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Smitty

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Smitty last won the day on July 1

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  1. I think the post was partly inspired by tweets like this: I don't think this is a major issue, but Gamesbids (among others) have been taunted by this. More seriously is the way the culture of the IOC has changed under Thomas Bach. David Owen had a good piece on this at Insidethegames: He writes that IOC is becoming more like a multinational corporation, with intense interest in brand management. This probably means that bid processes could look more like the Amazon HQ2 one, but does not necessarily mean that more dictatorships will win; if the Olympics becomes too associated with authoritarian regimes that would risk reducing its brand value and why people watch the event and brands associate themselves with it. FIFA's loss of top-tier sponsors in the face of the corruption scandals was less important to it as broadcast rights still provide higher revenues (people seem to accept that much of football is shady and keep watching) but sponsorship revenue for the Olympics is surging so Lausanne will want to put that less at risk. A more negotiated "site selection process" may be better for this, and means that the political risks of "bidding" are borne more by elites in the host city/region/country than the IOC. We still need to see how the process will work, though.
  2. Smitty

    BidWeek: No Winter Games In Sweden. Ever?

    Having been to a couple of these I get the importance of this but it is different to say that it is planned around this. National houses tend to be where most of the athletes from that country compete; in Pyeongchang Holland House was on the coast in Gangneung (I watched the opening ceremony there) while Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Sweden were in the mountains at Alpensia. I imagine that there will be a similar balance. What the IOC wants to avoid is another Albertville, where athletes stayed in no fewer than 8 locations. The new rules mandating enough space in the main village for athletes to stay over for both ceremonies and when they have finished competing are designed to help with that atmosphere. At the end of the day a Swedish bid will mean that everyone with accreditation (volunteers aside) will fly on special charters between clusters; flights from Stockholm or Gothenburg to Åre Östersund airport should take under an hour, and schedules will be integrated with the Games Transport System (T1/T2/T3/TA/TF/TM) at both ends. Stockholm 2026, possibly to keep the green lobby on side ("most sustainable games ever"), failed to admit this. It's really the spectators that will be on ferries, coaches and night trains between clusters unless they are willing to pay up.
  3. Smitty

    BidWeek: No Winter Games In Sweden. Ever?

    True, but the city tried not to pay for it, nor did they sell the village as a step towards addressing the shortage. The political failures here run deep... Trondheim is finishing an 8,000 seat arena, there is a speed skating oval two hours from the city. There is a smaller (3000-seat) ice arena, which they planned to rebuild in the 2018 bid. It's a city of 190,000, and it has a large hinterland, so I don't think that there would be high legacy demand for the 12,000 seat venue for figure skating/short track and the 10,000 needed for ice hockey 1. That said, Lillehammer is five hours by road from Trondheim and the entire ice hockey tournament could just be held in the three arenas there.
  4. Smitty

    BidWeek: No Winter Games In Sweden. Ever?

    SOK clearly wants to, and a political supermajority for it is there at the national level. The City of Stockholm is the most sceptical party, and this editorial in the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter gives an example of why: Stockholm has been the weak link the past two cycles, politically undermining the past two bids. The City Council has also blocked a new home for the Nobel Foundation and a Norman Foster-designed Apple Store on what was seen to be a prominent site. This is all while the city can't seem to address its severe shortage of housing. If the city seems more preoccupied with addressing it's present-day issues than seeking status (or using the event to break the political logjam) then national leaders may need to look elsewhere if they really want to host. They should have learnt that lesson in 2014 and acted accordingly. Why do officials need to move intra-day between venues? How much does this happen? One of the best parts of the games for spectators is being able to see multiple events in the same day but this may be one of the things that is flexed. (This is a reason to have biathlon at maybe curling in Östersund, to create variety within cluster.) The main IF this affects is FIS, which has close to half the winter events. Anyway, this is still possible with internal flights, which will be an inevitable part of a Swedish games (though the bid book was silent on this). I was thinking that some of the national resistance in Norway to a bid is that more and more major events seem to be going to the Oslo area and fewer cities were getting a look in; there was some grumbling when NOK chose Oslo over Tromsø and Trondheim for their abortive 2018 bid. Tromsø made little sense--lovely as it is, having been there it has little infrastructure for an event of this scale and would have to close it's university and put pretty much everyone else on cruise ships to provide enough accommodation. Regarding Trondheim, Granåsen can stage cross country, ski jumping and biathlon, and they have the mountains for alpine according to their 2018 bid proposal, but they would have to build most of the ice venues and a sliding track. The takeaway is that they would not need Åre at all, though. If the Swedes are going to bid, and if they are going to build as little as possible, then because of geography it is going to be spread out, whether all domestic or with another country. No getting away from that fact.
  5. Smitty

    BidWeek: No Winter Games In Sweden. Ever?

    I think that you're overestimating mobility needs. Anyone entitled to a T1 car will likely get a helicopter at quick disposal if they wanted, as the Russians provided (though wasn't much used in practice) in Sochi. Just as a football world cup--and Euro 2020--means long distance trains or internal flights, so the recent changes enable a more spread out plan. They have put in some mandates, such as the main village having to be able to accommodate all athletes so that they can participate in ceremonies. (This will also mean some programme changes so that dispersed sports have fewer pre-event days and that fewer finish on the last day. Rereading Stockholm's bid book yesterday there are some holes her: the transport section did not have a real discussion on transport between clusters, and the four closing ceremonies idea sounded a bit daft. Hindsight is 20/20 of course but better plans could help to reassure on the politics. The Swedes need to acknowledge that their bid is countrywide (though focused on one city) and mobilise accordingly.
  6. Smitty

    BidWeek: No Winter Games In Sweden. Ever?

    I'm from New Jersey, so yes, I've been loads of times. I was talk in this context, though: NYC cares about sports and status so long as it defines the terms; an Olympic Games would not have given it something it wanted, as you acknowledge.
  7. Smitty

    BidWeek: No Winter Games In Sweden. Ever?

    New York City, if it really cared, could easily overshadow Montreal. Yankees and (maybe) Flushing Meadows aside, NYC is not a city that gains status from sports, as seen from the city's indifference to its 2012 bid. Not the point, though. I was not really trying to focus on Lillehammer but more trying to see a way that Sweden could bid. SOK clearly want to do this, and the Swedish main governing party is in favour (as is the main opposition party, the Moderates); it took them a while as the coalition partner (the Greens) were against during the 2018 campaign but came round in the end, The national political support could be there, though, which is the first hurdle. The host city - Stockholm is clearly lukewarm and has been for a while, so my idea was to think of what it would be if Gothenburg were to replace it. Either way the city has to be willing to swallow its pride and be willing to sign the contract at the outset or there is no point. North-south rail connections in Sweden tend to run via the east coast, along the Gulf of Bothnia (via Gävle) as shown in the map below: , wh A Gothenburg-Östersund-Åre night train connection could (just) work, but the travel times would be longer; same for a rail-ferry connection to Riga/Sigulda. Flying is an option, but that goes against the sustainability instincts of the Swedes (Greta Thunberg does not fly at all) so they would need to come up with a creative carbon offset plan on the OCOG budget if this is this is acknowledged. (Stockholm 2026 calling itself the 'most sustainable games ever' was a bit hypocritical in this respect; most Olympic Family would fly.) Falun is 5km north of Borlänge, in case anyone is wondering. Public support. I think if they have a workable, low risk plan they just need to sell it to the host city and to the wider nation. There's no substitute for this, and it was something they failed to do on this occasion. The weakest link in this chain (besides the obvious one of geography) is the city of Stockholm, which clearly is lukewarm and unwilling to sign. If Stockholm continues to be lukewarm then a Gothenburg (ice sports, with speed skating at Rudhallen and cross country maybe at Ulricehamn)-Falun (ski jumping/nordic combined)-Östersund (biathlon)-Åre (alpine/snowboard/freestyle)-Sigulda/Lillehammer (sliding) bid could work, would anyone be in favour of that concept? What would be simpler?
  8. Q: are you saying that Stockholm Åre could have won with full government support? From the comments on here the past week most don't think that was the only problem. People mostly tolerated the spread-out cluster concept, for example. (They have the geography they have, and their major cities are not close to the mountains. I would like to see such a concept tried--yes, even with night trains and ferries--and it would open up future winter bids from cities like Montreal, but I am in a minority.) Should they build the bob/luge/skeleton run neither they nor the sliding IFs want? Maybe Sweden (and Finland, which bid for 2006 with a spread concept) are just a lost cause should not bother, sticking to the world championships by discipline that they are used to. (I hope not, but that is the read I am getting.)
  9. Smitty

    BidWeek: No Winter Games In Sweden. Ever?

    It was more against the your point on more pressing public concerns which, if Sweden wanted to spend money on they could. What the IOC's reforms this week clearly spell out is that domestic political risks like this are the prospective host's problem. If Swedish elites want to bid then they need to win over their public to a bid before they approach Lausanne. Maybe. Ostersund's bids of that era (having looked at its 2002 bid book again) were as if it was competing against cities the size of Lillehammer; once larger cities started bidding for the winter games it did not stand a chance. That probably adds to the sour taste now, though -- they can't win though the ground shifts around them. Apart from the (major) lack of a sliding track perhaps Ostersund should aim for a youth Olympics, and maybe then the Swedes will see if they want the real thing. It's an idea (hence the phrase "something like"); as I say above the risks and logistics of this will primarily become the SOK's problem. The main advantage of this is nothing new besides the villages needs to be built, and the villages can be justified because of Sweden's housing shortage. More broadly, if only cities can bid now and if bids like Montreal-Lake Placid are going to happen (as the rules change this week explicitly allow for) then someone is going to have to cross this Rubicon. Why not Sweden?
  10. Smitty

    BidWeek: No Winter Games In Sweden. Ever?

    I would say that the SOK wanted to bid, and has wanted to for decades; it just has not been willing to take on even the domestic political risk to get them, especially since Sochi. The reforms to the bid procedure this week are a clear signal that domestic political risks are the responsibility of the host; if SOK wants these then it needs to build public support. They can take Agenda 2020 into account to make that case to the Swedish public, but they must take on that risk. Recall that Östersund came second for 2002; the evaluation commission for that year was headed by none other than Thomas Bach) They only lost because of the Salt Lake City bribery scandal; this must similarly sting, to be treated as a foil for the Italians. I think they were amateurish and naïve for 2026 but they were taken advantage of somewhat. If the IOC is going to "approach" interested NOCs then it should approach SOK and look at something like a Gothenburg-Lillehammer bid (something like the Oslo 2022 plan but with the Swedish city at the centre and an x2000 tilting train (or similar) connecting the two clusters). This could well mean building nothing new apart from the Olympic Villages. They need ideas like this and a proper narrative (beyond low taxpayer funding) to sell to the public. I also think that they should go for this sooner rather than later.
  11. Smitty

    BidWeek: No Winter Games In Sweden. Ever?

    Sweden is running a large budget surplus, and has been for years. Its state could easily afford the Games--certainly much more than the Italian one; Swedish voters did not want to pay for this and it would rather that their government be debt-free (given the rate at which they are paying debt down is a real possibility soon). Not saying Sweden has no problems, but a lack of money isn't one of them. Sweden appears to lack the elite culture that makes getting the Olympics a high political priority. The Games are something local and national elites do to make a statement--to show the world that they can organise and stage the world's most logistically challenging event and marshal support for this. Swedes, arguably, don't feel the need to make a statement, unlike (say) the Milanese, who want to step out of Rome's shadow. (Anyone remember Expo 2015?). This felt more like "why not?" than "why so?" London's 2012 bid had lower public support than Paris, which they countered through having a better narrative and superior elite-IOC engagement; Stockholm just said they never hosted and that their bid ticked the Agenda 2020/New Norm boxes. That's...clearly not enough. After the 2022 failure I'm mostly surprised that the SOK didn't learn any lessons. They did not get a real sports politician to front the bid; hire the right consultants early; create a narrative of "why?"; do public engagement; or, when Stockholm City Council became difficult, throw the city under the bus and build a case around Gothenburg (or another city). CONI's dumping of Torino should have been a sign of ruthlessness and a willingness to do what it takes to win. Maybe that is the real story here--that they don't want it badly enough. The journalists who went on the evaluation visit said that the bid would have been workable, just that the Swedish public had little idea it was going on and was largely indifferent. Sweden hosts lots of world championships without it being big that big a deal, and this was treated no differently. That the Olympics are different is what Swedes need to admit to themselves.
  12. The odd thing is that the big winter IFs (FIS, IBSF, IBU) are run by northern Europeans who may want to see their home countries host someday. (This fact makes it even odder that the Swedes did not recruit one of them to help with the IOC politics; they paid more attention to their internal politics than the constituency that matters.) I also don't think the logistics are a dealbreaker; they just needed better answers (e.g. sleeper trains) than the ones they gave. In PyeongChang people rarely moved same day between the snow and ice clusters, and moving within the snow cluster was hard. Showing expected movement patterns and addressing concerns on things like hotel rooms would have gone a long way. Falling down technically was one of the ways they failed to reassure on risk. If you're going to go spread out at least show how that will work. Helsinki's failed 2006 bid (which proposed Lillehammer as the mountain cluster) had a transport plan involving flying between cluster--not sustainable, perhaps, but they had an answer. Calling yourself the most sustainable bid ever without acknowledging that many stakeholders will be flying was also a mistake; once again, talking mostly to themselves and about their own virtues rather than calling it what it is; Milan Cortina's transport plan is hours on coaches on mountain roads, but they admitted that at least. This all came down to hubris; the Swedes appeared to really think that Agenda 2020 / New Norm meant the IOC was desperate, not that Lausanne wanted its ego to be stroked. The Swedes did not want it badly enough to "do what it takes" politically. That is the issue with the lack of a story. The Brazilians sold themselves as a rising power that had never hosted, and look at where that got the IOC--a disorganised games in the middle of a political crisis. A sports power which has never hosted is not enough of a narrative, but the Swedes really appeared to believe it.
  13. (Sigh.) It's clear that the IOC went to Sochi because the Russians promised to pay whatever it takes (and then some) and you're probably right. (That said, Sochi was--by far--the most fun I've ever had at an Olympics, winter or summer, because it was disorganised but had a lot of money; eta Rossiya is a phrase I will never forget.) Corruption matters less if the people are still watching on TV--the real risk the IOC runs. It's already had to change the Winter Games to keep younger viewers, and if only autocracies can host then why not just watch the X Games in Aspen? Agenda 2020 and New Norm are really aimed at making TV viewers feel less guilty about watching the event, FIFA can get away with more because the punters tend to watch football regardless of what happens off the pitch; the IOC is not so lucky, particularly when the US still provides much of its revenue. FIFA also got burned by South Africa 2010 (which it had to bail out), just as Rio 2016 was a mess behind the scenes, held together with duct tape. The last thing the IOC wants is risk which the Swedes--amateurishly--refused to provide reassurance on.
  14. I wrote this elsewhere but it make sense posting this here as well: Sweden lost because it mishandled the politics, failing to realise that the IOC knew Winter Games were fragile and wanted reassurance, not to be treated as if the IOC "needed" them more than the other way round. There was also no story to Stockholm other than the "never hosted" one--which Rio 2016 pretty much ended as a playable card. (Gothenburg is 400 years old in 2021 and is staging a multi-year celebration, which could have been a story.) I hope that they pick themselves up and try and try again until they win, just like Pyeongchang.
  15. I know that this feels sour now, but the IOC would arguably gain from approaching Sweden seeking a reconfigured bid. I'm surprised that Gothenburg was not considered instead of Stockholm: it has three ice arenas, a speed skating oval, a nearby world cup cross-country course, and is about the same distance from Lillehammer as from Falun. If they tried not to build anything new except the Olympic Village they may have a concept. The IOC after these reforms has a choice about becoming more like FIFA or continuing the openness begun after the Salt Lake City scandal. I don't think Salt Lake is a sure thing for 2030, and this might just work if the Swedes were willing.
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