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Why Doesn't Anyone Want To Host The 2022 Olympics?


This week Oslo, Norway dropped out of the bidding to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Now this wouldn't necessarily be huge news. It is eight years in the future after all and staging an Olympics is an expensive, risky proposition. But in this case, Oslo is the sixth city to say no thanks to the 2022 Winter games, which is raising questions about the multi-billion dollar Olympic model. We're going to talk about all of this with sportswriter Stefan Fatsis. He joins us most Fridays. Hey, Stefan.


MARTIN: So I would think that Oslo would be a fabulous place to hold the winter Olympics. Why did they say no?

FATSIS: Well, the government basically said that it wasn't willing to approve the financial guarantees required to host the games, which were estimated at $5 billion or $1,000 per-Norwegian.

MARTIN: (Laughter) That's a lot of money.

FATSIS: That's a lot of money. And that figure was no doubt going to go up by a lot over time. Plus the public didn't want to spend the money either. Recent polls put opposition to that bid at more than 50 percent. Bottom line Norway said not worth it for a two-week TV show, even though we love cross-country skiing.

MARTIN: (Laughter) And they were not the first. As you said, they were the sixth city.

FATSIS: Right.

MARTIN: I mean, so many of these other major metropolitan areas said no.

FATSIS: Stockholm, Sweden, Krakow, Poland, Lviv, Ukraine - and they had said they would bid. And then St. Moritz, Switzerland, Munich, Germany - they said no after voters rejected making the bid. Only three cities bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics - it's worth mentioning - and those went to Tokyo.

MARTIN: So what's going on here, Stefan? Wasn't there a time when staging an Olympics was supposed to be a big deal, prestigious kind of honor. What's happening?

FATSIS: Well, you have to consider the International Olympic Committee is this weird assemblage of aristocrats and sportocrats. They have tremendous leverage thanks to sponsorship and TV contracts. Now at least some cities are saying, enough, enough with the costs and the corruption and the voting scandals in groups like the IOC and soccer's FIFA. The past winter games in Sochi, Russia - $50 billion and a lot of that was slipped into pockets unknown. Spending on the Athens Olympics in 2004 pushed Greece into economic peril. These are all red flags for potential bidders.

MARTIN: OK, so has all of this prompted any soul-searching within the IOC?

FATSIS: I don't know. But the IOC is saying the right things - that we are sensitive to cities and we don't want them to overspend. The question is whether they'll do anything about it. The last two bidders for 2022 were Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan. Russia's hosting the 2018 World Cup. Qatar is hosting the 2022 one. What do they have in common? They're not what you would call thriving democracies. They will throw oil money around. They'll build white elephant venues. But will other cities look at Oslo and say, you know, without serious changes in what the IOC does, we're out too? Is that going to affect bidding for 2024. That'll be something to watch.

MARTIN: Lastly, we have to talk about this. The Oslo bid seems to have exposed, shall we say, the haughtier side of doing business with the IOC.

FATSIS: Yeah, the IOC doesn't take rejection well, we learned here. It issued this passive aggressive statement saying it is a pity that Oslo will miss out on this great opportunity to invest in its future. Poor Oslo. Norway's also going to miss out on a few other things, some demands that the IOC made. They were leaked to a Norwegian newspaper. And they read like a David Letterman top 10 list - cocktail party with the king, with the royal palace or the local Olympic organizers picking up the tab, separate lanes on all roads for IOC members - and I think it's important to point out that there are 105 IOC members - ceremonial welcome for the IOC president on the airport tarmac, meeting rooms set to exactly 20 degrees Celsius at all times. And number one of my top 10 list, IOC members shall be greeted with a smile when arriving at their hotel.

MARTIN: I mean, if you're going to make demands, you might as well demand some joy.

FATSIS: Happiness, right? Absolutely.

MARTIN: Yeah, exactly. Stefan Fatsis is a panelist on Slate's sports podcast, Hang Up and Listen. He joins us on Fridays to talk about sports and the business of sports. Stefan, thanks so much.

FATSIS: Thanks Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.