The International Olympic Committee on Monday voted to allow Games host cities to move competitions to other towns, cities or even countries, breaking with a long tradition of keeping the Games contained in one location.
The decision fuels speculation regarding the Pyeongchang 2018 winter Olympics, with sources telling Reuters on Saturday talks were being held to move the sliding competitions to Japan.
IOC vice-president John Coates, presenting the recommendation to IOC members, said it was driven by the need for sustainability as the Olympic Games costs need to be contained.
“The compactness of the Games has to be weighed up against the benefit of using existing venues,” the Australian said.
“These changes do contemplate different cities and countries hosting the Games, and this is for reasons of sustainability…. In the case of different countries, it would be for reasons of geography and for sustainability.”
The Russian city of Sochi spent a staggering $51 billion on staging the 2014 Winter Olympics with the future of many of the new, gleaming venues in doubt.
The price tag also scared off four of six bidders for the 2022 winter Olympics, who dropped out mid-race.
Pyeongchang’s preparations for the first Asian winter Olympics outside Japan have been hit by budget problems and delays in some venues.
Construction for the sliding track has already started but a move could save Pyeongchang tens of millions of dollars in construction as well as annual maintenance of the facility.
A source told Reuters the international luge and bobsleigh federations were already discussing with Korean Games officials a possible move of some of the competitions to Japan.
“This suggestion is out there,” one source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters. “The two federations (luge and skeleton/bobsleigh) and organisers are talking about this.”
Pyeongchang officials confirmed several options were being considered, though a potential move to Japan from South Korea, with current ties between the two Asian nations in a deep freeze, is seen as highly controversial.
“I stress this should be identified during the applicant and candidature phase, and any decision in this regard would only be granted in exceptional circumstances and by IOC on receipt of a proposal,” Coates said.
“We have to look at the cost of legacy and weigh that up against the cost of sustainability. Any change to use other cities would have to be considered, and granted, by the IOC executive board weighing up all the circumstances.”
The IOC is eager to reduce the cost of staging the Olympics, and in turn make their product more attractive to potential hosts.