India says it is serious about hosting the 2036 Olympics.
Indian Olympic Association president Narinder Batra said this weekend that talks have opened with the IOC about a possible Games 15 years from now.
That might seem a very long lead time but a host for 2036 is the next Summer Olympic city set to be picked by the IOC. The selection earlier this year of Brisbane for 2032 clearly defined the IOC’s preference to look ahead. Los Angeles was chosen for 2028 in 2017, also an 11 year window. That formula would mean deciding 2036 four years from now, the final year of the Thomas Bach presidency.
Or it could be even earlier, if the IOC is serious about bringing to Games to new regions such as India or Africa, which may benefit from the extra time to prepare. The new process of picking Olympic host cities gives the IOC flexibility to make the Olympics fit a host city, not the other way around.
Batra’s comments about Indian aspirations appear to be serious. That may force the IOC to reckon with India and other places overlooked in the past 125 years of Olympic Games. That means a nod to India, Indonesia, perhaps the Mideast. Africa, too.
It also means leaving out the usual suspects.
Madrid, which may rightly feel overlooked after two competitive bids, is nonetheless the capital of a prosperous western European nation. St. Petersburg, which has dreams of being a contender, won’t break new ground with a second Summer Games in Russia. A German bid for 2036, centennial of the Berlin Olympics, is likely doomed due to bad timing.
A quick recount of the most recent Summer Olympic hosts eliminates other possibilities. Games in Japan, France, U.S. and Australia rule out new bids from those nations anytime soon.
Dialogue and discussion behind closed doors between cities and the IOC, such as happened with Brisbane, is the new modus operandi for choosing Olympic hosts.
No longer do the cities need to spend millions on international campaigns that attract scorn and sometimes corruption. Ending the sideshow of an IOC Evaluation Commission traipsing the globe at great cost and inconvenience is another benefit of the new procedure for both the IOC and the contenders.
With 15 years to go, choosing a 2036 host is not exactly the most pressing decision facing the IOC.
Still up in the air is the question of the 2030 Winter Games, presumably to be chosen in the next year or so, likely before the 2036 host city is chosen. The most likely 2030 candidates include Salt Lake City, Sapporo and Vancouver – but all three are past hosts seeking encores without a newcomer in the bunch.
The IOC commission handling the selection of the 2036 city needs a chair before it can proceed. Norway’s Kristin Kloster, who led the group for the Brisbane decision, has stepped down following her election in July as a member of the IOC Executive Board. Members of the EB were once permitted to serve on the former evaluation commissions but are now excluded under the new process.
The choice of a new chair for the future host cities commission will also exclude that individual’s nation from consideration, which also narrows the field of potential bidders further.
With the EB meeting this week in Greece, the nomination of a new chair for the summer host cities panel could be confirmed by IOC President Thomas Bach. With the president of the Indian Olympic Association supposedly heading to Lausanne next month for talks about bidding, the IOC will need someone to greet Narinder Batra and colleagues.
The new selection procedures are supposed to eliminate the stigma of losing that befalls cities that come up short in the vote. Instead of the fevered finish for bid cities at the IOC Session, members will now confirm a single nominee that makes a good mutual fit.
While the new rules may prevent an ignominious fall for a candidate city at the IOC Session, there still will be losers -- just earlier than normal.
At some point in the next year or two, the IOC will have to spring the news to a clutch of hopefuls that their bids won’t be considered for 2036. Spain may be disappointed yet again. Russia will protest its rejection. Or it may be India or Qatar that’s told to wait. Africa, without a definite contender today, may need a decision from the IOC that targets the Games to a suitable city on the continent.
There may be time to do just that.
In any case, disappointment will still be part of the exercise. For those cities passed over for 2036, the IOC offers the solace that dialogue and discussion for Games beyond is now possible under the new process. That means the Olympics of 2040 and beyond.
The lure of bidding for the Olympics may endure as a goal in Madrid, St, Petersburg or Delhi, but human mortality may leave the dreamers of today unfulfilled.