PtG Comment 06.07.2011

Fighting for the Winter Games

Comment: Wednesday 6th July the IOC will decide who will host the Winter Olympics in 2018. The battle is between the cities Pyeongchang, Munich and Annecy. Pyeongchang is bidding for the third time and many see the Koreans as a narrow favourite. But favourites are rarely victorious!

CandidatesThe three candidates have gone through many rounds of evaluations and the final report was submitted by the IOC Evaluation Committee in Lausanne on May 18th and 19th. The report makes it clear that all the candidates are good candidates, but that they are different, and it is not just the technical qualities that make up the difference.

The support among the population in the areas of the bid cities is different. It is dramatically higher in Pyeongchang and South Korea compared to the two other candidate cities and countries – two to three times higher. In addition, the candidates have struggled with various problems in the run-up to the final decision. Munich has had difficulties acquiring land for the events and there have been major protests in Garmisch-Partenkirchen against holding the alpine events there. Annecy has had a lot of internal conflict and recently had to change management.

Both the European candidates are criticized in the evaluation report because the travel distances between the arenas are too far apart. Many argue that the IOC is tired of long transport distances as was the case in both Turin and Vancouver. This speaks to Pyeongchang’s advantage; the South Korean bid has received much praise for its compact games. However, Pyeongchang is struggling with a lack of interest in winter sports in Korea and its relationship with North Korea. On the other hand, the Olympics in Asia might boost the country’s interest in winter sports and the Games can be used as a tool for reconciliation between the two Koreas.

Second is the best!

The IOC Evaluation Committee does not rank the three candidates. The website does. They have made an Olympic BidIndex that takes 100 fundamentals into account. The index compares the 2018 candidate cities with cities that have previously won the right to host the Olympics. According to this index Annecy is cementing a third place, while Pyeongchang is slightly in front of Munich.

There are two important historical features in the awarding of the Games. The winners have all had high values on the BidIndex and they have had their highest score in the weeks just before the IOC members made their decision. However, the most interesting is perhaps that in three of the last four voting’s the applicant city on the second place in the index has won - Salzburg was ahead of Vancouver for the 2010 Games, Paris was in front of the London for the 2012 Games and Pyeongchang was in front of Sochi for the Games in 2014. The exception is Rio who was in front already from the start.

Falling curve

Pyeongchang has recently had a slight dip on the index, while Munich has had a strong rise. This can be interpreted in two ways. Rio also had a dip on the index the weeks before it was chosen as the host city. Some say that the Pyeongchang bid looks like Rio. However, corruption scandals in the Gangwon province and in South Korean football in recent months have had a negative impact and can be very harmful to the Koreans.

IOC voting patterns

Not only technical aspects of the candidatures will be important, also internal factors in the IOC will influence the outcome. When the election starts the IOC members from the applicant countries will not be a part of the voting as long as their home country's candidate is still in the running. There are currently 110 in the IOC electorate. 7 of these are from the three applicant countries (Germany 2, South Korea 2 and France 3 (including Prince Albert of Monaco)). Should Annecy go out first the question is where the Annecy votes will go in the next ballot and who the French delegates will vote for. In addition to the seven who cannot participate in the first voting round, the former FIFA president - and IOC member - Joao Havelange is also absent because he is under investigation for corruption. So there will be 102 votes in the first voting round.

The role of Prince Albert of Monaco is dubious. It is rumored that after a three-day wedding celebration the newlyweds are on their way to South Africa on honeymoon. Whether the destination is chosen because it is the bride’s homeland or because of the groom’s chance to determine who should get the Olympics in 2018 is unknown. Should he skip the IOC Session only 109 voters will be present in Durban on Election Day.

Europe against Asia

Nicolas Sarkozy will not be in Durban to promote Annecy. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced her arrival to give her support to Munich and the South Korean President Lee Myung-bak will be there to support Pyeongchang. This is a battle between Europe and Asia. It is yet to be seen whether Pyeongchang will be third time lucky or will be labelled as the eternal runner up and if Munich will be the first city to host both Summer and Winter Games?

This article first appeared on Andreas Selliaas' blog 'Sportens Uutholdelige Letthet' on 3 July 2011. Follow Andreas' blog (in Norwegian) on