The Olympics and Future Host Cities

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The Olympic Games are more than a simple series of sporting events; they bring together competitors and fans from across the globe, uniting them in a single city for two weeks of culture and competition. Cities that host the Olympics draw international attention and are forever memorialized, as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) hopes, with the prestige of being selected as caretaker of the Olympic games.. But what proves a city worthy of hosting the Olympics? What challenges do host cities face?

The Selection of a Host City

Hosting the Olympic Games takes years of planning and bidding before any physical execution takes place. The process of choosing an Olympic host city brings together sport professionals, financial analysts and governments to create an event that will capture the attention of billions of people.

In June 2017, the IOC simultaneously chose two cities to host the Summer Olympic Games, a move that the IOC has never made before. Paris and Los Angeles were both chosen as host cities, with the 2024 Olympics given to Paris and the 2028 Olympics awarded to Los Angeles.

How did this turn of events alter the regular process? According to the IOC, the current Olympic Host City election process began in 2014 with a new Olympic Candidature Process (based on the Olympic Agenda 2020). These relatively new measures seek to cultivate improved dialogue between the IOC and Candidate Cities. Cities are also now expected to shape better proposals that illustrate how the cities will deliver exceptional games while also meeting the needs of the cities to “ensure a positive, long-term, sustainable legacy,” according to the IOC’s website.

From Invitation to Practical Application

Before cities lobby for candidacy, the IOC’s Invitation Phase comes into place. A result of the Olympic Agenda 2020, this phase focuses on delivering the improved dialogue promised with the updated Olympic Candidature Process. The IOC invites representatives from potential Candidate Cities to a workshop in Lausanne, Switzerland, where they will discuss their ideas with the IOC and receive feedback before they submit a candidature. This discussion seeks to help cities understand the Olympic Games and how they can build a project that will allow the games themselves to be a catalyst for development and legacy, according to the IOC.

Following the Invitation Phase, the IOC urges cities to commit to the candidature process, a two-year period made up of three primary stages. The first stage consists primarily of strategic analysis, during which the Candidate Cities decide and submit their vision for what the Olympic Games would be like in their cities if chosen to host them. In addition to looking at general ideas, the IOC places strong focus on how the Olympic Games will lead to improved sustainability for the Candidate Cities. At the same time, cities also begin gathering support from stakeholders and the public.

Next comes the Governance, Legal and Venue Funding stage. During this period, Candidate Cities begin moving forward from concept to practical application. Cities must make sure that they have the necessary legal and financial support for hosting the Olympic Games. Once the Candidate Cities have these measures in place, an IOC-appointed group reviews the cities’ proposals and determines challenges and opportunities related to each project.

Establishing a Legacy and the Host City Election

The last stage—Games Delivery, Experience and Venue Legacy—analyzes how the city will administer the Olympic Games and ensure a sustainable legacy for the city and its Olympic venues. An IOC Evaluation Commission gathers to analyze documentation and proposals. The Commission issues a report to the IOC highlighting the opportunities and challenges of hosting the Olympic Games in each Candidate City. During this stage, the Candidate Cities also present their projects to the IOC.

At the end of the candidature process, the Host City Election takes place. The IOC votes by secret ballot to elect the host city. Normally, only one city receives the election for the next Olympic Games in the sequence as opposed to simultaneous cities taking the election for future games, as occurred with Los Angeles and Paris in 2017.

The Challenge of Attracting Candidate Cities

In the past, more cities have been in the running for the Host City Election. According to Amber Partida of PBS, fewer cities are requesting to host the Olympic Games because of the high costs associated with bidding and hosting.

While the IOC hopes to reform the costly bidding process with its Olympic Agenda 2020, the candidature process for the 2024 Olympic Games saw many cities drop their bidding. For example, Budapest and Boston both withdrew their bids because of the financial burden, Partida stated.

A 2016 study by Oxford University found that a host city spends an average of $8.9 billion to host the Olympic Games, although a Forbes report by Christina Settimi stated that the Rio Games cost $11 billion. CBS News reported that the Sochi Games cost $51 billion.

As CBS News explained, Los Angeles and Paris will mitigate the costs of the Olympic Games by using existing infrastructure and stadiums built to handle large crowds. The Paris proposal (accessible at for the Olympic Games claims that 95 percent of the venues will be built from existing and temporary structures. Following the Olympic Games, the city’s Paralympic Village will become 1,500 new homes, according to Partida.

The Present and Future Impact on Host Cities

Hosting the Olympic Games not only attracts visitors during the two-week event period, but hosting also stimulates a city’s future. A CBS News report explained that the London Olympic Games improved transportation in the city’s East End, a historically deprived area. Beijing continues to gather income and tourism benefits from venues such as the National Stadium, nicknamed the Bird’s Nest, and the Water Cube. According to CBS News, while some may believe the cost of the Athens Olympic Games contributed to the nation’s economic meltdown in 2009, host cities can establish a legacy that will benefit them for decades to come.

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