— Published 7 December 2022

IOC shuffles the deck for the Winter Games

Who would have thought it? In the midst of the campaign for the 2030 Winter Games, the IOC took everyone by surprise when it announced on Tuesday 6 December its decision to reshuffle the deck. And even, come on, to change the rules.

A “preferred” candidate was expected, the only one authorised to continue the dialogue with the Olympic body and its future host commission. It is likely to be a long time coming. The choice of the city for the 2030 Winter Games was scheduled to be made during the Mumbai Session in September or October 2023. It has been postponed until the following year.

The change is not small. It even amounts to a revolution.

The IOC explained this on Tuesday 6 December, on the second day of its Executive Board meeting in Lausanne: the race for the 2030 Winter Games has been put on hold. The body wants to give itself time. It is up to the candidates to adapt and be patient.

Everything seemed pretty clear. Sapporo was the favourite. Salt Lake City was leaning towards the 2034 edition, more compatible in terms of marketing with the Los Angeles Games in 2028, but without completely closing the door on the 2030 option. Vancouver, on the other hand, was announced as having withdrawn from the process due to the lack of support from the British Columbia government, but the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Committees are still hoping to rekindle the flame.

Two candidates, therefore, and even a third if there is a miracle on the Canadian front. Playable. But since Tuesday 6 December, things have changed. The campaign is no longer a campaign. It has become a guessing game.

The IOC explained this in a press release: its Executive Board “received a detailed report from the Future Host Commission for the Olympic Winter Games, headed by Octavian Morariu. This presentation led to a broader discussion on climate change, sustainability of winter sports and opportunities and challenges for the future.”

In short, it led Thomas Bach and his entourage to throw out all or part of the “Winter Games 2030” dossier. In order to open another one, without prohibiting the slightest scenario.

At this stage, there is only one certainty: the host city of the 2030 Winter Games will not be designated next year at the 140th IOC Session in Mumbai. It should be decided a little less than a year later, in Paris, at the next session scheduled before the start of the 2024 Olympic Games.

For the rest, anything is possible. Among the ideas mentioned by the IOC is a “rotation of the Winter Olympics within a host group“, a formula that is sufficiently opaque to open the door to all kinds of interpretations. But also a proposal that hosts should “record average minimum temperatures below zero degrees at snow sport venues on the dates of the Games over a ten-year period.” Finally, the long-running issue of a 2030-2034 double vote came up again during the Executive Board meeting on Tuesday 6 December. But “no conclusion was reached, however, as this issue needs to be further investigated.”

Officially, the IOC wants to give itself time. To discuss the future of the Winter Games, their programme and their concept. To discuss the effects of climate change on an event that is increasingly affected by global warming.

Above all, the IOC wants to give the candidates time. By postponing the choice by almost a year, the IOC is offering a breath of fresh air to the Japanese in Sapporo to shed the burden of the corruption scandal linked to the Tokyo 2020 Games, to the Americans in Salt Lake City to finally decide on the 2030-2034 question, and even to the Canadians in Vancouver to fish out a project that was dumped in English Bay by the provincial authorities.

The IOC could also give time for one or more new candidates to join the race. Germany, for example. Its National Olympic Committee (DOSB) voted late last week in favour of a future Olympic bid. Its choice remains open as to the date and place. But it is not ruling out a bid for the Winter Games.