The proverbial, borderline metaphorical, ‘Olympic movement’ has been struggling. As Olympic athletes lean harder and harder against the artificial levies of ‘preserving amateurism,’ and the 2014 Winter Olympics have devolved into the most political Games since the end of the cold war, and the 2016 Games in Rio have, in a very short period, begun to get bogged down in a South American quagmire, the Olympics were on the rocks.
Not quite NCAA football ‘on the rocks,’ but things were certainly not going in the right direction.
With the selection of Tokyo to host the 2020 Games, though, things have been stabilized a bit.
This is not to say that Madrid or Istanbul wouldn’t have been great picks. Both cities are spectacular in their own rights and perhaps even more exciting than the eventual choice Tokyo.
Tokyo, however, brings stability to the market. Nobody will be wondering if the Tokyo Olympics will be happening. There will be little concern about the legacy of the games, corruption, or if venues will be completed on time. There will not be huge concerns about the mega-deficits and Olympic graveyards we saw after Athens.
The International Olympic Committee membership has taken some gambles. Putting the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, was a gamble. Awarding the 2106 Olympics to Rio de Janeiro, the first time ever in South America for the summer or Winter Games, was a gamble. The problems with Rio, including the drug activity, the gang activity, and the corruption, have been a massive undertaking. Athens was a gamble to capture the ‘return to the Olympic roots,’ and it flopped miserably, but the IOC hedged their bets by going to Beijing and London: an economic juggernaut then a ‘classic’ city of the Western world.
Even the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea have been a bit of a leap.
London was a safe pick in 2012. Perhaps even Beijing in 2008, though it had a lot of question marks, was a relatively safe pick because of the support of the Chinese machine.
After 8 years of rocky footing though, the Olympic Movement was ready to return to even footing.
No city is completely without risks or unpredictability. Japan will have to reassure the international community that they’ve got the nuclear plants under control. We’re still talking about 7 years down the road, and if in 7 years, that problem hasn’t been solved, then Japan and the world have much, much bigger issues at hand.
Expect this bid to be followed up in a 1-2 punch with the 2024 host, where the bidding process is still two years away, being either one of the big American cities (Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Washington D.C.), or a major Western European metropolis (Paris, Berlin, and Rome are all believed to be serious contenders).
There’s plenty of intriguing picks for 2024. Baku, Azerbaijan is a country rich with new oil money, hosting the 2015 European Games, that will be ready to throw their weight around globally in another decade. The Olympics have never been held in Africa, the only inhabited continent without one, and Durban has World Cup experience under their belts.
They’re too timid of a follow-up to Tokyo, though. Tokyo will be a great games, but they need a follow-up. Tokyo can’t be followed by a whimper, it must be followed by a statement, before 2028 will be ready for another gamble.
Asian cities should save their money and pack in the 2024 bids now; having been there for the summer in 2008 and 2020, plus winter in 2018, even the IOC’s desire to capture the massive Asian markets won’t be enough to win the bid. European and American hosts will be weary of the time zones and the travel, which will similarly rule out Australia.
To recapture the attentions and broadcasters of American media, which is still the biggest Olympic cash cow, 2024 really should return to the United States. It will reinvigorate the movement in America, where professional sports are beginning to grow so big and powerful that they may drown out the Olympics even for those two weeks every other year where everyone catches the bug.
The world’s climate politically continues to become even more complex, and as the world’s leading super power (which the United States remains for now), the more political complexity will lead to grander questions of whether the United States can draw the appropriate international support to win a bid in 2024. Money, however, will continue to reign supreme, and after a Tokyo set in 2020, the Americans will be ready to spike an absolutely massive point home for the IOC, the Olympic Games, and most importantly the Olympic Movement.