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Daily CSR
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Future Evolution of Olympic Winter Games: Regional Hosting, Synthetic Snow, and Traditional Sports Focus


Alpine resorts find themselves amidst desolate slopes during the peak winter season, as glaciers continue to diminish. The escalating temperatures are rendering skiing and other snow sports nearly impossible.
This situation is unfolding in various regions globally, signaling the threat of climate change to the winter sports domain and presenting formidable challenges for the future of the Olympic Winter Games. As the International Olympic Committee (IOC) commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Olympic Winter Games, originating in Chamonix in 1924, apprehensions are growing about the lasting repercussions of global warming on the premier snow and ice sports extravaganza.
With the persistent increase in worldwide temperatures due to greenhouse gas emissions, studies suggest that the warming climate will severely limit the number of viable locations for hosting upcoming Olympic Winter and Paralympic Games.
“We need to address very quickly this dramatic impact of climate change on winter sport,’’ said IOC President Thomas Bach at the 141st IOC Session in Mumbai, India.

“By mid-century, there will remain practically just 10-12 NOCs (National Olympic Committees) who could host these snow events.”

With a sense of urgency, the IOC is actively engaged in pinpointing Games locations that are both climate-resilient and equipped with the necessary infrastructure. This initiative aims to guarantee that elite athletes in skiing, snowboarding, biathlon, and sliding sports can compete under optimal conditions for decades to come.
In addition to this, the IOC is exploring alternative measures to safeguard the Olympic Winter Games. These include the possibility of a dual allocation for the 2030 and 2034 editions, a rotational system among a fixed pool of hosts, and the development of a decentralized hosting model to mitigate the overall expenses associated with the Games.
“There is no doubt that we are facing great challenges, and our goal is to ensure that we can continue to host successful Olympic Winter Games in the future,’’ said Karl Stoss, Chair of the IOC’s Future Host Commission for the Olympic Winter Games. “Each challenge means risks and opportunities.”
Identifying suitable locations for the Olympic Winter Games, considering factors such as geography, venues, financial support, and climate conditions, has always been a challenging task. Now, with the potential host list expected to narrow down significantly, the urgency of this task has intensified.
Undoubtedly, we are confronted with substantial challenges, and our objective is to ensure the successful hosting of Olympic Winter Games in the future, as emphasized by Karl Stoss, Chair of the IOC’s Future Host Commission for the Olympic Winter Games.
Christophe Dubi, the IOC’s Olympic Games Executive Director, dismisses the notion of a doomsday scenario but acknowledges the need for adaptation to prevailing conditions by 2050. This calls for proactive measures to secure the future of the Games.
A novel approach has been proposed, involving a potential dual allocation for the 2030 and 2034 Games. The IOC Executive Board (EB), after pausing the bidding process in December 2022 to assess climate change impacts, recommended targeting hosts with existing or temporary venues and climate-reliable snow sports facilities until at least 2050. The proposed dual award was approved in principle during the Session in Mumbai, subject to suitable conditions.
Several potential hosts, including France, Sweden, Salt Lake City (Utah) for 2030 or 2034, and Switzerland for a non-specific edition, expressed interest. Following a recommendation by the Future Host Commission, the EB initiated Targeted Dialogues with France and the US for hosting the 2030 and 2034 Games, respectively. Additionally, Switzerland's non-specific project, Switzerland 203X, entered a "Privileged Dialogue" for the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in 2038.

“The Commission members were deeply impressed by all the projects’ technical excellence, passion for Olympic winter sport and commitment to the sustainability principles of Olympic Agenda 2020+5,” Stoss said. “What really stood out about the French Alps and Salt Lake City, Utah projects was their vision for the athlete experience, their alignment with regional and national socio-economic development plans, and their very strong support from the public and from all levels of government.

“The Commission felt strongly that the other Interested Parties would benefit from more time to optimise the athlete experience of their future Games, and to continue to build on their burgeoning foundations of public and political support. Switzerland 203X has great potential, with its project aligned with Olympic Agenda 2020+5 and the principles of sustainability, cost reduction, environmental protection and legacy.”

The IOC is set to initiate more in-depth discussions with the Preferred Hosts, led by their National Olympic Committees (NOCs), with the intention of awarding editions at the 142nd IOC Session in Paris in July.
However, this is just the initial phase. Looking towards the future, the Commission plans to further explore the concept of an Olympic Winter Games rotation. This groundbreaking approach would involve the Games circulating among a carefully selected pool of climate-reliable locations in Europe, North America, and Asia.
While the notion of rotation may seem straightforward, it brings forth a series of complex questions. The Commission needs to determine the number of countries or regions involved in the rotation, the frequency of Games returning to a specific site, and whether they would go back to exactly the same location each time. Additionally, considerations include the longevity of venues and infrastructure, the need for refurbishment between rotations, and the willingness of host nations or regions to welcome the Games again.
Christophe Dubi highlights the challenges involved, stating that it's not as simple as returning to the same location every 20 years with the same elements. Flexibility is crucial, considering that communities may change their stance over time. Despite these intricacies, Dubi acknowledges the soundness of contemplating some form of rotation.
In a release in Mumbai, the IOC presented study results indicating that 15 NOCs had at least 80% of the venues needed for the Olympic Winter Games. Ten of these had either recently hosted the Games or expressed interest in doing so in the future. However, the studies projected that by mid-century, potential hosts would decrease to about 10-12 NOCs, further diminishing by the end of the century. These preliminary findings underscore the necessity of adapting the Olympic Winter Games in response to the impact of climate change, as emphasized by IOC President Thomas Bach.

“The preliminary results already show that we need to adapt the Olympic Winter Games given the impact of climate change,’’ Bach said. “In collaboration with the winter sports community, we need to look for solutions for the future.”

Based on research commissioned by the IOC, approximately two-thirds of winter sports locations are expected to maintain climate reliability until 2040, slightly over half until 2070, and less than half by the close of the century. The impact of rising temperatures has been evident in recent Olympic Winter Games, causing disruptions in snow competitions in Vancouver in 2010 and Sochi in 2014.
The Paralympic Winter Games face a heightened risk due to climate change, as they traditionally occur in March, when temperatures are warmer than February. Coordinating suitable dates to accommodate both the Olympic and Paralympic Games is crucial, requiring flexibility to adapt to evolving local conditions and ensure the safety of both events, as emphasized by Christophe Dubi.
In addition to addressing climate threats, the IOC is exploring a new hosting model to enhance the sustainability and affordability of the Olympic Winter Games. This involves decentralization, with the cost of organizing the competitions based on the expenses associated with world championships in each sport. Karl Stoss notes a significant cost disparity between certain Olympic events and their world championship counterparts, advocating for a more equitable approach.
Under this proposed model, the organization of specific Olympic sports competitions would be outsourced to experienced international and national event organizers with regular experience in running World Cup and World Championship events. The process would commence early, with Preferred Hosts developing an event delivery strategy during the Targeted Dialogue stage, aiming to sign a preliminary letter of intent before the election and a detailed framework agreement within a year post-election.
Procurement responsibilities would be delegated to separate organizing committees at each venue, enabling hosts to secure local sponsors early to stabilize revenue for their Games budgets. Front-loading major budget items is proposed to alleviate financial strains. This approach is contextual and would depend on the experience and conditions in each market.
“A budget is always at a given point in time under pressure,” Dubi said. “If you can de-risk from the very beginning, it helps to convince citizens and populations that what we claim the Games are good business can be effectively demonstrated very early. It saves a lot of energy down the road where you can focus on what truly matters, which is delivering a unique experience to everyone.”

Looking ahead: envisioning the Games in the future
Similar to Milano Cortina 2026, where the Games spanned a vast geographical area in northern Italy, there's a growing likelihood that future Games will adopt a regional approach or be shared by multiple countries. This format capitalizes on existing venues, enabling a central hub for ceremonies and weather-proof indoor ice events, while snow sports competitions unfold in a suitable mountain region with the necessary cold conditions.
A proposed rotation system among three continents could pave the way for diverse regional hosting scenarios. Professor Daniel Scott from the University of Waterloo in Canada has floated ideas like Calgary and Denver hosting "Rocky Mountain Games" or Italy and Austria co-hosting "Tyrolean Games."
Addressing the challenge of artificial snow reliance, recent Olympic Winter Games, including Beijing 2022, have extensively used man-made snow. The production of artificial snow requires water and energy, straining resources and potentially contributing to climate change. In response, the IOC is closely monitoring technological advancements in snow production and retention, even exploring the development of synthetic snow and ice.
While the adaptation of athletes to competing on new surfaces remains uncertain, Christophe Dubi notes that ski jumping is practiced in the summer using plastic surfaces. He highlights the possibility of replicating the sport with summer conditions if natural snow becomes scarce in the future.
Despite these changes, the IOC emphasizes that the Olympic Winter Games will continue to focus on traditional winter sports. The idea of moving certain indoor Olympic summer sports to the Winter Games, though advocated by some, is not under consideration. Dubi underscores the importance of maintaining a clear line of demarcation to preserve the distinct identity of both the Winter and Summer Games.
Despite the challenges, the IOC expresses confidence that the Olympic Winter Games will evolve while retaining the unique qualities that distinguish them from other winter sports competitions. The prospect of the Games not only surviving but thriving for another century remains a hopeful perspective.