The Netherlands, selected as the hosts of the second-ever European Games in 2019, have dropped out as hosts on the eve of opening ceremonies at the inaugural Games.
2015 will be the first staging of the multi-sport Games, kicking off in Baku, Azerbaijan on June 12th. The event is set to happen every four years, but there may be a scramble for the 2019 version now that the Netherlands have backed out as hosts.
The Dutch announced their withdrawal as hosts today, citing the financial burdens of hosting a major sporting event. EuroNews reports that Dutch Sports Minister Edith Schippers connected the decision to withdraw to “the lack of financial security and a lack of interest from some international sports federations who have questioned the need for yet another event in an already crowded sporting calendar.”
The European Games are meant to bring the best of multiple sports together as a sort of off-year Olympic Games. But many sports already schedule their European Championships in between Olympic cycles, including swimming, which has the LEN European Aquatics Championships.
The EuroNews story notes that swimming is one of the major sports in which the European Games will struggle to draw the continent’s top talent. Indeed, the inaugural Games haven’t appeared to be a priority for most of the major swimming federations, who are focused more on the World Championships to take place in July and August in Kazan, Russia.
The Netherlands citing the financial difficulties of hosting a major sporting event only adds to a growing theme we’ve seen this year in hosting major sporting events. In swimming, Mexico already pulled out as hosts of the 2017 World Aquatics Championships due to financial difficulties. When the United States were suggested by fans and media members as a potential replacement host, USA Swimming put the immediate kibosh on the idea, calling it an “impossible” option to host the Championships due to the high costs associated with it.
Hungary recently took over as hosts, but there too, a news report that the event could cost the nation up to $177 million raised eyebrows.
As more nations and federations begin to fear the economic cost of hosting a high-level sporting event, host status for various major events is beginning to feel less like a coveted privilege and tourism boom and more like a financial albatross. It’s only fair to wonder how long it will be until the less-prestigious events – new events like the European Games, for example – start struggling to find host nations at all.