The Olympics Desperately Needed Oslo To Host The 2022 Games, And The IOC Is Outraged They Pulled Out

2004 athens olympics venues 14Milos Bicanski/Getty ImagesThe baseball stadium from the 2004 Athens Olympics is now a white elephant.

Oslo pulled its bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics after the Norwegian government balked at the estimated $US5.4 billion cost on Wednesday.

That leaves Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan as the only countries bidding for the games. In the months before Oslo pulled out, potential host cities in democratic nations across Europe — Poland, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland — also retracted their bids.

It’s a debacle for the International Olympic Committee.

Oslo was the clear frontrunner to win the 2022 games, at least based on the IOC’s assessment of the competing bid applications.

In May an IOC working group graded each of the bid applications on a scale of 1 to 10 in 14 different categories (things like safety, environmental impact, quality of the Olympic Village, and “sports experience”). The grades, which “reflect the working group’s assessment of the risk/feasibility of implementing the plans proposed,” are a solid indicator of the IOC’s confidence that the various candidates will deliver on their promised bids.

Oslo had by far the best grades of the final three cities. It blew Beijing and especially Almaty out of the water.

The working group gave each city a minimum grade (basically, a worst-case scenario grade) and a maximum-grade (best-case scenario) in each category. Oslo had equal or better maximum grades than Beijing in 12 of 14 categories. It beat Almaty in every category except “government support.”

Oslo’s maximum average score per category was 8.9 out of 10. A score of “6” is considered the benchmark (check out the full rundown of grades here):

Oslo had the most feasible, least risky bid, according to the IOC. On the other hand, Almaty failed to meet the Olympic standard in 8 of 14 minimum grade scores.

But by asking the government to cover 50% of the total estimate cost of $US5.4 billion ($2.7 billion for venues alone), the IOC lost its best candidate.

Oslo olympics mapIOCA preliminary Olympic venue map from the IOC’s working group report.

Even if you ignore the fact that it would have staged the best Olympics of the three candidates, the IOC needed Oslo for other reasons.

In the wake of the $51-billion Sochi Olympics, democracies are no longer buying the argument that hosting the Olympics is a sound investment. Cost overruns and the sight of abandoned venues in places like Athens have many countries questioning the conventional wisdom that the infrastructural improvements associated with staging the Olympics justify the costs.

Academics have known this for years, and now governments are realising it too. Every 2022 potential host city that has a democratically elected government ultimately pulled out of the bidding.

Consistently awarding the Olympics to autocratic states is a bad look for the IOC. It sets a poor precedent, and hints at a future where only single-party states get the Olympics because they’re the only ones willing to foot the bill.

Oslo not only would have hosted the best games, it would have given the IOC some much-needed legitimacy in the face of widespread criticism.

It’s no surprise then that the IOC issued a fiery statement criticising Oslo for abandoning its bid.

The IOC said Oslo made its decision based on “half-truths and inaccuracies” and slammed the committee for skipping a key meeting. From the IOC’s statement (emphasis ours):

“Earlier this year the Norwegian bid team asked for a meeting with the IOC for an explanation of all aspects of the IOC requirements, including the financial details, and the IOC arranged this for all three bid cities in order to ensure fair play amongst the three bids. Unfortunately, Oslo sent neither a senior member of the bid team nor a government official to this meeting. For this reason senior politicians in Norway appear not to have been properly briefed on the process and were left to take their decisions on the basis of half-truths and factual inaccuracies.

“For a country of such means, full of so many successful athletes and so many fanatical winter sports fans it is a pity that Oslo will miss out on this great opportunity to invest in its future and show the world what it has to offer.”

The tone of the statement shows you just how big of a blow this was to the IOC, which is now left to choose between two lesser options.

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