The Olympic Site Selection Saga: A Developing Story

Much attention has been devoted to Los Angeles and its bid for the Olympics – so much so that people might have missed one of the other developing stories: that of the possibility of a joint Canadian/U.S. bid for the 2026 Games.

For those who hadn’t heard, here’s the Reader’s Digest version. In late March/early April, announcement was made by Québec City’s Mayor Régis Labeaume that his city was ready to join forces with Lake Placid’s bid for the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. At the time, he noted, discussions were being held with Calgary, Vancouver and the American city about staging the event jointly among all cities.

On the surface, it sounded like a good idea: it was in line with the IOC’s Agenda 2020 which opened the way for multi-city cooperation on Games bids, it would mean that fewer new facilities would have to be built (meaning cost savings to each city, which could then host those events it was able to accommodate) – and of course, there was the whole feel-good idea of cross-border cooperation.

It sounded almost too good to be true, and unfortunately, it was. Last week, Québec pulled out of the discussions, saying it did not have the facilities to host an event like the Olympics, and that it would cost too much to build any new venues, particularly those required by a winter Games. And the talks on a joint bid seem to have fallen apart altogether, according to an article in Inside The Games.

Several possibilities have been brought forward (but not confirmed) as to why the multi-city concept wouldn’t work. One theory has been that the USOC is focusing on the L.A. 2024 bid and was not able to divert resources to planning a bid for a second Olympics two years from that time, particularly one that would involve cross-border work.

However, the realities are more complex. The cities being considered are all located a considerable distance from one another; it wouldn’t be a shuttle bus ride. The logistics of transferring athletes to and from various venues, as well as trying to find suitable accommodations throughout the Games for athletes, media and others at various sites around the U.S. and Canada could also present problems.

A more political issue would be trying to decide which cities get to would host specific events (since some are higher-profile and therefore more desirable, in terms of television coverage and viewership.) Even the tourism aspect would be challenging since spectators likely would need to confine themselves to one city, and could miss the variety of events that make the Games so attractive for audience members.

Any one challenge is formidable, but the combination is simply forbidding.

So who will host the 2026 Games is still up in the air. In the meantime, attention is still being trained on 2024 and in the U.S., on L.A.’s chances. A recent announcement that Rome’s leading mayoral candidate opposes hosting the Games in the Eternal City may be another point in L.A.’s favor. But elections aren’t until next month, and as the sports world is well aware, a lot can happen in a few short weeks.

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