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Now that the Sochi Olympics are well underway tricky questions have surfaced about where the Winter Games will be held in future.
The 2018 Games have already been awarded to PyeongChang, South Korea, and bidding is now underway for the 2022 Games, and that has proven intriguing.
Sweden has backed out after submitting a bid last Fall. The government cited financial reason for pulling its proposal saying “in the current situation [bidding] would entail too much speculation with taxpayers’ money.” That left five cities in the running and each poses difficult challenges for the International Olympic Committee.
Ukraine is bidding to hold the Games in Lviv, even though the country is in the midst of a popular uprising against President Viktor Yanukovych. Norway has submitted a bid for Olso but recent polls have found that well over half of Norwegians don’t want the Games. China is bidding even though two upcoming Olympics will be held in Asia; the 2018 Games in Korea and the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. That leaves bids from Kazakhstan and Poland, neither of which have ever hosted an Olympics.
There have been questions about the future cost of the Games and whether they are affordable given that the Sochi Olympics have reportedly cost $51-billion, more than double what Britain spent on the 2012 Summer Games.
IOC officials have played down concerns about the five bids, saying they are all strong contenders. As for the cost, the IOC says each Olympics leaves a legacy and that the legacy of the Sochi Games will be improved transportation links in the region.
Ukraine officials insisted this week that the country is going ahead with its bid despite the turmoil that has seen thousands of people flood Kiev’s Independence Square demanding that President Yanukovych resign. “The idea of the Olympics Games being in Lviv is supported at all levels by both the government and the opposition. Ukraine is standing on the Olympic path,” Vice Prime Minister Oleksandr Vilkul told reporters in Sochi this week. “The Olympic idea is bigger than politics. Ukraine is solving political problems and will come out stronger and more consolidated than before.”
Added former pole vaulter Sergey Bubka, who is backing the Ukrainian bid: “I think it [the unrest] will be settled. We are building our future and democracy. People have the possibility to express their views. Many issues in this moment will be solved shortly. Politicians are working very hard to make change and improve the situation in our country.”
IOC spokesman Mark Adams said Ukraine’s bid remains under consideration and that “a lot can happen in eight years.”
Norwegian IOC member Gerhard Heiberg acknowledged that cost concerns have been an issue for some cities. The IOC was “not happy to see that Switzerland voted no [to bidding], so did Germany, and, unfortunately, Stockholm left the field,” he said this week in Sochi. “We feel that these cites could have delivered a good Games if they had stayed in the race. Maybe the cost and investment in Sochi frightened them a little bit.”
Officials from Oslo have said that infrastructure costs for their Games would be less than $6-billion and they believe that the success of Norway’s athletes in Sochi will boost public support for the bid.
Chinese officials said this week that they believe their bid will be considered even though two of the next three Olympics will be held in Asia. “We are focusing on economic development, including facilities and infrastructure,” deputy sports minister Shuan Yang told reporters in Sochi. “As long as we build them well, I’m sure the IOC will have a balanced view.”
Officials from Poland and Kazakhstan have yet to provide presentations on their bids in Sochi.
Paul Waldie I European Bureau Chief I Twitter: pwaldieGLOBE