Are the Olympics broken?

Whilst Beijing and the rest of China are celebrating becoming the first city in the world to host both the summer and winter Olympics, the rest of the world is left scratching their heads as to how a city with no snow can host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

It has us wondering, are the Olympics broken?

Bidding for one of the world’s largest sporting events, boiled down to a race between Beijing (the city with no snow), Almaty from Kazakhstan (sorry but we haven’t even heard of it) and a seemingly more likely candidate, Norway. However, the Norwegians bid for Oslo, was effectively over in October 2014 when the Conservative Party withdrew its support, leaving a David versus Goliath race to the finish.

The Kazakhstani bid, based on a cheeky slogan of ‘Keeping it Real’ – a reference to real snow – possibly never had a chance against the brut spending power of the Chinese. But when the host rights are granted to a city with no snow hence the obligation to build infrastructure to get it, one has to think the system or even the Olympic dream itself is over.

It’s the winter Olympics for pete’s sake. There’s only a certain number of places that can realistically host such an event. I wouldn’t expect to see a Scottish bid for the games, even though they have Ben Nevis! Nor would I expect Australia, which despite disbelief from our northern hemisphere counterparts, actually has snow and a genuine winter sport industry (for three weeks a year), to submit a ridiculous bid for the games.

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Has the bidding system become so political that it scares off genuine contenders? Or are some countries so desperate to host the event that they will promise anything irrespective of the cost and legitimate ability to do so?

We have seen it already with the summer games. Interest in hosting the event seems to be waning as studies have shown that they are not the financial win fall they were first thought to be. On the contrary, with expectations to produce stadia that pay homage to architectural genius, the debt burden left by hosting the games leaves many host cities in financial ruin.

What’s it all for – a sporting event that lasts two weeks? TWO WEEKS! Is it not time to recalibrate our focus on these events to make sure they focus on the reason they are being hosted in the first place – a celebration of global sporting excellence? Why is there such pressure on host countries to go bigger, better and more expensive than the last?

And why should a city with no snow even be allowed to bid? Sure, we know the Chinese have the political will power, engineering capability and financial strength to pull this off, but couldn’t that money be better utilised somewhere else? It’s not like they have the greatest humanitarian record on the planet. It’s not like they are flush with oceans of clean drinking water.

Without wanting to take anything away from the Chinese, or their healthy ability and self belief to make anything happen, but it’s time to refocus how the games run, where they are held and how much they cost.

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All this at a time where Brisbane, or should I say, South East Queensland is contemplating whether to bid on the 2028 summer games. At least their plan is based on utilising infrastructure that’s largely already in place.

Tell us what you think. Should the Olympic games be simplified to make it less burdensome on host cities or should bidding be restricted to cities in which the infrastructure already exists – especially for the winter Olympics where snow is somewhat of a prerequisite! An ice rink is one thing but a snow-covered mountain is another!