KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee started a week-long session in Malaysia on Tuesday, where the selection of a host for the 2022 Winter Olympics and checks on new reforms took an early backseat to Boston’s withdrawal from the 2024 race.
Only China’s Beijing and Kazakhstan’s Almaty remain in the running for the 2022 event after four bidders withdrew from the race with the Games, especially the winter edition, struggling to attract interest from prospective hosts.
“The key issue is to deliver a great Games for athletes, and that means having (a bid) which offers great conditions in the sport facilities but also to have a project which addresses the issues of Olympic Agenda 2020,” IOC President Thomas Bach told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.
“That means to have sustainable and feasible Olympic Games,” he said of the 2022 bidders.
However, Boston’s high-profile withdrawal just hours before the start of the IOC Executive Board meeting on Tuesday serves as a timely reminder of the work ahead for the Olympic movement as it seeks to rejuvenate the bidding process.
The United States Olympic Committee withdrew the bid after the mayor of Boston said his city’s taxpayers could not afford to host the large-scale event.
So far, Paris, Hamburg, Rome and Budapest have bid for the 2024 Summer Games with the IOC deadline for applicant cities falling on Sept. 15
Apart from the 2022 Games vote on July 31, IOC officials will also be reviewing a string of reforms voted in late last year as part of its ‘Agenda 2020’ initiative.
Many of them address the bidding process and the hosting of the Olympics, attempting to make them cheaper and thus more attractive to potential candidates but Boston’s withdrawal highlights the need to enforce them sooner rather than later.
The past week has also been a testing period for the next two Olympic Games organizers, who will be reporting on their progress to the IOC this week.
The Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics finally appear to have been dragged back on track following long delays and questions over venues with sponsors finally getting on board.
Organizers of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, meanwhile, have been forced to go back to the drawing board after plans for the new Olympic stadium were scrapped over costs earlier this month.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s surprise decision to take plans for the new National Stadium “back to zero” in the face of outrage over ballooning costs was the latest broken promise related to the Games, which Tokyo won in 2013 based largely on its organizational prowess and reputation for efficiency.
With the Olympics and their global appeal firmly in focus, the IOC meeting, which will not be attended by outgoing FIFA President Sepp Blatter, embroiled in a corruption scandal that continues to dog his organization, must convince the world their product remains an attractive and lucrative prospect.
Editing by John O'Brien