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Double-City Bids and the Future of the Olympic Games

August 1, 2019

On Monday, June 24th, 2019, the 2026, the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games were awarded to Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. The Italian bid beat out the Stockholm, Sweden bid by 13 votes at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) session in Lausanne, Switzerland.

 

Italy has hosted the Winter Games twice before; Cortina in 1956 and Turin in 2006. It is said that the two Italian cities were awarded the vote because of bigger government support than Stockholm. Italy also had stronger public support for hosting the Games, placing at approximately 80%, compared to Sweden that only stood at 55%. The Italian bid also stated that they would be using many of their existing venues if awarded the bid.

 

The IOC will contribute approximately $925 million to help facilitate the Olympic Games in 2026. The Olympic Games have had host-city problems for the last few bid processes, where cities are not able to commit to bidding because of the high costs associated to hosting this major sporting event. Millions of dollars are spent just to ensure a bid – and that doesn’t even guarantee that you are awarded that bid.

 

The IOC is trying to rein in costs to make Games more attractive to potential host cities. As you might recall in late 2018, Calgarians voted not to continue on with the bid for the 2026 Games. A Switzerland and Austria referendum to host in 2026 also did not pass. Personally, I think that Calgary would have been an amazing city to host the 2026 Games – as we have great memories from our home Games from Vancouver 2010. However, the people of Calgary did not think so and one of the main reasons why is because they did not agree with the high costs to host major Games.

 

In my opinion, I think that moving forward we will start to see double-city bids to host the Olympic Games just like Italy recently did. I am a big advocate for the Olympic movement, however the Games have become way too commercialized and expensive, and single cities do not have the capacity to make them happen. Having two cities host the Games might be a potential solution in lowering costs to host the Games and making them a little more cost-effective and feasible.

 

Studies have shown how costly the Olympics can be for the host cities and how that can affect their legacy plan. Sure, some are left with useful sporting infrastructure, but often it's hastily constructed and quickly abandoned venues that are left behind and not used after the Games are over. Then there are the inevitable cost overruns that accompany things like security and the tight building schedules to which Olympic host cities must commit when hosting. The IOC’s counterargument is that the Games still deliver value to their hosts. But fewer cities seem to feel those benefits are worth the price tag, making willing Olympic hosts a lot harder to find. Perhaps recognizing its pool of potential hosts was drying up, for the first time ever the IOC took the unusual step of awarding two Summer Games at the same time, awarding 2024 to Paris and to Los Angeles in 2028. The IOC is promising to release additional guidelines to make the Olympics more affordable, including encouraging host cities to use existing venues or even hold some events in neighbouring areas that have the needed facilities.

 

Nonetheless, Milan Cortina 2026 will still have questions to answer, despite their victory as the IOC Evaluation Commission raised several issues with their plans, including venue revamp proposals, having separate men’s and women’s Alpine skiing venues, and of course fresh concerns over the fragility of the Italian economy were raised this week. Bid officials have promised to address the concerns and insisted Italy's delicate financial situation would not hamper their preparations… but how many times have we heard this said for past Games that have struggled financially? Many issues could arise if two cities host Games such as distance. If we look at the Milano-Cortina winning bid, Milan is approximately 350km from Cortina. This could cause logistical issues for certain aspects of the Games.

 

Could this lead to more double-cities developing future bids? Time will tell, especially when we see how successful the 2026 Games will be and if we will see a trend of double-cities bid to host future Olympic Games. As a bid promoter of the Olympic movement and Olympic values, I really hope that the IOC will make changes in order to make hosting the greatest sporting event on Earth more appealing to future host cities. This will be critical as well to turn away from the commercial aspect and bring the Games back to what the Olympics were originally created for by Pierre de Coubertin - to promote peace and unity within the international community through the medium of sports.

 

References

 

Morgan, L. Milan Cortina d'Ampezzo awareded 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. Inside the Games. Retrieved from: https://www.insidethegames.biz/articles/1081151/milan-cortina-dampezzo-awarded-2026-winter-olympic-and-paralympic-games

 

Strashin, J. (2019). The Olympics have a host-city problem. CBC Sports. Retrieved from: https://www.cbc.ca/sports/olympics/olympics-host-city-problem-1.4414207

 

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