China's memorable opening ceremony and iconic sports facilities from 2008 must have left quite the impression on the International Olympics Committee (IOC). On Friday, the IOC announced that Beijing will host the 2022 Winter Olympics, but why the committee decided to return to the same location in less than 14 years could have come down to money. That's because hosting an Olympics is no joke, and it's a process that takes lots of prep time, planning, and money.
In 2014, Russia spent an estimated $50 billion on the Sochi Olympics (and, in many cases, conditions and facilities still weren't up to par). In 2008, China spent an estimated $40 billion to revitalize Beijing for the Summer Olympics and build the appropriate facilities.
The scope of work and money that is required of a city — of the entire country, really — to host an Olympics has come under fire recently. Sochi came with its fair share of security problems, and Rio, which will host the 2016 Summer Olympics, has spurred lots of sanitation concerns. Plenty of countries before them have struggled to recoup the money they've invested in the games. As a result, the IOC wants host countries to keep costs down — and Beijing's relatively new, Olympic-worthy upgrades fit nicely with that goal.
In late 2014, the IOC unveiled its Agenda 2020, a roadmap for the future of the Olympic Games. Among other goals, the IOC wants to reduce costs, particularly during the bidding process, and prevent the games from growing larger. To do so, the IOC has started to encourage sustainable bids — ones that take into account the viability of a city taking on so much development and minimize the negative impact on local citizens.
Those who are closest to the games, the Olympians and members of the committee, have responded well to this pursuit. Ole Einar Bjørndalen, an IOC member and the most-medaled Winter Olympian, took Agenda 2020 as a step in the right direction.
I think it is a step forward that the bidding cities will have the chance to focus on Games that work in the local context — socially, economically, and environmentally. I also think it is positive that the IOC will encourage the re-use of venues, temporary venues, and even the use of some venues in other regions and countries. This will lower the costs, which will hopefully make staging the Games more attractive for more countries.
Beijing's proposal incorporated these same ideas. In preparation for 2022, Beijing will reuse or convert six of its Olympic facilities for the Winter Games. For instance, the Bird's Nest Stadium, nicknamed for its unique architecture, will serve as the location of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. It held the same ceremonies during the 2008 Summer Olympics, but since the games ended, it has fallen mostly out of use — The Atlantic reported in 2012 that the stadium was being used as a Segway racetrack, charging $20 a racer.
In giving Beijing a take-two with the 2022 Olympics, the IOC could set a precedent. Rather than develop vast awe-inspiring-but-money-sucking infrastructure that will likely go unused once the world's attention turns away, countries may seek to keep costs down and reduce, reuse, recycle — and, that's a plan that might just work.
Images: Getty Images (2)