After Putin sent troops in to invade the Ukraine soon after the winter Olympics, I told my wife that within our lifetime we could see the end of the Olympics as we've come to know it. It seems to have gotten too unwieldy, too costly, and Putin effectively denigrated the entire idea of it by using it as a way to gloss over 20th Century Russian history and then repeated the "ugly" part not depicted in the opening ceremonies by annexing Crimea.
As the stories faded of unfinished hotel rooms, concrete still being poured, and balmy weather playing havoc with the needed snow, I forgot about my prediction. But then I just read an article that pointed out that the IOC is having a problem getting any city of substance interested in the 2022 Winter Olympics. Beijing is a possibility.
The problem? The cost. As each host city is pushed to outdo the previous one in terms of theatrics, facilities and overall experience, each goes into billions of dollars of debt that takes many decades to pay off. For example, Montreal (host of the 1976 Summer Olympics) took 30 years to pay off the debt incurred to host a games marred by terrorism. Host cities from the 90s are still paying off their debt. Meanwhile, facilities built specifically for these events are now sitting idle in Calgary, Sarajevo and elsewhere.
I remember when Los Angeles hosted the 1984 Summer Olympics, one of its defining elements was that they kept costs to a minimum by using as many existing facilities as possible and getting corporate sponsors to step in to cover the costs of building new facilities. Probably easy to do when you are a city the size of Los Angeles and with plenty of athletic compounds to go around.
But as cities in developing countries clamor to make their mark on the world stage, the Olympics presents an opportunity to become a defining moment. But the defining moment may not be worth the cost. There was a brief rumor floating around that said London may take over from Rio de Janeiro as the host city for the 2016 Summer Olympics because construction of the necessary facilities in Rio were too far behind schedule to be completed in time.
Brazil is also being hit with an $11 million price tag for being host to the World Cup for soccer and there have been mass grumblings that the cost may not be worth it in terms of potential revenue alone.
Will these different situations - money and politics - begin to create Olympic-sized headaches for companies who see the events as epitomizing the core attributes of their brand and an opportunity to also show the world what they're made of? If only big cities with existing infrastructure and facilities are the only ones capable of financially and securely hosting a winter or summer Olympics, what does this do for other cities who want their time on a podium of their own but just can't pull it off or their citizens don't want to?
In ancient Greece, Athens hosted the event. So perhaps a neutral, globally central spot built with the help of the world and the companies in it would be the solution. But even that seems like an Olympian task
Where do I begin -- probably 25+ years ago in PR and marketing, and it's grown from there.