olympic sports program. The proof, of course, is in the revising, not the rethinking, but the wind does seem to be blowing toward lowering costs and focusing much harder on legacy issues — as well as working with prospective cities before they bid instead of simply judging them after they bid.
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