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Home >Sports >Olympics News >The Olympics have plenty of suitors, IOC president says

Aspiring hosts for 2036 and beyond include Indonesia, India, Germany and Qatar, the International Olympic Committee’s Thomas Bach says

A narrative about the Olympics has taken hold so strongly in recent years that it’s become received wisdom: The mushrooming costs and controversies of hosting the Games have driven down, to nearly zero, the number of potential host cities.

Thomas Bach, re-elected this year to four more years as International Olympic Committee president, presented a sharply different picture in a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal.

Even after Brisbane, Australia, was chosen last month to host the 2032 Summer Games, the IOC enjoys a queue of suitors to host the Olympics in 2036, 2040 and even beyond, Bach said. Those aspiring hosts include Indonesia, India, Germany and Qatar.

“And this is just the ones which come to my mind," Bach said during an interview at the recently concluded Tokyo Olympics. “So we are really in a very good long-term position."

Others who have publicly expressed interest in hosting include Russia, whose athletes have spent the past three Olympics with their country under partial or full ban for doping.

The apparent transformation of the IOC from beggars to choosers of Olympic hosts came from an overhaul in the host-city selection process that exchanges a costly, public parade of cities for a far more private and potentially shorter one.

Under the old process, host committees wined and dined IOC officials and promised millions of dollars in upgraded infrastructure and new facilities—some of which sat empty after the Games ended. The IOC itself acknowledged in a report this year that “aggressive lobbying led to ethical issues—some of which are still ongoing today."

At the end of a typical yearslong bid campaign under the old system, IOC members would vote, name the winning city with great fanfare, and the losers would slink away, often to never bid again.

Some potential hosts dropped out even before they got to a final vote as costs mounted and the public pushed back. Referendums or citizen rebellions helped doom bids by Calgary, Canada, and Sion, Switzerland, to host the Winter Olympics, and by Boston for the Summer Games.

The IOC’s new process is far more muted and potentially shorter. It employs two host commissions—one for the Winter Games, one for Summer—to communicate with interested parties until the IOC invites one or more bidders to share a proposal to host a specific Games in a process it calls “targeted dialogue."

The IOC’s so-called “preferred hosts" then submit documents and guarantees. When a host rises above the others, the IOC executive board puts it before the entire IOC, which then votes. The IOC hasn’t spelled out how it decides which bidders advance using the new process.

It was under the new procedure that Brisbane went, in a span of six months, from one of a handful of potential candidates barely known to the public to the newest Olympic host city.

The positives of the new process are apparent: It ditches the expensive, public beauty pageant for brass tacks. The approach seems to have encouraged more candidates and repeat bidders—most notably and recently, Russia, which hosted the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi and the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow when it was part of the Soviet Union.

A number of Russian cities are eyeing bids for the 2036 Summer Games, including St. Petersburg and Kazan, as well as the Rostov region, a hotbed for Russian gymnastics. Thousands of miles to the east, Vladivostok, which served as a key training camp for Russian athletes ahead of the Tokyo Games, and Novosibirsk in the southwestern part of Siberia are also possible candidates, officials have said.

To prepare for a bid, Russia is aiming to host other major tournaments like World Cups in various sports, Russia’s sports minister Oleg Matytsin said last month. Already, Russia hosted the 2018 men’s soccer World Cup. Ultimately, the decision of whether to apply will be made by President Vladimir Putin.

“I’m sure that if the president decides to nominate Russia for hosting the Olympic Games, then the competition for the right to host the Games will be significant," Matytsin said.

For now, however, Putin will have to wait.In December 2022, Russia will emerge from a yearslong ban from privileges such as bidding to host Olympics as part of the punishment for a state-sponsored doping program—a scheme most egregiously carried out during the Sochi Games, according to an investigation commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

An IOC spokesman said that all future bids for Summer Games are in a dialogue phase, and that no hard decision would be needed before 2027. Settled Olympic hosts include Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028 for Summer, and Beijing 2022 and Milano-Cortina, Italy, 2026 for Winter.

The downside to the new host-city selection process is that a local population might not know until it’s far along when or even whether the area might host a Games. As the IOC spokesman said, “we leave it to each city/candidature to say publicly if they are involved."

Bach maintained that the process for changing the selection procedure was transparent, and that the new process fixed the old system.

“We have, with this new procedure, reached our two major goals: the one being, to ensure, also perception-wise, a clean and clear procedure," he said.

Bach touted the lack of rumors about excessive lobbying efforts for Brisbane, though some have noted the effort’s dotted-line connection to powerful IOC vice president John Coates. The Australian Olympic Committee president, Coates also chaired the committee that created the blueprint to overhaul the Games host selection process.

The second goal the IOC change achieved was the reduction in the number of bid losers, Bach said.

“This we also achieved because we have with this new procedure already now a significant pool of very important interested parties to organize the Games in ’36 or even in ’40," he said. “So we have never been in a more favorable long-term position as we are in now. And before, after the election of one host city, we were always standing there with empty hands."

Write to Rachel Bachman at Rachel.Bachman@wsj.com and Georgi Kantchev at georgi.kantchev@wsj.com

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