Last week, Olso dropped their bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympic games. Stockholm, Krakow, Munich, and Davos/St. Moritz already dropped out of the running. The cost of hosting the games is the primary concern of former bidding cities. The Sochi Olympics cost a whopping a $51 billion. The Sochi games went off without a hitch, but what will become of the venues after the games? If Sochi is like other Olympics, many of the facilities will be underused or completely unused. It’s a shame that such beautiful facilities have already seen their best moments, and will now fade away, getting worse with age.
What if Sochi’s facilities were maintained because they were hosting the winter games again in 2026? The $51 billion outlay wouldn’t seem like such a waste. The venues would be maintained so they could more easily be reused. I am not the first to have this idea — others have proposed one home for the games, or a rotating group of cities. This is just my take.
My concept for a permanent home for the olympics is simple: one city on every continent (except Antarctica) gets to host either the summer or winter games. Ideally, these cities would have hosted the games before, so future games could take advantage of already-built facilities.
As we’re in a winter olympics year, let’s start with the frozen three. Potential winter olympic hosts need to contend with a factor summer olympic cities do not: climate change. If a winter olympic city will host the games every 12 years for the next one hundred years and beyond, they need to be cold for that entire period. This climate study (PDF) of past winter olympic cities shows that many of the cities that have hosted the games in the past wouldn’t be cold enough in 2050 or 2080, Sochi included. Here’s the list of cities that could host the games again without the fear of slushy slopes:
- Albertville, France
- Calgary, Canada
- Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy
- St. Moritz, Switzerland
- Salt Lake City, USA
- Sapporo, Japan
All of the other past olympic cities have some climate-related risk by 2080. The study did not include Pyeongchang, South Korea, the host of the 2018 games, so I won’t be considering them either. Therefore, I nominate Sapporo, Japan as our Asian olympic city. It hosted the games in 1972, so some of the facilities would need to be replaced. The investment would be worth it, as they would host the games multiple times.
Europe offers three possible options. I’m choosing St. Moritz, Switzerland for its central location and political stability. St. Moritz has hosted the games twice already, in 1928 and 1948. It also bid on the 2022 games before dropping out. Obviously many of the venues from those games would need to be rebuilt, but the city remains at the center of a thriving ski resort region, so much of the required infrastructure is there.
In North America, the choice is between Salt Lake City, USA and Calgary, Canada. I’m choosing Calgary for political reasons. With the European and Asian olympic cities assigned, Russia and China will not be hosting games. The United States is a major olympic power, and these other countries would likely feel slighted if Salt Lake City hosted. Since Calgary hosted the games in 1988, it has become the epicenter for winter sports in Canada and still has many key venues ready to go.
So, in summary, we have these three winter olympic cities:
- Sapporo, Japan (Asia)
- St. Moritz, Switzerland (Europe)
- Calgary, Canada (North America)
With the winter olympics claiming the Northern Hemisphere continents, we need to look south for the summer games. There are no climate restrictions with the summer games, so it comes down to picking from past cities. There are far fewer cities to choose from, as Africa and South America have not even hosted the games (though Rio de Janeiro will host the games in 2016). In Australia, Melbourne and Sydney have hosted. My picks and reasoning:
South America: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This is obvious. They are currently building all of the facilities necessary, and barring any disaster in 2016, they will be ready for the future.
Oceania: Sydney, Australia. The 2000 games won rave reviews from athletes, visitors, and the media. Their olympic facility area is still in good shape and connected to the rest of the city via transit.
Africa: Cairo, Egypt. This decision was more difficult, as Africa has never hosted an Olympics. A South African city makes sense, as the country hosted the World Cup in 2010. I chose Cairo because it would not only represent Africa, but also the Arab world. It’s also close to population centers in Europe. Civil unrest continues in Cairo, but they could be at the end of the order and host the games first in 2032 – 18 years from now. It’s difficult to predict the political situation that far in the future, but some measure of stability will likely have returned to the city by then.
Sapporo, St. Moritz, Calgary, Rio, Sydney, and Cairo. These cities represent a broad cross-section of our planet. It is truly impossible to pick six cities that would make everyone happy, but these cities represent fairly safe choices that could carry the olympic movement forward well into the next century.