Sports

IOC won't reopen 2022 Olympic bidding even though only 2 remain

IOC President Thomas Bach says the Olympic body will not reopen the bidding process for the 2022 Winter Games after Oslo's withdrawal left just two cities in the race.

Beijing, Kazakhstan the only bids left

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach, seen at the Youth Olympics in China in August, has a challenge on his hands just one year into his tenure: reduced interest in hosting the next Olympics. (Aly Song/Reuters)

The International Olympic Committee will not reopen the bidding process for the 2022 Winter Games after Oslo's withdrawal left just two cities in the race, IOC President Thomas Bach told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Oslo became the fourth city to drop out of the bidding on Wednesday after the Norwegian government declined to provide financial support, citing concerns over the cost of hosting the games.

The move leaves Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan, as the only two remaining candidates. Neither are established winter sports countries.

In a phone interview with the AP, Bach said the IOC would not suspend the bidding or reopen the process to invite new candidates.

"The IOC is sticking to its commitments," he said. "We have issued the invitation for bidding. There is a clear and transparent procedure. We will follow this procedure with two candidates."

"We are in the middle of a procedure," Bach added. "We cannot and we do not want to change the regulations in the middle of the race, given the fact that we still have two very interesting candidatures with a very diverse approach."

The IOC will select the 2022 host city on July 31, 2015, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Beijing, which staged the 2008 Olympics, is seeking to become the first city to host both summer and winter games. Almaty, a city in Central Asia which hosted the 2011 Winter Asian Games, bid for the 2014 Olympics but failed to make the final short list.

Stockholm; Krakow, Poland; and Lviv, Ukraine, withdrew their bids in recent months. Before that, potentially strong bids from St. Moritz, Switzerland, and Munich, Germany, were dropped after being rejected by voters in referendums.

Oslo drops bid

In the face of strong political and public opposition, Oslo was forced to pull out after the ruling Conservative party rejected financial guarantees for the games. The junior partner in the minority coalition voted against the bid four months ago, and polls have shown that more than 50 per cent of Norwegians are opposed.

"For me the decision was no surprise at all," Bach said. "This was clearly a political decision. You have a minority coalition government. It's very rare that a minority coalition government is taking the risk of losing or giving up its coalition for the sake of a project which shows its benefits only after the next election day."

"We feel sorry for sport in Norway and the athletes," he said. "It's really a missed huge opportunity for sports and the people of Norway."

On Wednesday, in an unusually strongly-worded statement, IOC executive director Christophe Dubi said Norway's decision to pull out was based on "half-truths and factual inaccuracies." He blamed the bid team for failing to send a senior leader or government official to a meeting about the requirements and costs.

Bach told the AP that separate meetings with Oslo and the two other bid teams took place on Tuesday in Lausanne, a day before the Norwegian government debate.

"Contrary to previous announcements, no government representative was in this meeting," Bach said. "Everybody can draw their conclusion."

Many cities have been scared off by the record $51 billion price tag associated with the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. While most of that money went to long-term regeneration and infrastructure projects, not the cost of running the games, cities remain wary of the expense.

"We have to communicate, communicate, communicate about the two different budgets," Bach said. "We have to see how we can reduce the costs of the management of the games and the cost of bidding for the games."

Bach defended the attributes of the two remaining bids.

He said Almaty has a "long winter sports tradition" going back to the Soviet era.

"We have a concept of reviving a traditional winter sports centre," he said.

Bach said Beijing proposes making use of venues from the 2008 Olympics and "creating a new winter sport centre for hundreds of millions of people living in the region."

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