Earlier this week, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that Almaty, Kazakhstan; Beijing, China; and Oslo, Norway are the finalists for the 2022 Winter Olympics. PBS has recently reported that Oslo is having trouble getting the government to approve the necessary funding, because half of Norway is opposed to the bid. Oslo hosted the 1952 Winter Games, but the games have grown so much that it will cost $5.3 billion to host in 2022.
Public financing is not as big of an issue with Almaty and Beijing. However a large issue for the IOC, athletes and sponsors is that Kazakhstan and China both have a history of human rights abuses and corruption. Furthermore, many attribute the high cost of the Beijing and Sochi games to corruption. For example, as much as $30 billion vanished leading up to the games in Russia as the result of fraud. This could be a potential barrier for investors and sponsors of the 2022 games. Holy Cross economics professor Victor Matheson wrote:
“Public expenditures on sports infrastructure and event operations necessarily entail reductions in other government services, an expansion of government borrowing, or an increase in taxation, all of which produce a drag on the local economy. At best public expenditures on sports-related construction or operation have zero net impact on the economy as the employment benefits of the project are matched by employment losses associated with higher taxes or spending cuts elsewhere in the system.”
Munich, Germany; Davos/St. Moritz, Switzerland; Stockholm, Sweden; and Krakow, Poland withdrew their bids because the citizens fail to see the tangible benefits of the Olympics. Sweden’s Moderate party stated, “Arranging a Winter Olympics would mean a big investment in new sports facilities, for example for the bobsleigh and luge . . . There isn’t any need for that kind of facility after an Olympics.” Also, many of these cities have seen how Albertville (1992), Nagano (1998), Torino (2006) and Sochi (2014) have lost money on the games, while budgets have doubled, tripled, and even quintupled in the case of Sochi, which spent over $51 billion.
There is one final issue to hosting the 2022 Olympics, which is the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Sepp Blatter, president of FIFA, has admitted it is too hot to play in summer, so the World Cup will be held in early or late 2022. Temperature-wise it makes more sense to play in early 2022 because it is significantly cooler. This means that the Winter Olympics may be directly competing with the World Cup. If the record-setting success of the 2014 World Cup is any indication, the Winter Olympics is bound to suffer in terms of TV ratings and sponsors. If this is the case, the best event may not be the games themselves, but the competition between the IOC and FIFA.