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Nov 30, 2023, 3:00pm EST
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Semafor Signals

Why no one wants to host the Olympics

REUTERS/Stephanie Lecocq
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The News

The 2030 Winter Olympics will likely take place in the French Alps, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced Thursday, with Salt Lake City as the lone bidder to host the 2034 games.

The IOC was left with few options after favored 2030 contender Sapporo in Japan withdrew from the usually-competitive bid over investigations into bribery linked to preparations of the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. A bid to bring the 2030 Winter games to British Columbia also fell through when the province voted against funding it last year.

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Fewer nations are now enthused about hosting the Olympics given the challenges of climate change, the potential for corruption scandals, and the prohibitively high infrastructure costs.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.


Warming temperatures have significantly narrowed the number of places able to host future Winter Olympics, the IOC said. Only 15 countries across three continents are “climate-reliable” and can meet the Olympic body’s criteria of having at least 80% of existing venues for snow sports in the upcoming years. Hotter winters will also mean that artificial snow will be integrated into the design of sporting infrastructure — a costly and environmentally harmful way of imitating the real deal. Producing fake snow zaps energy and water resources, Vox reported, and will require more maintenance in unusually warm conditions.

The costs of building specialized infrastructure for the Summer Olympics have skyrocketed, forcing cities to think twice about bidding to host the games. The massive investments make the actual economic benefits “far from clear,” experts from the Council of Foreign Relations argue. Previous hosts such as Greece have been ridden with large debts and maintenance liabilities, while Beijing’s famous $460 million “Bird’s Nest” stadium remains largely unused with an annual maintenance price tag of $10 million. To attract bids from more countries, the IOC has called for reforms, including reducing the cost of bidding, allowing hosts to use existing sports facilities, and developing other sustainable and transparent strategies.

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