In the wake of IOC President Thomas Bach visiting Oslo – successfully persuading anti-Olympic campaigners to reassess the validity of a bid for the Winter Games of 2022 – has not the moment arrived for Norwegians to ask themselves, JFK-style, not what the IOC can do for them, but what their country can contribute to the Olympic Movement.
There is not within Scandinavia rampant sporting moral superiority, amid a widespread contemporary mistrust about attempting to host Olympic events. They just recognise it has become prohibitively expensive unless you are as obsessively ambitious as Putin.
Stockholm/Ostersund had pulled back from the brink. Doubts are afflicting Rome, Paris, Madrid, Munich, Amsterdam. South Africa is not ready. After two failed bids, USOC expects to find a candidate for 2024 for the decision in 2017, but there are no guarantees. The IOC cannot expect repetitive bids from economically flush Asia; does not want to become beholden to oil rich Middle East, like FIFA; or to autocratic Central Asia governments.
Therefore, even though financially re-armed by its recent treasure-trove deal with NBC, the IOC is potentially faced with declining availability of host cities, Winter or Summer. This makes the 2022 scenario more than usually significant.
With the Ukraine beset by civil war and Krakow’s conviction remaining uncertain, a withdrawal by Oslo would leave the Executive Board with a shortlist of only two in just over a month’s time: Almaty and Beijing. In succession to Beijing ’08, Pyeongchang ’18 and Tokyo ’20, there would be reluctance to return to the Pacific rim, while Almaty represents a totalitarian regime of untested major capacity.
Thus Oslo becomes a testing ground among moderate-sized, experienced, well-equipped, traditionally-supported Olympic nations: historically passionate but right now sitting somewhere between prudent and frankly scared.
Thomas Bach’s visit was not without camouflaged intent. Norway needed convincing about its own virtues – and, more particularly, confronting the view of media hostility, some of it justified, that has haunted Norway ever since tremulous IOC Members set foot in Lillehammer for the Winter Games of 1994 under verbal attack for shameless junketing that had surrounded host city campaigns of 1986 (Barcelona), 1990 (Atlanta), 1991 (Nagano) and 1993 (Sydney). Some members almost fled home.
Now Norway holds a key hand. The unspoken truth is that the IOC – in theory at least, following Sochi’s extravagancies and Rio’s ineptitude – needs them more than they need the Olympic Games. The Norwegians should politely put aside their sense of civic responsibility/superiority – openly acknowledged by President Bach in the process of formulating his modernising Agenda 2020 – and set about recognising how Oslo/Lillehammer can harmoniously create, in partnership with the IOC, a rational, economic blueprint for the equilibrium of future Olympic Games.
This article was republished with permission from Karl-Heinz Huba, the editor and publisher of the Sport Intern.