New Norm for Olympic Games

(ATR) IOC pitches international media on new approaches to lowering costs of the Olympics.

(ATR) The IOC is eager to spread the gospel that staging the Olympic Games is not a budget-busting imposition on a host city.

Tuesday in PyeongChang, the IOC assembled a roundtable of experts to explain what’s being called the "new norm". More than a dozen journalists were on hand to hear the IOC pitch.

The new norm is a philosophy and approach that’s borne out of the Olympic Agenda 2020 reforms adopted in 2014, as well as continued reluctance by potential host cities to bid.

Leading the effort is IOC member John Coates, experienced as one of the leaders of the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and currently the chair of the IOC Coordination Commission for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. In his work in Tokyo so far, Coates has helped lower the venue budget for the Games in Japan by more than $2 billion.

Coates, Gunilla Lindberg, the chair of the IOC commission for PyeongChang, International Golf Federation Executive Director Antony Scanlon, Olympic Games executive director Christophe Dubi and Paris 2024 President Tony Estanguet took part in the hour-long roundtable at the Main Press Center in PyeongChang.

Coates says the new norm is a "massive rethink" of the way the Olympic Games are organized from bidding to delivery to legacy. Reducing cost, complexity, risk and waste are the objectives.

In the case of the 2018 Winter Games, there have been savings even though the work of the organizing committee was well underway when Olympic Agenda 2020 was adopted in 2014. Fewer seats are in venues as an example of reduced physical plant costs in PyeongChang.

But too late for these Winter Olympics, the construction of a new sliding track. The IOC no longer makes it a requirement of a winter city to have such a facility, often the most expensive venue to be built for the Winter Games. With the endorsement of the sliding sports international federations, it’s now no longer necessary to build one. Instead, any of the 13 existing tracks around the world can be used.

That said, Beijing, host of the 2022 Winter Games, will nonetheless build a track supposedly to support a post-Games legacy in the sliding sports. So despite the new edict of flexibility under the new norm, there will be three sliding tracks close to one another in the Far East. One in Sapporo, Japan, one in South Korea and now the latest in the mountains north of Beijing.

Dubi tells Around the Rings that in PyeongChang, security appears to have been over-scoped at the Olympic Plaza. He says organizers wanted to make sure visitors to the plaza and the live sight could enter without much delay. Dubi says the result has been many more screening machines at security then needed. He says some have hardly been used, especially with the low turnout so far.

For the Summer Olympics, Scanlon observed that the first iteration of the bid from Los Angeles for the 2024 Games included plans to build a new golf course, identifying it as a legacy venue. Scanlon said with an abundance of golf courses in the area, the IGF convinced the bid to use an existing course to save money.

Estanguet, the pilot of the first Olympics to be fully covered by the new norm, says that the 2024 Games will aim for a legacy defined not by new venues or other physical elements. In Paris, Estanguet estimates that 90 percent of the venues will either be existing or temporary, leaving little to construct in the French capital.

He says the legacy for Paris will be measured in the growth of interest by young people in Olympic sports.

That is the strategy we will take in Paris 2024," he said. "And we are engaging all of our stakeholders to follow the same mission".

Dubi said Los Angeles, also without much to construct for the 2028 Olympics, is set to measure its legacy by the growth of youth participation in sports prior to the Games.

It’s a goal that’s been touted in nearly every bid for the Olympics of recent decades. London 2012 in particular was supposed to energize a new generation to take up sport, but the results are not conclusive.

And Los Angeles already has a well-funded foundation, LA84, meant to drive youth sport development. Founded and funded using a $175 million surplus from the 1984 Olympics, it’s not exactly clear how that legacy for youth sports will be coordinated with the new effort tied to 2028.

Written by Ed Hula in PyeongChang.

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