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Today’s news that Beijing will host the 2022 Winter Olympics, beating out its sole competition of Almaty, Kazakhstan, came as no real surprise. The Chinese will throw enormous amounts of public funding at the Games and no doubt swaddle International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials in obscene levels of luxury.
Almaty would have been hard-pressed to match the economic might of the Chinese, although they offered something you’d think by now the IOC would value in a Winter Olympics venue: higher altitudes and actual, natural snow. However, those seem to be less and less important these days, and, as I previously posted in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek manner, the Winter Games will someday likely be hosted in a snow dome in Qatar.
IOC chief Thomas Bach, speaking last winter at the World Alpine Ski Championships in Beaver Creek, said the IOC’s new Olympic Agenda 2020 will provide more flexibility in the bid process, emphasizing sustainability and affordability. But that apparently wasn’t enough for Boston residents, who this week helped derail their city’s 2024 Summer Olympic bid before it ever got off the ground, fearing the same kind of cost overruns and tax burden that led to Denver becoming the only city to ever be awarded the Games (76 Winter) and later reject them.
However, any Colorado residents hopeful the Boston debacle could lead to the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) going after the 2026 Winter Olympics should tap the brakes fairly hard. At a press conference prior to the $51 billion Sochi Winter Olympics last year, USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said his organization if focused on landing the Summer Games first.
“We have a proud tradition on the summer side, and we’ve hosted the winter more recently than summer [2002 Salt Lake City versus 1996 Atlanta], so that’s going to be our initial focus,” Blackmun told reporters. “I certainly hope it’d [cost] less than $51 billion, because the federal government doesn’t get involved beyond security. It’s a big, heavy burden on cities and states.”
Also, Los Angeles may still jump into the fray and submit a bid for the 2024 Summer Games, especially now that it’s clear raw sewage is an acceptable venue for water-sports events (see Brazil 2016). LA 2024 would make a USOC Winter Games bid for 2026 far less likely.
It increasingly appears that the next time the United States has any shot at hosting the Winter Olympics — whether it’s Colorado, Reno-Tahoe, Anchorage, Salt Lake, Lake Placid or some dark horse like Pittsburgh (downhill at Roundtop anyone?) — will be in the incredibly distant-sounding year of 2030. Will the Olympics still even be a thing by then? Will snow be falling in the Sahara while we take beach vacations in the Arctic? Only time (and a lot of it) will tell.