Today the IOC unveiled “The New Norm,” a list of 118 reforms aimed at making the Olympic Games more affordable and legacy-oriented for future host cities. As part of the reforms, the IOC is also restructuring the Olympic bidding process as a means of attracting more new host cities.
Though Rio de Janeiro was the first-ever South American host of the Olympic Games, the IOC has been hard-pressed to find suitable new hosts for some time. London, for example, has hosted the Olympics three times (1900, 1924, 2012), while Paris and Los Angeles will both also become three-time hosts after the 2024 and 2028 Olympic cycles, respectively. However, Los Angeles was not the USOC’s original pick for the 2024 bid; they instead chose Boston, which later reneged, forcing the USOC to ask LA if they would put in for the 2024 bid, which they did. Boston was one of several bidders for those 2024 games that withdrew – which was the primary impetus for awarding the 2024 and 2028 hosting duties simultaneously.
With Olympic hosting popularity on the decline, the IOC has been attempting to reframe the bidding, but after the much-anticipated Rio Games and the subsequent economic fall-out of Brazil’s economy after showing so much promise just seven years earlier when the IOC chose Rio over Madrid, Tokyo, and Chicago, it is worth asking whether or not “The New Norm” will be the magic bullet the IOC needs in order to keep the Olympics alive.
Considering the international public backlash the IOC received after the Rio Games closed and the city began slipping into disarray, sustainability and legacy were the most profiled and important aspects of both Paris and Los Angeles’s bids during the campaign to host the 2024 Olympic Games, which was decided in September of 2017. Ultimately, the IOC awarded Paris the 2024 Games while LA deferred hosting the Summer Games again until 2028.
Flowing from the Olympic Agenda 2020, The New Norm is principally centered on six recommendations aimed at improving the organization of the Games. The six recommendations are:
- Shape the bidding process as an invitation
- Evaluate bid cities by assessing key opportunities and risks
- Reduce the cost of bidding
- Include sustainability in all aspects of the Olympic Games
- Reduce the cost and reinforce the flexibility of Olympic Games management
- Maximise synergies with Olympic Movement stakeholders
The cost of hosting the Olympics is immediately prohibitive for most cities, something the IOC is hoping to change by making the candidature process “more flexible.” By implementing the “invitation” phase, the IOC would essentially work to weed-out cities that are unprepared to host an Olympic Games. As stated on the olympic.org’s candidature process page:
“Potential Candidate Cities are invited to attend a workshop in Lausanne to discuss their initial ideas with the IOC and receive various levels of assistance and feedback ahead of officially submitting a candidature. This also includes sharing of best practices, provision of materials and a focus on understanding the Games to put together a solid project that best meets the city’s long-term development needs.”
“Encouragement of legacy and sustainability begins right from the outset of the Invitation Phase to ensure the Games act as a catalyst for positive development of tangible and intangible legacies for the city and the region.”
With a heightened focus on legacy, measuring how “successful” a city’s execution of the Olympic Games is now requires keeping an eye on hosts long after all the Games have closed. Essentially, while the 2016 Rio Olympics were successful in that there were no major breaches in security, disease outbreaks, or venue failures–beyond green water in a diving well, that is–the impact of hosting the Games and the economic recoil following the construction and later abandonment of multi-billion-dollar venues would render the Rio Olympics a failure by these standards.
Traditionally, Olympic host committees have claimed that new venues will pay for themselves by first creating jobs that stimulate the local economy, and later by attracting more major events to the city. However, as far as the Olympics are concerned, this Keynesian type of thinking has proven largely untrue. Recent examples of underutilized Olympic venues include basically everything built for the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, much of the infrastructure built for the 2008 Beijing Games, and especially Rio. Not wanting to repeat this pattern any longer, the IOC will now focus on utilizing existing infrastructure for Olympic competition and will stage multiple sports in the same arenas.
One interesting example of using pre-existing venues to host multiple Olympic sports will be on display at the 2022 Olympics, where the famous Water Cube will be transformed and used for curling. Beijing will also become the first-ever city to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics.
The IOC claims that Tokyo 2020 has already saved $2.2 billion USD by implementing the new processes, which also include drawing on pre-existing public transportation to optimize mobility of Olympic goers, as well as re-examining the size and layout of the Olympic Village.
Furthermore, Olympic Organizing Committees (OCOGs) will implement “Joint Steering Forums and a revised “3+4 year” approach to organizing the Games” as a way of keeping costs down and delivering a successful Olympics. Of the Joint Steering Forms, the IOC will work with both national and local governments and the host’s OCOG to reduce the impact felt by host cities. The “3+4 year” approach, meanwhile, emphasizes 3 years to “Think and Design” followed by 4 years to “Plan, Train and Act.” Altogether this “7-year Journey Together” is aimed at reducing the cost, complexity, risks, and wastes associated with hosting an event the size of the Olympics, while increasing the value the Olympics bring to the cities and regions that host them while simultaneously delivering an efficient and equitable Games where hosts, local governments, and the IOC are all on equal grounds.
Per the report (page 24), the main cost drivers of the of hosting an Olympic Games are split between the following areas:
|31%||Other Budget Categories||39%||Transport|
|18%||Technology||30%||Other Budget Categories|
For the 2024 Summer Games, Paris will utilize its astute public transportation system to help reduce the costs of transportation, while LA 2028 will save by not having to build new venues for competition or an Olympic Village. Another interesting proposal to reduce the cost and redundancy of ticket sales involves acquiring a ticket provider that would “last over several editions of the Games will save the OCOGs from having to design, engineer, tender and deliver a system and services for one edition of the Games only.”
The New Norm also reveals the IOC’s acknowledgment of public outcry from residents of host cities that are left to clean up after the Olympics have ended and the world’s attention is diverted elsewhere. While it is easy to point out this kind of backlash following the Rio Olympics less than two years ago, even seemingly “successful” iterations of the Games such as Montreal 1976 left many residents feeling used and exploited by a corrupt and self-interested system that was not concerned with those who call the city home. With any luck, the New Norm may help hosts and OCOGs to strike a balance between the Olympic splendor and glory fans expect, and the conscientiousness and practicality locals yearn for when the world is invited to the largest celebration of sports in the known universe.