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In Competition To Host Olympics, Less Clamor Than Crickets


When a host city is picked for The Olympics or The World Cup, ideally, there's a split-screen shot of local boosters on different continents, a winner is chosen, its committee members turn ecstatic, and the losers shake their heads, sob and think about the next chance in four years. That is the ideal. Here's the real version. Cities that are ostensibly vying to host the 2022 Winter games, keep dropping out. Sure, they have their boosters, but then they have a referendum and the people, in a gorgeous mosaic of many languages say, no way. We're going to ask David Wallechinsky about this trend. He's been writing about The Olympics for so long, he is now president of the International Society Of Olympic Historians. Welcome to the program.


SIEGEL: And let's take off some cities that will not be making Olympic history in eight years - cities that have said, on second thought, we don't want them.

WALLECHINSKY: Yes, there's a number of cities that originally said, oh boy, we want to bid for the winter Olympics, and then changed their minds, beginning in Switzerland, St. Moritz - Germany, Munich - Sweden, Stockholm - Krakow in Poland and Oslo in Norway - is really on the edge.

SIEGEL: Why? Why is it that so many people are voting against hosting the Winter games these days?

WALLECHINSKY: I think that the main problem is the expense. And potential bidders were really traumatized with what happened with the Sochi Olympics in Russia because they cost more than $50 billion, which was four or five times as much money as any other Olympics in history. And really, in fact, the Sochi games were a story of corruption and useless construction. So I'm sorry that it spread to making other cities worry about it.

SIEGEL: OK, we've heard the cities that are out of the running and you say Oslo is still sort of in the running - as is Lviv, Ukraine, Almaty, Kazakhstan and Beijing - that's what it's come down to for 2022.

WALLECHINSKY: Yes. Unfortunately, with Lviv, Ukraine, right now it would appear to be that their major winter sport might be biathlon, skiing and shooting, and that's not really the mood that the international committee wants for an Olympics. Almaty, Kazakhstan has a lot of oil money but it's a dictatorship. And Beijing is in China - it's also a dictatorship. And so there's a worry that we're going to be stuck with a bunch of Asian dictatorships for the winter Olympics.

SIEGEL: Countries where you can't have a referendum to overturn the official interest in hosting the Winter Olympic Games.


SIEGEL: This is a problem for the winter games. For the summer games?

WALLECHINSKY: The summer games does not seem to be a problem. That decision will be made in 2017 and there's just no shortage of cities bidding. In fact, there are several bidding just to become the U.S. bid city. There's a lot of competition - Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston - many others. Paris will be bidding very hard, most of their venues are ready and it will be the 100th anniversary of the last time they hosted the Olympics.

SIEGEL: But as for the 2022 games, from what I'm hearing, you say if the IOC had its druthers, they'd go to Oslo?

WALLECHINSKY: I think that the IOC would prefer to have the 2022 Olympics in Oslo, Norway. First of all, because it's a safe country. It's a democracy. It's a country with a wonderful winter sport history. They love their winter sports. They hosted the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, a small town, in 1994. Everybody had a great time. Everything went smoothly. And so the IOC dreams of another Winter Olympics, not just in Norway specifically, but in Western Europe. They feel comfortable with that. And frankly, most of the countries that do well in the Winter Olympics are either in Europe or in North America. They're not in Asia.

SIEGEL: David Wallechinsky, thanks for talking with us.


SIEGEL: David Wallechinsky has written more books about the Olympics than we can mention here. He is president of the International Society Of Olympic Historians. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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