The International Olympic Committee on Monday narrowed the list of finalists to host the 2022 Winter Olympics to three cities: Oslo, Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan.
“The IOC is very happy to see three very different approaches with regard to the organisation of the games. This gives the IOC a choice between three diverse bids, with different legacy plans, with different approaches, with different budgets,” IOC President Thomas Bach said, according to the Guardian.
The three finalists were selected more or less by default after other contenders dropped their bids. Stockholm; Krakow, Poland; and Lviv, Ukraine, also submitted bids but withdrew, the first two because of a lack of popular or political support, the latter because of the ongoing unrest in Ukraine. Bids from Munich and Davos/St. Moritz in Switzerland also never got off the ground after people in those areas voted against hosting the Games.
The three remaining cities have issues of their own. A majority of Oslo voters supported hosting the games in a referendum last fall, but a nationwide poll taken in January found that 58 percent of respondents were opposed to using taxpayer money to pay for the Games. The Norwegian government has not yet said whether it will fund the Games, and won’t make any decision until the fall.
The staggering cost of this year’s Winter Games in Sochi, Russia — many estimates peg that total at $50 billion, though the amount spent on the actual Olympics probably wasn’t that much — seems to have had a chilling effect on potential bids for future Games.
“Some people feel that that kind of money should be spent for hospitals, roads and so on and so forth,” Gerhard Heiberg, the Norwegian IOC member who was the head of the organizing committee for the widely acclaimed 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway, and is a driving force behind Oslo’s faltering bid, told the New York Times in May. “There is a reaction to what people felt was too gigantic in Russia about the Games, and that we need to go back to the roots, if I can use that word, which should mean that Norway should absolutely be in the race. But some people say no, that it’s too late, and we should pull out like other Western European countries have done.”
Bach has proposed changes to the bidding process and has pushed for efforts to reduce the costs associated with hosting the Games. The IOC will vote on those measures in December.
Beijing hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics and is bidding to become the first city to host both Olympic Games. But the IOC could be reluctant to put the Olympics in an Asian city for three consecutive Games. Pyeongchang, South Korea, will host the 2018 Winter Olympics and Tokyo will host the 2020 Summer Games. That leaves Almaty in Kazakhstan, “a nation with an autocratic government and a dubious human rights record that has hosted an Asian Winter Games but never an event of Olympic magnitude,” the New York Times reported in May.
The three finalists must submit their final bids to the IOC by January. The host of the 2022 Olympics will be determined on July 31, 2015, at an IOC convention in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.