What are your last, enduring memories of the Sochi Olympics? Was it the corruption? The introduction of slopestyle snowboarding? The $51 billion price tag? The ghost town that the Games left behind? Whatever it is, the negatives stand out more starkly than the positives, and the international community is taking notice. While the Winter Games have always attracted a significant amount of graft, ahem, ‘government subsidization,’ particularly since 2002, when the bidding process between the Salt Lake Olympic Committee and the IOC was found to have been so shady that the U.S. Department of Justice got involved, there has always been at least one city willing to suck it up and host the games. Right now, there are just two cities that are still involved with the 2022 bid (the 2018 Winter Olympics will be held in South Korea).
Beijing, China, is one city still involved in the bid. The other is Almaty, Kazakhstan, which means that we should all get ready to watch everyone reheat those five Borat quotes for leftovers. Let’s assume, for whatever reason, that both of these cities wind up unable to fulfill their bids. For those that require a hypothetical: let’s say the Kazakhstan bid is rejected on behalf of Sacha Baron Cohen and Beijing is rejected because it’s roughly a kazillion miles away from anything resembling a snow-covered mountain. What happens? Are we crossing into Zen k?an territory of the “if a Winter Olympics isn’t held, but it doesn’t make a sound, does anyone care,” variety?
Olympics have been skipped before, typically under the international duress of a World War, but the winter edition have been going consistently for the last sixty years or so, and have, in that time, become serious sources of income for the athletes that participate in those sports, particularly after the death of the amateurism claims that used to be standard in international competition. This complicates things wildly, since Olympians — even professionals — typically make significantly larger amounts of money during the Games than otherwise.
For many athletes who participate in sports that fall under the Olympic umbrella, the Winter Games are the biggest opportunity to leverage their abilities into a financial windfall that can help sustain their lifestyles. While someone like Shaun White can probably get by without making it to the Olympics, someone who’s racing in the skeleton isn’t going to have the same latitude. For the athletes who actually are depending on a win to snag, say, a Wheaties box in order to pay their bills, having the visibility that only the Games can provide is crucial. One does not live on curling lessons alone.
This is not to say that the world has suddenly developed a distaste for snowsports, of course. It’s more likely that given the suspiciously inflated cost of the Sochi Games, which rolled right into the suspiciously inflated cost of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, that communities around the world are kind of sick of bankrolling the International Olympics Committee (IOC), which has come across as little more than a greedy institution with little in the way of scruples. Nationalistic sentiment or not, no one wants to buddy up with the IOC, something that’s understandable after their list of demands were leaked to the public.
Among those demands were “exactly 68 degree” conference rooms, “extra late” hotel bars, exclusively Olympic-themed furniture, and local school closures, according to CBS. Oh, and the IOC also want bars to stay open “extra late,” and to avoid footing the drinks bill. On that, if on nothing else, we can sympathize with them.