IOC approves ‘evolution’ of Olympic Games bidding

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has today (Wednesday) signed off on reforms to transform the Olympic Games bidding process, including the permission of bids across multiple cities, countries or regions and more flexibility in the traditional seven-year window for electing hosts.

The changes accepted last month by the Executive Board (EB) were approved at the IOC Session, with president Thomas Bach stating they represent an “evolution” of his Agenda 2020 “revolution”. The proposals were submitted during May’s EB meeting by the Working Group for Future Games Elections, which was formed at the previous EB meeting in March to consider future Olympic Games and Youth Olympic Games (YOG) elections.

The proposals are designed to establish a permanent, ongoing dialogue to explore and create interest among cities/regions/countries and National Olympic Committees (NOCs) for Olympic Games and YOGs. Two Future Host Commissions, for the summer and winter events, will be created to oversee interest in future Games and report to the EB.

The IOC said the changes will seek to “preserve the magic” of the Olympic Games to ensure a once-in-a-lifetime experience for athletes. The IOC Session will also be granted more influence by having non-EB members form part of the Future Host Commissions.

The changes have necessitated amendments to the Olympic Charter. The stipulation that an Olympic Games election must be held seven years before the event has been deleted. The regulation that Olympic Games are awarded to a city will be amended so the EB can determine that “host” can also refer to other entities such as multiple cities, regions and/or countries.

The provision that all sports competition must, in principle, take place in the host city, with organising committees providing an Olympic Village has been altered to maximise the use of existing sports or other infrastructure. Finally, the Future Host Commissions will replace the existing Evaluation Commissions for each edition of the Games.

Bidders will also need to ensure any referendums on the Games take place before an official bid is lodged to avoid the kind of dropouts that have occurred during recent bid processes. Indeed, the IOC was left with just two candidates for the second winter Games running as the 2026 Olympics race concluded on Monday.

Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo defeated Stockholm-Åre to land the Games, however the process up to that point saw multiple contenders exit the race. The Canadian city of Calgary became the final drop-out in November, but it was preceded by failed bids in the likes of Graz, Austria; Sion, Switzerland and Sapporo, Japan.

Commenting on the latest reforms, Bach said: “This is the evolution of the Olympic Agenda 2020 revolution, as we must continue to keep up with the fast pace of change in our current world. Flexibility is a necessity to ensure good governance and to have sustainable Olympic Games in the future. We will do that while maintaining the magic of the Games, the fundamental principle of universality and our commitment to having athletes at the centre of everything we do.”

The Working Group for Future Games Elections was chaired by Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates, who hailed their approval as a “significant milestone”. Coates stressed the new process will continue to reduce the cost of bidding, following the steps taken before the election of the 2026 host city which saw the candidates spend $5-7m (€4.4m) each as compared with the $30m-plus spent by candidates for the 2018 and 2022 winter Games.

Coates added: “The Olympic Charter has now been changed to allow candidatures from multiple cities, from regions and countries, focused around existing sports venues. Similarly, instead of a single Olympic village, there can be Olympic villages to ensure that athletes are accommodated in close proximity to their competition venues.

“Priority must be given to the use of existing or temporary venues. The construction of new permanent venues for the purpose of the Games will only be considered if a sustainable legacy can be shown.”