With the 2014 Winter Olympics quickly approaching, the Russian city of Sochi is bracing for the world’s stage. More than $50 billion has already been spent on the games, making it the most expensive Olympics ever.
Given Sochi’s ill-prepared status as a city ready to host the Winter Olympics, it’s a wonder the International Olympic Committee (IOC), awarded the Olympics to Sochi in the first place.
The IOC could have awarded the 2014 Winter Olympics to a number of world-class cities, and choosing Sochi, Russia was a mistake.
In 2006, when the IOC was narrowing down finalists for the 2014 Winter Olympics, the candidates were Salzburg, Austria; Pyeongchang, South Korea; and Sochi, Russia. When selecting a host city, the IOC evaluates 11 different criterion. Areas of evaluation include the number and quality of sporting venues, security, government support and financial viability.
Salzburg ranked first in nine of the 11 categories and was considered the favorite to win the bid for the 2014 Winter Olympics. In a confusing decision, the IOC selected Sochi, for the 2014 Olympics instead of the heavy favorite, Salzburg.
Typically, when selecting a location for the Winter Olympics, the first qualification is a city with cold weather and snow. Sochi is one of Russia’s warmest cities. Sochi is located in the southwest region of Russia on the coast of the Black Sea. In the city of Sochi, there is no actual snow. Sochi is a rare Russian city that technically has a subtropical climate and is considered to be Russia’s largest resort city. In order to compete in outdoor winter events, athletes will have to travel for more than an hour to Krasnaya Polyana in the Caucasus Mountains.
Not only does Sochi not have snow, but Sochi is also astonishingly close to a conflict zone. In the North Caucasus region, roughly an hour from Sochi, armed rebellion and terrorist attacks have overwhelmed the area.
Over the last 13 years, there have been 124 suicide bombings in Russia. Social and ethnic tensions are crippling Russia. Sochi is not prepared for the Winter Olympics and neither is Russia as a country. Just last month, suicide bombers killed more than 30 people in Volgograd.
Russia has taken drastic measures to try to shore up security for the Winter Games. The Russian government has sent more than 30,000 police officers and Interior Ministry troops to Sochi to bolster security. But the fact is that Sochi is in the midst of a volatile political scenario and the higher likelihood of violence and tragedy is an unnecessary risk the IOC mistakenly embraced when it selected Sochi to host the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Maybe with the world descending upon Sochi, tensions in Russia will calm down. Sports can be a healing agent and it’s conceivable that maybe Russia can be cooled off and rejuvenated by the spirit of the Olympic games. But any positives of holding the Olympics in Sochi are overshadowed by the grave danger Russia poses.
America has not held a Winter Olympics since 2002 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Colorado has never hosted the Olympics and would be a pristine, world-class location. France has not hosted the games since 1992. Germany has not been awarded the Winter Olympics since 1936. The Scandinavian countries of Sweden and Finland are also viable candidates to host the Winter Olympics. Norway hosted a Winter Olympics in 1994, but Sweden and Finland have never hosted the Winter Olympics.
Clearly, the IOC had better locations such as Salzburg, Austria, as options for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Instead, the IOC unwisely selected a tumultuous geopolitical location with a penchant for violence. The IOC should have learned its lesson. However, the 2018 Winter Olympics have already been awarded to South Korea. Surely this decision by the IOC did not help soothe South Korea’s relations with its volatile northern neighbor.
Considering Sochi’s violent and unstable state, the lack of cold weather, inaccessibility to snow and turbulent regional violence, the IOC should have never given the 2014 Winter Olympics to Sochi. Any reward for hosting the Olympic Games in Sochi is far outweighed by the numerous risks.