Beijing is looking to become the first Winter/Summer Olympic dual host. (Getty Images)
(ATR) Talk about a low-key bidding race. The quest for the 2022 Olympics is just that. Almaty and Beijing are the only cities vying for hosting rights to the Winter Games that European cities have roundly rejected.
The IOC has lost control of this contest. Oslo’s demise means it’s a two-horse race to the finish line next summer, a situation president Thomas Bach cannot have foreseen in autumn last year when a handful of European cities were on the starting blocks. Now all he can do is sit and watch as the Olympics heads to an Asian country for the third time in a row after Tokyo and PyeongChang.
Crucially, the Norwegian city’s failure to win government support has triggered a timely debate about the IOC’s complicated and costly bidding procedure and exposed its overbearing demands on host cities – the IOC says they are suggestions – which include meetings with the head of state and lavish receptions costing thousands of dollars.
Scrutiny of the complex bidding process will be discussed at this week’s IOC Executive Board, which convenes in the plush surrounds of Swiss resort Montreux. It’s no ordinary meeting but a brainstorming summit to finalize recommendations for a major overhaul of the bidding process and sports program, key elements of Bach’s Olympic Agenda 2020 crusade to rejuvenate the Olympics. A range of recommendations from 14 working commissions will be on the table, with proposals readied for a lively debate and vote at the IOC Extraordinary Session. The Monaco meeting in December is the most important moment for the IOC since the reforms in 1999 that followed the Salt Lake City bribery scandal.
As the reforms process reaches a climax, the race for the 2022 Olympics rumbles on – the least captivating bidding contest in many years. They are unlikely to feel the impact of any bidding changes approved in Monaco.
With the Winter Olympics suffering an almighty hangover from perceptions that the Sochi 2014 Games cost $51 billion, the IOC will be hoping Almaty and Beijing can inject a little life into the bid race – and put budgets and costs in perspective – when the international promotional phase opens on Nov. 1.
But we shouldn’t hold our breath. So far there’s little to suggest either bid will capture the imagination of the world, let alone voting IOC members.
The ski jump complex in Almaty (Getty Images)
Almaty and Beijing have been remarkably quiet since the IOC made them candidate cities in July, which has done them and the IOC no favors. There’s precious little or no PR strategy around the bids. And the main reason is that communication strategists have given this bidding race a wide berth.
Why? Partly because the field of cities has dwindled so fast and partly due to uncertainties around the impact of Olympic Agenda 2020 reforms. They have also stayed away because they are unsure how their involvement in the bidding race will be interpreted by Bach, who has called for fewer consultants to reduce costs.
Around the Rings
understands that Oslo, whose catchy slogan would have been “It’s in our nature,” would have benefited from some PR specialists. But the usual suspects are not expected to offer their communications and strategic expertise to either of the remaining bids.
So it will be left for the bids from China and Kazakhstan to create their own compelling narratives and hope they can gain traction and momentum when, it seems, few people inside or outside the Olympic Movement are interested in where the 2022 Games end up.
Strong and dynamic presentations at the ANOC general assembly in Bangkok and the European Olympic Committees general assembly in Baku in November are vital – the first opportunities for Almaty and Beijing to make positive global headlines about their Winter Olympic visions.
But some special spark or major innovation will be required to prick up people’s ears. And anything less in the eight months before the July 31 IOC vote in Kuala Lumpur will do nothing to enhance the Winter Olympic brand.
Reported by Mark Bisson
Homepage photo: Getty Images
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