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IOC assesses future of Winter Olympics as 2030 Games decision postponed

Featured image credit: IOC/Greg Martin

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has delayed plans to award hosting rights to the 2030 Winter Olympic Games as it seeks to assess the long-term future of the event amid challenges such as climate change, with rotation amongst a pool of hosts one idea on the table.

The IOC Executive Board (EB) yesterday (Tuesday) heard a “comprehensive report” from the Future Host Commission for the Olympic Winter Games, after which the body was asked to further study the landscape of winter sport with a view to the election of the host of the 2030 Games, and future editions.

The IOC said talks yesterday led to a wider discussion on climate change, sustainable winter sport, and future opportunities and challenges. The Commission, building on the IOC’s Olympic Agenda 2020 and 2020+5 reform manifestos, outlined a number of proposals and potential challenges around hosting the Winter Games, which could have an impact on future elections.

The headline proposal disclosed by the IOC is the idea of rotating the Winter Olympics within a pool of hosts. To ensure climate reliability, a proposal was also put forward that hosts would need to show average minimum temperatures of below zero degrees for snow competition venues at the time of the Games over a 10-year period.

The EB was also presented with preliminary results of leading academic research, showing a potential reduction in the number of climate-reliable hosts. Ongoing talks by winter sports federations around adjustments that have already started to be made to their event calendars, and potential new competition formats, was also discussed.

Upon the request of the Commission, the EB has granted the Commission more time to study all these factors and opportunities to “make the best possible decisions” about future hosting. The IOC said this will also enable the Commission to further consult with interested parties, International Federations, athletes, winter sports industry experts and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).

The IOC said this means it is no longer targeting a 2030 Games host election at its 140th Session in 2023, adding the decision will assist in “providing a clearer picture” for the IOC to make a “sound decision” over the hosting rights.

A discussion was also held about a double award for 2030 and 2034, similar to the September 2017 decision to award the 2024 and 2028 Summer Olympics to Paris and Los Angeles, to “create stability” for winter sports and the Winter Games. No conclusion was reached, with the IOC adding it needs “more exploration”.

The IOC said the three interested parties in continuous dialogue have been informed about yesterday’s discussions. Sapporo (Japan), Salt Lake City (USA) and Vancouver (Canada) have been the three cities at the forefront of talks over the 2030 Games, although the latter’s prospects were dealt a significant blow in October as British Columbia’s government announced that it would no longer support a bid due to high costs and other upcoming events taking place in the province.

Following this year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing, the Games are next set to head to Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo in 2026. The Italian bid, which highlighted the planned use of existing venues for the Games, overcame rival Stockholm-Åre by 47 votes to 34 at the IOC Session in June 2019.

Commenting on yesterday’s developments, Octavian Morariu, head of the Future Host Commission for the Olympic Winter Games, said: “The new, flexible approach to electing Olympic hosts was designed so the IOC could respond swiftly and effectively to ever-changing global circumstances, for the benefit of the athletes, all Olympic Games participants and the whole sports movement.”