It’s a sad day when the International Olympic Committee cannot even clear one of the lowest bars for choosing the host city for the Winter Games: snow.
A telling first line from the New York Times regarding the IOC awarding the 2022 Winter Games to Beijing. This is the first time the same city has ever been awarded the Summer and Winter Games, probably for the obvious reason that cities big enough to host the Summer Games simply don’t have big mountains or enough snow to host the Winter Games.
The reality is, the lack of snow did not prevent Beijing from being selected. Perhaps the main reason for Beijing’s success is that the Winter Olympics are currently considered a very expensive proposition by host cities, limiting the competition significantly. The only other candidate for these games was Almaty, Kazakhstan, which actually has snow.
In fact according to Andrew Zimbalist in his insightful book, Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup, the Olympics in general, and the Winter Games in particular, have had a declining number of applicants and candidates in the 21st century due to rising cost. As a recent example, he cites that Vancouver, which hosted the Winter Olympics in 2010 is a billion dollars in debt for bailing out investors in the development of the Olympic Village, resulting in cuts in service to education, health care and the arts, for this city of only 580,000 people.
Quite uncharacteristically, the New York Times continued to be snarky throughout this article, imagining that the IOC has opened the door to hold the Winter Games anywhere in the world. Some of their ideas:
- A St. Tropez Winter Games. (Grenoble is, after all, just 140 miles away by air.) Slogan: Forget Snow, We’ve Got Sand.
- Or Phoenix, where the luge track can run right down the side of the Grand Canyon. (It’s only a few hours away.)
- Or Dubai, where the organizers have enough cash to fly everyone to the Alps for the skiing events. Then again, I take that back: People are probably skiing there as you read this, albeit inside a giant building. So bring on the Winter Games! Slogan: Keeping It Completely Indoors.