Oslo may pull its Olympic bid, starting a trend that — nah, who are we kidding, it’s Oslo

With the vote coming up on whether to withdraw Oslo’s 2022 Olympic bid — because, really, who among us is not transfixed by the Norwegian legislative calendar? — I take a look today for Vice Sports at why cities keep bidding on the Games, despite overwhelming evidence that they are a multi-billion-dollar money suck. Because while a bunch of cities have pulled out of the 2022 bidding for holy-crap-that’s-a-lot-of-money reasons (Krakow, Stockholm, Munich), and some have already done likewise for the 2024 Summer Games (Philadelphia, New York), there are still a ton of cities still eagerly in the running, even if “running” doesn’t necessarily describe their efforts at this early date in the 2024 bid process:

In the U.S. alone, we have Los Angeles, whose bid revolves around rehabbing the 82-year-old L.A. Coliseum into a “state-of-the-art” facility; San Francisco, which has a glowing recommendation letter from Mayor Ed Lee and little else in actual specifics; Boston, which is trying to sell the IOC on a “New England Olympics” with events stretching as far as Maine; and Washington, D.C., the only bid that includes an initial price tag — $4 to 6 billion—and whose website offers a helpful graphic that lists “things you didn’t know about the capital region.” (Sample: “175 embassies.” I think I could have guessed that one.)

(And yes, that $4-6 billion would probably include a stadium that would probably end up hosting Washington’s football team when it was all over. Also, would probably end up being more like $7-10 billion, given past performance.)

There does appear to be a mild trend toward pushback among cities, which shouldn’t be surprising after the last Olympics cost an estimated $50 billion. The problem is, there are a hell of a lot of cities in the world that think they can host the Olympics — especially the summer version, which doesn’t even require a particular climate — and only one winner chosen every two years. With that big a discrepancy between supply and demand, the IOC can demand a hell of a lot of velodromes.


7 comments on “Oslo may pull its Olympic bid, starting a trend that — nah, who are we kidding, it’s Oslo

  1. I’ve got to say, I think you’re missing the very important public service that events like the World Cup and Olympics do: They make public financing of pro sports venues look reasonable. If the NFL asks for a new field, at least you can feel confident that it will mostly be the people paying for it who are watching games there. When the NBA wants a new stadium, they’ll stick with it for more than the two or three months for which the World Cup will use it. Sure, Cincinnati may have gotten the short end of the stick when it came to financing, but they can always point to these international events and say “Well, it could have been worse.”

  2. I understand what you are saying JJG. But if the Olympics or World Cup are done right, it can leave an enduring legacy that reach beyond what happened on the field of play. Of course the prime examples of this happening is the 1984 Olympics and 1994 World Cup both held in the United States. Who knows? Maybe there will be a similar result with the 2022 Winter Games.

  3. I still don’t quite understand why the IOC doesn’t start looking at past cities that were great hosts. Calgary has much of the infrastructure needed to host the Olympics including mass transit and some of the necessary facilities. The IOC could save face and maybe retain NHL participation in the Games if 2022 were held in a recycled location in North America.

  4. Neil, how did London come out on the Olympics? It seemed like they had a, somewhat, sustainable plan, reused some event locations and, generally, tried to keep costs not down but at least less.

  5. Jessy, the sad part is that a successful Olympics, one which was not a net drain on the host, is the exception to the rule and a rare one at that. Most of them are a net financial drain and have a huge opportunity cost for the host so the money really should have been spent elsewhere. If the IOC was finance the venues itself then we would have a different story but I don’t expect that to change.

  6. A lot of things come up, Marty. It is just too many to count. For example, what sunk Montreal is the cost of building all those structures. With that said, there is a possible chance that Rio could become a modern day Montreal, but the difference is that plenty of their venues already exist including the main stadium. Part of Sochi’s problem was that $50 billion was spend on the 2014 games. The difference is that you only had 92 events in Sochi compared to 300 for the $40 billion Beijing games. That is $543,478,260.87 per event compared to Beijing’s 133,333,333.34 per event. I can tell you this much, the fact that Beijing wants to attempt the Olympic Winter Games is telling, but there is one thing of note here, Beijing will not get the 2022 Olympic Winter Games. The 2018 games are already in South Korea and we have the 2020 games in Tokyo as far as the current schedule is concerned. With that said, the IOC will likely suspend the bidding process, beg the USOC to select a city to host, and on the bidder’s terms.

  7. As long as there are mayors or federal politicians lusting after a monument to their ego’s, the specter of Jean (the little Napoleon) Drapeau’s boondoggle is always close at hand.