2022 Power Index -- Uncertainty Rules Winter Olympic Race

(ATR) ATR outlines the challenges for five cities in the first edition of the ATR Olympic Bid Power Index for 2022.

Five cities hope to host the 2022 Winter Olympics; all face challenges in the first edition of the ATR Olympic Bid Power Index for 2022.

The race for the 2022 Winter Games begins with the weakest field of contenders in decades. While there are some strengths among the cities, the field is hardly ideal for the IOC, which may have become the victim of backlash over the cost and complexity of the Games as well as the process for bidding.

The five cities: Almaty, Kazakhstan; Beijing, China; Krakow, Poland; Lviv, Ukraine; and Oslo, Norway.

Oslo seeks the Olympics for a third time in Norway. Beijing could be the first to host Summer and Winter Games, while Almaty is making a third try. Lviv and Krakow are first time bidders.

Significant to note: three bids that were derailed by lack of public support could have changed the character of the contest by virtue of the technical superiority they may have offered.

Munich, which also ran for 2018 and was possibly the strongest contender for 2022, dropped out last October when voters across Bavaria rejected plans to bid. Voters in another winter sport haven, Switzerland, also turned down a winter Olympic bid last year. And in January, Stockholm had to drop out when city leaders refused to back a bid.

The first edition of the Around the Rings Olympic Bids Power Index for the 2022 Winter Games provides some measure of the weakness of the remaining five cities. All five score in the middling range of the Power Index.

March 2014 Almaty Beijing Krakow Lviv Oslo Ambience (5) 3 3 3 3 3 Accomodation 6 6 6 6 7 Bid Operation 5 5 6 6 7 Finance 7 7 5 5 2 Last Games (5) 5 1 5 5 2 Legacy 7 6 6 7 7 Marketing 6 7 5 5 8 Gov/Public Support 7 7 5 5 5 Security 5 6 5 5 7 Transportation 6 5 5 5 7 Venue Plans 7 4 4 4 6 POWER INDEX 64 57 55 56 61

Almaty scores the best, but it’s only 64 points out of the 100 possible. Oslo, seemingly a strong bid, only scores 61; Beijing at 57. Two laggards are Lviv and Kraków, 56 and 55 respectively.

The ATR Power Index evaluates the bid cities across 11 categories ranging from accommodations to venue plans. In this initial review, scores in the category of ambience have been pegged at three until satisfactory assessments in this subjective category can be made. It’s one of two categories -- along with Last Games – that has a maximum score of five. The other nine categories carry 10 point maximums, with a total score possible of 100.

Almaty leads this race by virtue of geographic good fortune. It is the only one of the five cities that has mountains nestled against city limits. Venues have been built to host the Asian Winter Games that will be used again in 2017 for the Winter Universiade.

Arenas for some ice events still need to be built in Almaty, but the scale of work needed is less than most of the other 2022 hopefuls. The iconic Medeu speedskating arena is supposed to be covered and used both for sport and opening and closing ceremonies. Of all five 2022 cities, Almaty presents the only truly compact bid.

Big projects needed include the Olympic Village and continued improvements to roadways and airport expansion. Almaty also needs a hotel construction boom to meet IOC requirements if the city of 1.5 million wins the Games.

Kazakhstan is the only one of the five countries bidding for 2022 that does not have an IOC member. The IOC has yet to vote for a host city without an IOC member in the country.

Oslo might be a clear front-runner if not for the indecision of the national government on whether to back the 2022 bid. National surveys indicate the public is not so sure either.

Questions are being raised about how much will come from the national treasury and the extent of IOC concessions the host city must provide, such as hotel rooms, which are stipulated in the host city contract.

Having hosted the Games twice before plus the coming 2016 winter edition of the Youth Olympic Games set for Lillehammer, the novelty of playing host may have worn off in Norway.

Speaking of Lillehammer, the 1994 Olympic Alpine venues will be pressed into service if Oslo wins. The venues, 200km from Oslo, will force a second Olympic village, media center and the logistics of spanning such a distance. It’s a fact of geography that saddles Oslo, Beijing, Kraków and Lviv.

On the plus side, Oslo will cluster all the other venues around the city, which overall presents the most modern and compact city in the 2022 race. Norway, a Winter Olympic sport powerhouse, also would be the most experienced among the five contenders. And among the five there is little doubt knowledgeable and fervent Norwegian sports fans would fill venues.

But all it will take is a refusal by the national government to end this Norwegian Olympic dream. No date has been set for this decision, which some have said could come before the IOC makes its short list in July or in the fall after the IOC chooses the finalists.

Beijing is the next contender, on paper at least. The 2008 Summer Olympic host city is one of the world’s largest with the infrastructure and hotels needed to support the arena events planned for the city. The iconic Bird’s Nest stadium from the 2008 Games would be the site for opening and closing ceremonies. A new Olympic Village would be built nearby, one of three villages Beijing organizers are planning.

The other two villages are needed because the bid requires the participation of the city of Zhangjiakou, a mountainous area 200 km north of Beijing. All the snow events would be staged in the region, making it tough for spectators, media and athletes to commute from Beijing, similar to the challenge facing Krakow, Lviv and Oslo. Beijing bid backers say a new high-speed rail line will cut the travel time to less than two hours each way, which is still a substantial investment of time for those who must go back and forth on the same day.

Beijing scores lowest among the five cities in the Last Games category, which takes into account the issue of geographic rotation. In the case of Beijing, hosting the 2008 Games is one thing, but with PyeongChang, South Korea, site of the 2018 Winter Games, and Tokyo hosting the 2020 Summer Games, conventional wisdom does not give much hope for the IOC to stage a third Olympics in a row in the Far East. Nonetheless, the field for 2022 has already been altered by the unexpected and Beijing could remain as the last city standing when it comes time for the IOC to vote in 2015.

With Ukraine facing life or death issues of national sovereignty, it is hard to see how a bid from Lviv is a priority for the country. At one time the bid had the support and attention of the government, but that was before a new regime took over, with more elections to come. And who can tell what will happen in Crimea? The stability Lviv needs from Ukraine for a credible Olympic bid is not there.

Lviv may be an attractive tourist-oriented city that is using an Olympic bid to guide its development, but the timing is clearly off.

Under the Olympic plan for Lviv, new arenas would be built in the city of 700,000, including a first-ever sliding venue in an urban center. Improvements would come to resorts to the south in the Carpathian Mountains.

Kraków is the latest bid from Poland for a Winter Games. A midsized city in the south of the country, Kraków would need substantial work on venues, hotels and other infrastructure.

The most complicating factor for the Polish bid is the plan to host all the ski events across the border in Jasna, Slovakia, 200 km from Kraków.

While IOC rules permit such a cross-border bid, one has never advanced to the final stage of consideration. The distance from the city venues in Poland to the mountain venues in Slovakia is probably an additional handicap facing the Kraków bid.

Kraków was the only city of the 2022 field that failed to host a press conference in Sochi during the 2014 Games. The death of the father of bid leader Jagna Marczułajtis-Walczak forced cancellation of a planned briefing, which was the only press event the IOC allowed for the 2022 cities in Sochi. Marczułajtis, a member of Parliament, was not able to return to Sochi after the funeral due to legislative obligations, which prevented even a rescheduled press briefing.

Marczułajtis-Walczak is the only woman in the 2022 field to have the top spot in the bid leadership and is the only Olympian. She was a snowboarder at three consecutive Games beginning in 1998.

Written by Ed Hula and Mark Bisson