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Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Explained: Could India host the Olympics in 2036 or beyond?

India has often expressed a desire to host the Olympics, but never made it far in the process. The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has said in the past that it wants to host the Asian Games, Youth Olympics and the Summer Olympics over the next decade and a half.

Written by Tushar Bhaduri , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: September 2, 2021 12:32:33 pm
The Olympic rings in Tokyo, July 11, 2021. (The New York Times: Hiroko Masuike)

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach has said there are plenty of countries interested in hosting the Games in 2036, 2040 and beyond, including India. The next three Olympics have been allotted to Paris (2024), Los Angeles (2028) and Brisbane (2032).

Conventional wisdom has it that the number of potential suitors to host the Games has gone down in recent times. The escalating costs and controversies associated with staging such a big multi-disciplinary event may dissuade many countries. But Bach says it’s not the true picture.

What did Bach say?

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, conducted during the Tokyo Olympics, Bach claimed the IOC was well placed in the long term when it came to finding hosts for its flagship event. He mentioned India, Indonesia, Germany and Qatar as countries interested in staging the Games in 2036 and beyond. “And this is just the ones which come to my mind. So we are really in a very good long-term position,” the German said.

Which are the countries interested in hosting the Games?

Out of the four countries mentioned by Bach, three are from Asia and have not hosted the Olympics before. Germany last staged the Games almost half a century ago.

India has often expressed a desire to host the Olympics, but never made it far in the process. The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has said in the past that it wants to host the Asian Games, Youth Olympics and the Summer Olympics over the next decade and a half. IOA secretary general Rajeev Mehta has confirmed they are interested in the idea. The Delhi government has said it aims to stage the Games in 2048 as part of the centenary celebrations of India’s independence.

The tiny Gulf state of Qatar will host the FIFA World Cup next year. It is trying to expand its footprint in the sporting world by acquiring clubs like Manchester City and offering citizenship to elite sportspersons from other countries. Hosting the Olympics could be a natural extension to that endeavour.

Indonesia stepped in at short notice to host the 2018 Asian Games when Vietnam expressed its inability to host the event. The decision may have been prompted by the aim to host the Olympics some day and to test their capability to do so.

Germany is one of the biggest countries in Europe — if not the biggest — and would like to join Britain and France, who have staged the Olympics over the last decade or are about to do so.

Flagbearers Harmanpreet Singh and Mary Kom lead their contingent in the athletes parade during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics. (Reuters Photo: Phil Noble)

Why is there reluctance in some quarters to host the Olympics?

The recent Tokyo Olympics was the most expensive in history, and the one-year delay due to the pandemic didn’t help matters either. The original budget was overshot several times, and the ban on foreign visitors and spectators at almost all venues reduced the revenue as well.

The 2016 Rio Games had to contend with concerns about the Zika virus while Greece is said to be suffering economic effects of hosting the 2004 Olympics till date. Till the Tokyo Games began, most of the Japanese population was against hosting the event due to concerns about the coronavirus spread.

Bidding for the Olympics and lobbying is also an expensive task. Many host cities struggle with legacy issues as well, about what to do with the infrastructure and venues set up for the Games at a huge cost. The long-term economic burden arising from the Olympics may be too big for many countries’ liking.

Which countries may be more enthusiastic to host the Games?

Countries which are smitten by the glamour and prestige associated with hosting the Games are more likely to go for it. China treated the 2008 Beijing Olympics as its big coming-out party to showcase its stature as a big global power.

India may like the idea of showing that it can pull off an event of this magnitude and may feel that the expenditure and trouble will be worth it.

For other countries, for example Britain and Australia, the Games may be a catalyst for development of sporting and other infrastructure in regions which may need it.

What is the scenario with other major events?

Apart from the Olympics, the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games (CWG) could be termed as huge multi-disciplinary sporting events. Both of them have found it tough to get hosts of late. Vietnam expressed its inability to stage the 2018 Asiad due to an economic recession and general unpreparedness. The Chinese city of Hangzhou was the only bidder for the 2022 edition, as was Aichi-Nagoya (Japan) for 2026. Doha and Riyadh will host the next two Games in 2030 and 2034 as part of a dual host-city solution.

The CWG also faces a similar predicament. Durban was awarded hosting rights for the 2022 event, but subsequently expressed inability due to financial constraints. A fresh bidding process was launched with only British cities showing interest before Birmingham eventually got the nod. The host city for the 2026 CWG is yet to be announced, despite several deadlines passing.

What could be the way out?

The IOC has endeavoured, of late, to put a cap on the number of events and participants at the Olympics to control costs and scale of the Games. This needs to be followed to keep budgets in check.

The recent European football championship was staged throughout the continent. It could be worthwhile to explore the possibility of jointly hosting the Olympics and other major events so that the financial and logistical burden doesn’t fall on one country. It could also prompt neighbouring countries to work together on a common project.

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