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SBD Global/February 6, 2014/Olympics

IOC Eyes Games Revamp; Hotel Owners Strike Back, Claim Facilities Finished

The IOC "cast its eyes past the most expensive Games ever staged and began to look for ways of revamping the global sporting spectacular," according to Karolos Grohmann of REUTERS. The IOC, which picked Sochi in '07 "despite it having virtually no venues in place," said that it "was time to take another look at the cost, size and bidding process for the Games." Several cities "have already pulled out of the race to host the 2022 Winter Games amid concerns about rising costs." IOC VP John Coates: "We believe we should do more to support better bid cities in their engagement. Are we not asking too much too soon [from bid cities]? Should the bidding procedure be more an invitation of potential bidders rather than a tender for a franchise? The cost of the bids concerns us all." The discussions, part of the IOC's Olympic Agenda 2020 launched by President Thomas Bach, come "as athletes arrive en mass at the Black Sea resort" (REUTERS, 2/5).

NEGATIVE REACTION: BUSINESSWEEK's Stephen Wilson reported the possibility of changing the system "drew a mostly negative reaction, with members stressing that the Olympics enjoy a special status of taking place in one city." Canadian member Dick Pound: "One of the unique aspects of the Olympic Games is the unity of time and place. It's not an event made in a television studio. It's what happens on the ground. We should be very careful about destroying that." The view "was echoed by Israeli member Alex Gilady." Gilady: "If we go to a country, we will lose the Olympic Village. The Olympic Village is perhaps the most important uniqueness of the Olympic Games." Two athlete members, Australian rower James Tomkins and swimmer Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe, "also opposed any change." Coventry said that athletes "would lose the 'level of competition' they are used to in a single host city" (BUSINESSWEEK, 2/5).

HOTELS FINISHED: REUTERS' David Ljunggren wrote owners of one major complex, "irked by stories of unfinished hotels just days before the Sochi Olympics are due to start," took reporters on a three-hour tour on Wednesday "to prove they were ready for visitors." Even as the tour wound its way around the brand new paved streets and buildings of the Gorky Gorod complex in the mountains, workers "were busily hammering, sanding, soldering wires in lamp posts and installing garbage bins." Russian state lender Sberbank Deputy Chair Stanislav Kuznetsov: "In principle all the work is done ... the hotels are now preparing for the arrival of guests and that's why you see people doing small jobs and cleaning up" (REUTERS, 2/5).

NO ECONOMICAL BOOST: REUTERS' Keith Weir reported ratings agency Moody's said that hosting the Winter Olympics at great cost in Sochi "is unlikely to give the Russian economy a big boost." Moody's: "While the central government can comfortably accommodate its share of the cost, the reputational benefits of hosting the Olympics have been undercut by the high cost of the event and other bad publicity." It rated the Games "a credit nuetral for Russian debt" (REUTERS, 2/5).

SAFER SLOPESTYLE: One of the most prominent critics of the Sochi Olympic slopestyle course said Wednesday that "he had been won over by changes to improve safety." Finnish men’s snowboard medal contender Roope Tonteri said the course was “sketchy,” “not really safe” and no fun for riders. Following training Wednesday on the revised track, Tonteri said the course was now “really good.” He added, “The jumps are perfect, but I didn't do any of my hard tricks yet” (R-SPORT, 2/5).
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Olympics, Russia

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