Is the IOC getting something right or just lucky?
Have we lived long enough to see the International Olympic Committee learn some common sense?
The candidates to host the 2026 Winter Olympics are Italy (a combination of Milan and and Cortina) and Sweden (Stockholm and Are). Shockingly enough, these are countries and sites with actual winter weather and built-in venues for winter sports.
It shouldn’t seem so shocking, but the finalists for 2022 were Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan, not exactly snow spots, with the former earning hosting duties.
Perhaps, it’s not so much the IOC having a come-to-Jesus moment, but the rest of the world just giving up on on the profligacy of both the Summer and Winter Olympics. Athens (2004) and Rio de Janeiro (2016) have left pools of debt and white elephants of athletic complexes for the summer cycle, and Tokyo 2020 seems headed down that path.
In the winter, it was unquestionably Sochi (2014). The Russians’ first foray into the winter festival destroyed all the parameters of financial normalcy, whose largesse may only be surpassed by the glories that will be Beijing 2022.
Of course, the Winter Games have evolved with the addition of sports like snowboarding, freestyle skiing and short-track speed skating to the point where old ski towns like Lake Placid, New York, (1932 and 1980) or Lillehammer, Norway, (1994) can no longer host.
Hence you have combination bids like Vancouver and Whistler in British Columbia in 2010, the blob that was Sochi (the coastal and mountain clusters) and the 2026 bids.
Taking a pass
But it’s still worth noting who dropped out of the bidding for the upcoming 2022 and 2026 Olympics.
For 2022, Olso and Stockholm both said, “no thanks.” Austria and Italy considered a joint bid as did Quebec and Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the host city back in 1984. All of them said no mas for 2022.
Before 2026 got narrowed down to Italy and Sweden, Calgary, Alberta, (1988 host), Erzurum, Turkey (not happening), Sapporo, Japan (1972 host), Graz, Austria, and Sion, Switzerland also begged off.
Think about that. Norway, Sweden, and Finland (Helsinki also briefly considered 2022) invented Nordic sports and said no. The country known as “The Great White North” bowed out twice. Austria twice, Italy and Switzerland once, all slightly mountainous, said nope.
Three different former host cities said, “Too rich for our blood.” (I’m sentimental and would have liked to Sarajevo host, no matter how unpractical.)
By sheer luck, it seems we have two well-qualified bids for 2026.
Alpine at the Olympics
As an added bonus, both the Italian and Swedish bids have true Alpine venues — Cortina and Are. They are regular World Cup sites and have hosted the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships (Cortina, 1956 and 2021, and Are, 2007 and 2019).
How novel. Sochi’s snow was wretched. However, well-intentioned Pyeongchang, South Korea, was, it was a wind tunnel. When a slalom course needs to be shortened because of wind as was the case last winter, it’s not a freak occurrence. And I can hardly wait for Beijing.
But the Olympics in Cortina? (The Italian bid leads its Swedish counterpart) Lindsey Vonn might come out of retirement. We’re kidding, though she had 12 World Cup wins there. Mikaela Shiffrin? She can ski tech anywhere, and she won in super-G in Cortina last winter.
Keep up the good work, IOC.