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S Korea, Japan and China: How Asia won the right to host three Olympics

Olympics host city selection is a complicated interplay between the political and economic environments of the world when the host city selection process is playing out

Conor Sen | Bloomberg 

Winter Olympics
Photo: AP/PTI

It might seem puzzling that Asia's getting three in a row. has the 2018 Winter Games, Japan has the 2020 Summer Games, and China has Shouldn't the Olympic Committee spread the wealth a bit more? It's not that simple, because host city selection is a complicated interplay between the political and economic environments of the world when the host city selection process is playing out. This run of is happening in largely because of the financial crisis in 2008. The bidding for the 2018 games began in the summer of 2009. Back then, you may recall, the world was just beginning to shake off an economic crisis. While stock markets were recovering, the unemployment rate in the U. S. continued to climb and was approaching 10 percent, and a sovereign debt crisis was still destabilizing Europe. This was not the best environment for politicians in democratically governed countries to submit bids to host an expensive global spectacle. Three cities bid to host the 2018 games: in South Korea, in and Annecy in This was fewer than the seven cities that applied to host the 2014 games. Both of the European bids came from Europe's core rather than the peripheral countries that had so many problems with their sovereign debt in 2010 and 2011, as the bid process was ongoing. Ultimately, was chosen to host. Just as the 2018 selection process occurred in the aftershocks of an economic crisis, the 2020 process began during the era of austerity that followed. While New York bid for and tried to help Chicago's bid for the 2016 Summer Games, the U. S. chose not to bid for the 2020 games. Rome initially intended to bid for the 2020 games but, perhaps because of the ongoing sovereign debt crisis, pulled its bid at the last minute because of lack of support from the government. The final shortlist was Tokyo, and Istanbul.

Perhaps because of ongoing economic problems in Spain, and political instability in Turkey, represented the safest bet. Then there's 2022: the that nobody wanted. The bid process began in 2013 at a time when economies had stabilized, but it still didn't feel like a robust expansion in many countries. Governments had yet to emerge from a cycle of austerity. By late 2014, only two bids remained to host the 2022 games -- Almaty, Kazahkstan, and Beijing, China. When your choices are China or a country with an smaller than Iraq's or Algeria's, you pick China. The good news is that the economic and political environments have recovered enough to get Western countries interested in hosting the again. If the site selection process before the financial crisis was fraught with corruption and sticking unprepared cities with expensive boondoggles -- think in Sochi and the 2016 Summer Games in Rio -- then perhaps this new era represents a more prudent, thoughtful environment of putting in countries with stable political climates that are wealthy enough to handle the responsibility. Paris, chosen to host the 2024 Summer Games, and Los Angeles, host of the 2028 Summer Games, are both global cities that have hosted the before. While it's still early in the bidding process for the 2026 Winter Games, expect rationality to prevail there as well. The evolution of the site selection process over the past generation provides a glimmer of hope for those seeking better governance beyond the hosting of global sports events. For too long, being chosen to host the left cities with a legacy of debt and vacant, decaying venue sites. It's no wonder cities have become reluctant to take on the burden of hosting. Perhaps it took continued crises and blatant corruption to change that culture. If a reformed, chastened Committee can pull off successive without repeating the boondoggles, it'll go a long way toward restoring trust. And if it works for the Olympics, maybe there's hope for other public works and social programs too.

First Published: Tue, February 13 2018. 10:33 IST
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