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After Sochi, Olympic Bidders Deterred by Cost Concerns

  • Henry Ridgwell

After the withdrawal of the Norwegian capital, Oslo, from the competition to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, only two bidders are left in the race: Beijing and the city of Almaty in Kazakhstan. With recent Olympic hosts spending tens of billions of dollars on the games, there are concerns potential bidders are being put off.

Oslo was widely seen as the frontrunner in the competition to host the 2022 Games, an experienced Olympic host whose people are huge winter sports fans.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg announced the government’s decision to pull out earlier this month, after an apparent lack of public support.

She says it is important to have broad support for a big, expensive project like the Olympic Games.

The Opening Ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi heralded the start of one of the most expensive sporting events ever staged - with an estimated price tag of $51 billion.

Concerns over the cost of the Games have since snowballed and global expectations are putting off potential Olympic bidders, says historian Philip Barker.

"There is often an arms race between Olympic cities to make the opening ceremony much better than the previous one, to make the facilities more stand-out,” said Barker.

Several cities had already pulled out of the running - including Munich, Stockholm, St. Moritz, Krakow and Lviv.

In many cases residents voiced concerns over the future use of the facilities, says Philip Barker.

"They have got this wonderful facility in the mountains above Sochi and yet it is difficult to get there, it is difficult for them to attract clientele to actually use the facilities in years to come," he said. "The danger is they could end up like Athens with a lot of facilities, which are in 10 years’ time maybe, falling into disuse.”

In Norway, local media reported anger at the demands from the International Olympic Committee, which purportedly included an audience with the King. Oslo’s Mayor Fabian Stang made reference to the IOC approach.

He says this was supposed to be a joyful event, but so many were skeptical, both to the IOC's way of handling it and the cost.

The IOC said Norway made the decision on the basis of "factual inaccuracies."

The Committee is left with only two bidders, Beijing, which is looking to become the first city to host Summer and Winter Games, and Kazakhstan's capital, Almaty.

Both countries have faced criticism over widespread human rights abuses. Historian Philip Barker says those concerns are being trumped by the ability to pay.

“It is after all a peace movement, as well as a sporting movement, the Olympic Games," he said. "But you look at the countries that are getting the major events at the moment; it would seem that the IOC wants someone, a capable pair of hands to do the job, who can afford to do it.”

Oslo’s withdrawal means the 2022 event will be the third Olympics in a row to be held in Asia. The 2018 Winter Games will be hosted by the South Korean city of Pyeongchang and the 2020 Summer Games by Tokyo.

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