Why Is China Hosting the Winter Olympics?

Dennis Sanders

Dennis is the pastor of a small Protestant congregation outside St. Paul, MN and also a part-time communications consultant. A native of Michigan, you can check out his writings over on Medium and subscribe to his Substack newsletter on religion and politics called Polite Company.  Dennis lives in Minneapolis with his husband Daniel.

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17 Responses

  1. North
    Ignored
    says:

    So here’s a question: How much of cities opposition to hosting the olympics is irreducible?
    Obviously the IOC is corrupt; not in doubt at all, bunch of crooked old men trying to wet their beaks. Also obviously: hosting the olympics requires a certain baseline of facilities and those facilities can be pricey boondoggles that weigh on their cities financially at the time and going forward.

    Now these two facts do flow into each other. The IOC being a preening corrupt posse of crooked old men means that they’re going to look down their noses at using existing facilities and other things city bidders could do to try and ameliorate the second factor. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the IOC wasn’t crooked as the day is long. Can the facilities/financial needs to host the Olympics be ameliorated sufficiently that (small l) liberal cities would be willing to host?
    If no then regardless of how crooked the IOC is we have a structural problem: autocracies will always have greater capacity to make the outlays and building decisions by fiat that a major undertaking like the Olympics will require.

    Major liberal cities are also different now than they used to be. They’re bigger, more built up and have less loose land just laying around to, say, throw up a slalom.

    Maybe, though, the trick lies in the term major. Maybe the trick is to start looking away from the Londons and Bostons and New Yorks and San Francisco towards less developed cities?Report

  2. Saul Degraw
    Ignored
    says:

    A lot of places have decided that the alleged prestige of the Olympics is not worth the costs. They are often money losing ventures that require building lots of facilities that have one-time use. Authoritarians do not care about this kind of penny-pinching/budgeting.Report

  3. Philip H
    Ignored
    says:

    The decline of civil society approaches in developed countries is to be lamented generally. Had a massive set of multi city-counter protests broken out on 7 January 2021 and sustained for some weeks, I guarantee the Big Lie would have fallen. And yet . . . .Report

  4. Pinky
    Ignored
    says:

    The Olympics maybe aren’t a waste of time, but they’re no longer indispensable. In most sports, there are international competitions every year. There aren’t restrictions on professional players anymore, either. What the Olympics offer that no other event does is the pageantry, but that leads to the cost. Dozens of abandoned complexes testify to the lack of long-term benefits of hosting, and the Russians demonstrated just how low you can cut costs in Sochi.

    ETA: If we do continue them, the smartest move would be to choose two permanent venues. Greece seems obvious for the summer games, and Japan or South Korea are good choices for the winter.Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to Pinky
      Ignored
      says:

      In most sports, there are international competitions every year.

      Sport fencing is the only Olympic sport I follow any more. The FIE is the body designated to be in charge of the sport by the IOC for Olympic purposes. The FIE World Cup is held every year; one year in four it is held in the Olympic venue and Olympic medals are given out rather than FIE medals. The FIE is in control of rules and procedures, even at the Olympics. For example, unlike most other sports, both third and fourth place receive an Olympic bronze medal in the fencing events because that’s what the FIE does.

      Possibly worth noting that winning the every-four-years FIFA World Cup is much more prestigious than winning the Olympic soccer competition.Report

      • Pinky in reply to Michael Cain
        Ignored
        says:

        If they found themselves without an Olympics, would it affect them much? The best would still be able to compete against the best, and the prestige of each event would equal out. They’d lose the big audience very four years, but at least in the US the less popular sports get minimal coverage once the American or the “Story of the Year” guy loses. I don’t wish ill on the smaller sports; usually if anything catches my interest during an Olympics, it’ll be one of those. But I’m probably just as likely to get caught up in one while wasting time on YouTube.Report

        • Michael Cain in reply to Pinky
          Ignored
          says:

          Well, they would be without the Olympic video streaming service. In non-Olympic years they have streaming for some of the semi-finals and finals events via YouTube, but the Olympics system allows coverage of every bout. I assume that’s because the actual venues are shared and the Olympics and/or host country are providing all of the video gear and the bandwidth. (Shared, in the 2021 case, means the venue did fencing, then taekwondo, then wrestling, sequentially.) Even in normal years fencing doesn’t draw a large live audience.

          But to your main point, yeah, absent the Olympics the US woman who was #1 in the world in foil (to choose an example) would have fenced roughly the same people. The FIE World Championship allows more people than the Olympics does and doesn’t reserve spots for the host country so the draws would no doubt have been at least somewhat different.Report

  5. LeeEsq
    Ignored
    says:

    My solution to the Olympic host problem is that you have Greece as the permanent home of the Summer Olympics and Switzerland as the permanent home of the Winter Olympics. Build permanent facilities and maintain and update as needed.Report

    • Pinky in reply to LeeEsq
      Ignored
      says:

      That seems reasonable, but a bit of a pain for non-Europeans. That’s why I’d favor Japan or South Korea for the winter games.Report

      • North in reply to Pinky
        Ignored
        says:

        I feel like you’re correct on the winter games. First I have gotten the distinct impression that a lot of Asian nations really care about the olympics and there’s a distinct East/West balance in placing a permanent winter venue in that region.

        Maybe make the permanent venue a default? Other venues can petition to meet stringent (both practical and humanitarian) requirements to get to host the Olympics but any time no acceptable bid is offered then the permanent venue automatically hosts.Report

        • Pinky in reply to North
          Ignored
          says:

          I wonder if it’d work to have a single olympiad in multiple locations. Like, split the summer games across four continents. The runners start in Los Angeles, then…no, that’s not what I meant. But you could bring down the costs and the burden on infrastructure considerably with co-hosting cities. You could sell it as “we are the world” as well as high-tech.Report

      • Brent F in reply to Pinky
        Ignored
        says:

        Winter participation is heavily weighted towards North America and Europe, so if you’re going to stick it in one location, it makes sense to be on on the North Atlantic seaboard.Report

  6. Damon
    Ignored
    says:

    “We all know why it shouldn’t host the games: China’s genocidal treatment of the Uyghur minority, the stripping of democracy from Hong Kong, and its threats to take over Taiwan.”

    By this level of critique, neither Russia nor the Australia, nor the US, should have hosted the Olympics, given their history with how it treated it’s citizens in the past.Report

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