Nobody wants to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, the host city for which will be announced just next year. When Vladimir Putin spent $51 billion on the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, it didn’t just show off how much money Vladimir Putin could spend on things; it established a precedent that other nations are now apparently terrified of tanking their GNPs to live up to. This is particularly true in Europe, which continues to suffer from economic hardships and doesn’t have any leaders who are overbearing megalomaniacs who are just as likely to spend $51 billion on a relatively meaningless athletic competition as they are to take off their shirt, grease up, and ride a bear into combat.
In just the last few months, two of the six finalists—both European cities—have withdrawn their bids. Stockholm, Sweden, did so in January, with the ruling political party (the Moderates) saying that it’s sort of pointless to spend all that money on athletic facilities that will be used for two weeks and then rarely ever again. (This sounds remarkably like something that could have been a plotline in the Danish political drama Borgen. Maybe Kasper would talk about how biathlon gave his life meaning as a young boy.) Then just yesterday, the Polish city of Krakow decided it, too, had little use for all that expense for so many headaches, as 70 percent of the city’s residents voted against the games in a referendum. That goes along with bids from Munich, Germany, and Davos/St. Moritz, Switzerland, which fell apart last year.
“But wait!” you might be saying. “If only two of the six finalists have withdrawn, that leaves four cities left, right?” While this is technically true, that number may soon fall to, effectively, two. For one thing, one of those four cities is Oslo, Norway, a city where support for the Games is crumbling (much as it did in Stockholm and Krakow), and another is Lviv, Ukraine, which, well, Vladimir Putin yet again. That leaves Beijing, China, which is not known for its winters, and Almaty, Kazakhstan, which is in a country that has a lot of oil money but also a fair amount of human rights abuses and that whole “basically a dictatorship” thing. (Then again, when your alternative is China…) In the past, the IOC could usually just toss the games to a European or American city without too much trouble, but increasingly, it seems like the event (particularly the Winter Olympics, which have a narrower range of options to begin with) is going to become the domain of countries where spending an insane amount of money on a two-week endeavor is never going to be subject to popular referendum in any way.
All of this means the Winter Olympics may soon become a Dickensian spinster, Miss Havishaming away their lives in a dusty old drawing room, surrounded by ice skating rinks and moguls courses that are being eaten away by flies, turning their lives to ruin and forcing their nieces to ensnare innocent young men in their games of haughty deception. Huh, that book was kind of sexist, wasn’t it?
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