How Are Olympic Host Cities Chosen? The Rio Games Have Been A Long Time In The Making

Although the Rio Olympics are still going strong, attention has already turned to future games — who will compete, what sports will be included, and most of all, where the Olympics will take place. But how are Olympic host cities chosen? It's a coveted honor: Aside from the international bragging rights that come with being selected to house a world-famous sports tournament, the cities who host the Olympics are guaranteed to see an absurdly high influx of revenue, and many experience a revitalization for years afterward.

It's easy to see why countries vie for the chance to play host to the games, but the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has strict standards for which cities qualify for consideration. Cities are evaluated on everything from their history and infrastructure — cities have to be able to support massive crowds of athletes and tourists — to whether they'll be able to afford all the construction that comes with hosting the Olympics. Even cities that have hosted the tournament before end up building new accommodations when they've been selected again, and this flexing of muscle tends to add up incredibly quickly. The stadium London built for the 2012 Olympics ended up costing more than 700 million U.S. dollars to build at the time, and earlier this year, it was projected to soar to 1.1 billion dollars overall after the stadium was converted to host pro soccer club West Ham United.

So how does the IOC decide whether a city fits the criteria? It's actually a fairly long process. 10 years before the Olympics in question, National Olympic Committees (NOCs) around the world express interest in bidding to become a host city. This so-called Invitation Phase isn't a formal application, but the IOC provides workshops and services to the countries that declare their intent to bid. Needless to say, positive media coverage is a must at this point; the IOC writes on its website that "encouragement of legacy and sustainability begins right from the outset... to ensure the Games act as a catalyst for positive development of tangible and intangible legacies for the city and the region."

Nine years before the Olympics, NOCs put forward their city's official application (along with a steep application fee), and the two-year selection process officially begins. During this time, the IOC works with cities in a series of workshops that decide which cities go on to the next stage. These workshops culminate in a visit to each location from the IOC Evaluation Committee. At the same time, cities generally step up their campaigning by unveiling proposed slogans, putting on launch ceremonies, and gathering support from locals. In previous years, the selection process involved a significant amount of elimination, but after difficulties finding a city to host the 2020 Winter Olympics, the IOC tweaked procedures to make sure all qualified candidates are eventually put to vote.


This brings up the end of the process. Seven years before the Olympics, cities put on a final presentation, and the IOC votes in a neutral location to determine the official host city. Currently, the 2024 Summer Olympics is under evaluation, with five official candidates in the running: Budapest, Hungary; Hamburg, Germany; Los Angeles, United States; Paris, France; and Rome, Italy. The winner will be announced in September 2017 after the IOC votes in Lima, Peru. If Los Angeles wins, it will be the city's second time hosting and the first time the Olympics will take place on U.S. soil since the 1996 Atlanta Games.