The Olympic Scandal
How is the IOC allowing a country accused of genocide the chance to host the Olympics?
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has had a past few decades riddled with corruption, scandal, and infamy, but their recent escapades have landed them in the center of one of the most important diplomatic and humanitarian issues of our time. The hosting of an Olympics surrounded by genocide.
To understand why the IOC has embedded themselves into this issue, we must first understand how a city and a country get chosen to host the Olympics in the first place.
Every two years, major cities around the globe make bids to the IOC for a chance to host the Olympic Games. This process starts seven years before the games begin and involves an audit by the IOC to make sure the city has the necessary infrastructure to host the games. Such as adequate accommodation for tourists, journalists and athletes, and other amenities. Other necessities include efficient transportation to allow movement from one location to another without delay, ample security to protect participants and venues for each sporting discipline.
Once a city has passed the first inspection, they become a Candidate City. At this stage, each city that has made it this far pays a fee of around $150,000. Then, the IOC selects the city they think is the best option to host, and once the winning bid gets announced, that city immediately starts construction to prepare for the games.
However, this has led to mass corruption in the past. Countries bribing IOC officials to secure a spot for one of their cities have become such a ubiquitous part of the bidding process that it seems like almost every Olympics in the past few decades were bought, not won by cities.
The bids for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics (delayed to 2021) by the Japanese government seemed to have included payments of "€1.3m ($1.5m) to a hidden account linked to Papa Massata Diack, the former head of the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF)." According to the Guardians Independent sources.
In 1998, Japan also won the bid to have Nagano be the host city of the Olympics after providing IOC members with "trips to luxury hot spring resorts, first-class air tickets, and geisha, although they insisted no sexual favours were provided." The Nagano Olympic Committee also paid the bill for the IOC president to stay in the top suite of Hotel Kokusai 21, a service costing Japanese taxpayers $2,700 a night for 20 days.
According to whistleblower Marc Hodler, a member of the IOC for 35 years, there were "bribes of up to $1m for IOC members and payoffs to agents of between $3m and $5m for Olympic votes."
More recently, the Brazillian bid for the 2016 Olympics has resulted in the head of the Brazilian Olympic Committee being charged with corruption, criminal organization, money laundering, and tax evasion for allegedly buying votes for the Rio de Janeiro bid.
Along with the enormous costs to host the Olympics, sometimes ranging in the tens of billions, these common allegations of corruption have changed public perception of the Olympics and have made becoming the host city less desirable.
The bids for the 2022 Olympics are a perfect example of how this has changed public perception.
When bidding for the 2022 Winter Olympics closed at midnight on November 14, 2013, six countries, twice the number of countries who had applied to host the 2018 Olympic Games, had entered their bid.
This IOC took the interest of the six countries: Oslo, Stockholm, Krakow, Beijing, Lviv, and Almaty exuberantly and boasted in a press release of “Rising interest in Olympic Winter Games.”
“These cities and their supporters clearly understand the benefits that hosting the Games can have and the long-lasting legacy that a Games can bring to a region,” said at the time IOC president Thomas Bach. “Indeed, while recent Games have left an array of sporting, social, economic and other legacies for the local population, many cities that did not go on to win the right to host the Games have also noted benefits as a result of their bids.”
However, this almost blind arrogance of the IOC, along with the rising cost of the games and lack of public support, led to four of the six initial cities quickly withdrawing their bids.
So, for the 2022 Winter Olympics, the IOC only had two choices, Beijing and Almaty. And, “for a variety of geopolitical reasons, of two bad choices, Beijing looked at the better of the two,” said Helen Jefferson Lenskyj, a professor at the University of Toronto who has become an expert on the current games.
The current situation where a backdrop of genocide overshadows the Olympic Games is the result of arrogance and greed on the part of the IOC and a fundamentally broken system of wasteful spending on the games.
For the games to continue more fairly and equitably, there needs to be accountability from the IOC and a restructuring of the way of the selection process.
The IOC's selection process needs to be more open, and all finances regarding bidding for the games, formal or not, need to be recorded and published publicly.
Otherwise, there can be little faith that the selection city that won the bid deserved it and didn't just pay the most for it.