A 2022 let's wait proposal


Good grief. Who writes these International Olympic Committee news releases?

The news in Monday’s account was not who was on the 2022 Winter Games evaluation commission. That was interesting if, say, you are a student of soft power, and want to note that the president of the Russian Olympic Committee, Alexander Zhukov, as well as the senior vice president of Sochi 2014, Tatiana Dobrokhvalova, are both on the commission. Have at it, students of intrigue.

You’d think the IOC, which is trying like hell to keep Oslo in the 2022 race, would shape these kinds of releases in a way that would make more sense.

If you are giving $880 million away, wouldn’t you, you know, want to make that sum the feature note in your release — instead of hiding it under a list of 14 names and two anodyne quotes from the IOC president, Thomas Bach?

IOC president at the Nanjing Youth Games // photo Getty Images

Really now.

For emphasis, that’s $880 million dollars. I will say it again, and slowly: $880 million. That’s nearly $1 billion. That’s what the IOC is going to contribute to the 2022 host city, which right now is lined up to be Oslo, Beijing or Almaty.

Where does that $880 million come from? Critics of the IOC, pay attention: From marketing monies, a contribution related to broadcasting revenues, services provided to Olympic Broadcasting Services as the host broadcaster and various other funds described in the Host City contract.

Not one taxpayer dime.

Everyone understand? It’s easy.

Considering the IOC gave Sochi 2014 organizers $580 million excluding host broadcaster operations, and Bach has since said that the total IOC outlay for Sochi was closer to $750 million, $880 million is, well, even more.

The total Sochi operations budget — not the $51 billion figure everyone talks about but the amount of money it actually cost to run the Games themselves — was roughly $2.2 billion.

For comparison, the Vancouver 2010 operating budget: $1.9 billion.

The 2002 Salt Lake City Games final operating budget: $1.3 billion.

Easy math:

For 2022, the IOC is giving the organizing committee roughly half, just a little bit less, of all the money it’s going to take to actually run the Games.

Given the IOC's renewed focus on sustainability and legacy, a Winter Games can -- repeat, can -- be run more like Salt Lake than Sochi, and that is not -- repeat, not -- a criticism of Sochi organizers. In that case, $880 million can go even farther.

Why was this so hard for the IOC to say, indeed highlight, in a news release?

Which leads to this:

The IOC president, in his first year in his office, has shown strong, indeed dramatic leadership.

Now is the time for such leadership as it relates to this 2022 contest.

This race is not a race. It is on the thin edge of threatening to become a farce.

“Bid cities are short-time members of the Olympic family but they shouldn’t be treated that way,” said Terrence Burns, longtime bid strategist and bid branding expert.

“It often takes months for them to ‘get it.’  Now, more than ever and more than perhaps any other entity in the movement, their stories and positioning should be on message and in lockstep with the IOC.”

It’s not that the IOC is left with three cities. There have been three cities before — see the contests for 2018 (Munich, Annecy, Pyeongchang), 2014 (Sochi, Pyeongchang, Salzburg), 2010 (Vancouver, Pyeongchang, Salzburg).

This 2022 race is quantitatively and qualitatively different.

Just last year, the IOC had six seemingly viable applicant cities.

Now, though, Stockholm is gone. So is Krakow. So is Lviv.

All three were scared off, to varying degrees, by the $51 billion figure.

Of the three that are remaining, it may well be that the IOC soon enough finds itself down to two.

Oslo’s bid is that precarious.

Polls have kept saying that the Norwegian public, and by a large margin, doesn’t want to have anything to do with a 2022 Games.

Now there's a new poll with a glimmer of hope: conducted by the newspaper Dagbladet, it suggests that 53 percent of those surveyed would support Norway hosting the 2022 Games if costs were kept down, with 40 percent saying no.

Typically, the IOC is looking for yes votes in the range of 70 percent.

Beyond the polls, there remains the obstacle that political opposition to the Games in Norway remains significant.

Also, the only real way to keep costs down in “Oslo” is to move big chunks of a 2022 Games to “Lillehammer,” two to three hours away.

Once more, the driving force for all of this is the $51 billion figure.

A dose of reality:

The Winter Games brand is at risk, if not the entire Olympic brand.

A little more reality here:

There are plenty of cities around the world that can play host to a Winter Games.

Especially if the IOC is throwing in $880 million.

The IOC, to reiterate, likes to talk the talk about sustainability and legacy.

So let's walk the walk:

If the IOC simply emphasized that it is, indeed, investing in this sort of partnership approach — proclaiming, cities, we are going in 50-50 with you on the running of the Games, and that is essentially what they would be doing, explicitly excluding any infrastructure project that isn’t funded by the organizing committee — that makes for a workable 21st-century approach to the Games, correct?

Again, not so hard to explain, either, right?

To do that, however, takes time to convince the (many and understandable) critics out there. The situation the IOC is in is of its own making.

Again -- it's the $51 billion.

So why not put the 2022 race on hold for, say, six months?

It’s the IOC’s ballgame. They can do with it what they want. Besides, it actually would be quite easy under these circumstances: all Bach would have to say is that, given the review and potential reform elements of his “Agenda 2020” plan, which is working toward an all-members vote in December in Monaco, it would make eminent sense to start all over again with new ground rules post-Monaco for 2022.

It’s eight years — more like seven if you’re being picky come December 2014 — until February 2022, meaning that edition of the Winter Games. There’s tons of time. It’s not like the IOC would be facing disaster if it put this race on pause to consider if this, the way things are now, is its best option.

What if the Oslo campaign goes belly-up in just a few weeks? What then — Beijing or Almaty?

Among the concerns: after Beijing 2008, Singapore 2010, Nanjing 2014, Pyeongchang 2018, Tokyo 2020 … and then it’s back yet once more to those time zones?

If you read the rules closely, the IOC hasn’t even asked any of the 2022 cities for the non-refundable $500,000 candidature fee. That’s not due until Jan. 31, 2015.

The bid books are due in January as well. Those books typically take about a year’s worth of work. Who believes — given that Bach has made it clear he isn’t fond of consultants — that Beijing, Almaty and Oslo are going to get them done in a professional manner, and on time?

Check out the application city files. It’s abundantly obvious that Krakow and Lviv used consultants. As for the three still in the race?

That's just not best practices. There's too much money and too much at stake for all this to be decided this way.

Right now the IOC is looking at what, if this were a movie, would be called a "situation."

That's not good. It's not good for the IOC brand, for the athletes of the world and for the Games. So shouldn’t the IOC do something about that?

Like pause. Reset. And get this right.