Flexible timelines, more dialogue, multi-cities: The new-look search for Olympic hosts
By Jonathan Rest
The days of competitive Olympic Games bidding are officially over, after International Olympic Committee members today voted in favour of a significant overhaul of the process.
The multiple changes, unanimously backed by the IOC session in Lausanne, were put forward by the executive board following a spate of withdrawals - either through a lack of political support or defeats in referenda - in the bidding for recent summer and winter Olympic Games.
Four amendments have been made to the Olympic Charter, with the likelihood that the full effect of the changes to the bidding process will begin with the 2030 winter Olympics campaign.
The key points are:
- a flexible timeline so the host can be elected more or fewer than seven years in advance;
- establishment of a permanent, ongoing dialogue to explore and create interest among cities/regions/countries and national Olympic committees for Olympic Games and Youth Olympic Games;
- creation of two future host commissions (summer and winter games) to replace the evaluation commissions and oversee interest in future Olympic Games and Youth Olympic Games and report to the executive board;
- 'host' does not necessarily refer to a single city, but can also refer to multiple cities/regions/countries.
Thomas Bach, IOC president, said: “This is the evolution of the Olympic Agenda 2020 revolution, as we must continue to keep up with the fast pace of change in our current world. Flexibility is a necessity to ensure good governance and to have sustainable Olympic Games in the future. We will do that while maintaining the magic of the games, the fundamental principle of universality and our commitment to having athletes at the centre of everything we do.”
Since his election as IOC president in 2013, Bach has striven to do away with the traditional (and costly and cut-throat) Olympic Games bidding process, aiming to move more towards a collaborative approach that "avoids producing too many losers."
The IOC already followed that procedure for the 2024 Olympics bidding process, with Paris awarded those games and rival Los Angeles being persuaded to follow suit as host city in 2028.
That meant Los Angeles was awarded the games 11 years in advance, compared with the seven years that has been customary.
The recent 2026 winter Olympics bid process, which culminated on Monday with Milan-Cortina beating Stockholm-Are, also went against the norm with multi-city bids (the Swedish bid also involved staging the sliding competitions in Sigulda in Latvia).
Despite the changes - and the likelihood there will not be a tense, secret vote as witnessed on Monday - the IOC insisted today that its members will "continue to be at the centre of the decision-making process, with the session’s prerogative to elect games hosts preserved. The members will be consulted on numerous occasions, and prospective hosts will still be required to make presentations to the session, which will have the opportunity to ask questions and provide comments."
Meanwhile, the IOC today elected 10 new members, all proposed by the executive board last month.
Seven have been installed as individual members: Spyros Capralos, president of Greece's Hellenic Olympic Committee, Indonesia's Erick Thohir, the former owner of Italian soccer's Internazionale; Ivory Coast's Tidjane Thiam, chief executive of Credit Suisse; Laura Chinchilla, former president of Costa Rica; Cameroon's Ntsama Assembe Celestine Odette Epse Engoulou; Matlohang Moiloa-Ramoqopo from Lesotho; and Filomena Maria Spencer Africano Fortes from Cape Verde.
The three new members whose candidatures are linked to a function within an NOC or a continental association of NOCs are: Narinder Batra, president of the Indian Olympic Association, and of the FIH, field hockey's governing body; Mustapha Berraf, the Algerian president of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa; and Kee Heung Lee, president of the Korean Sport & Olympic Committee.