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IOC’s unwanted Games

LONDON — The Ukrainian city of Lviv withdrew its bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics yesterday, becoming the third contender to drop out of the race for a Games no one seems to want.

IOC’s unwanted Games

The Sochi Games in February cost Russia S$63.6 billion to host.
Photo: Getty Images

LONDON — The Ukrainian city of Lviv withdrew its bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics yesterday, becoming the third contender to drop out of the race for a Games no one seems to want.

Lviv pulled out because of the continuing political and security crisis in Ukraine — where government forces are battling an insurgency by pro-Russian separatists — and would now focus on bidding for the 2026 Winter Games instead. The widely-expected decision to withdraw came after talks between Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach.

Next week, the IOC will select a short list of finalists for the 2022 Games, with three cities — Almaty in Kazakhstan, Beijing, and Oslo — still in contention.

With Lviv out, the IOC executive board is likely to retain all three and not cut any of the candidates. The host city will be selected by the full IOC in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on July 31, 2015.

“We have always said that we will only continue if we can be certain to deliver on all our promises,” Lviv bid CEO Sergei Goncharov said. “Due to the current circumstances in Ukraine, however, we felt that a bid for 2026 would make more sense.”

Lviv’s withdrawal follows the earlier pullouts of Stockholm and Krakow, Poland. The Swedish capital dropped out in December after politicians declined to give financial support. The Polish city withdrew last month after 70 per cent of residents rejected the bid in a referendum.

The future of Oslo’s bid also remains uncertain. The Norwegian government has yet to back the project and won’t make a decision until autumn. In addition, recent polls have shown that more than half the population opposes the Games.

If Oslo drops out later, that would leave only two cities standing. Almaty, commercial capital of the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan in Central Asian country, hosted the 2011 Asian Winter Games and would shape up as the favourite.

Beijing, which hosted the 2008 Olympics, is bidding to become the first city to stage both the Summer and Winter Games. With Pyeongchang, South Korea, hosting the 2018 Winter Games and Tokyo the 2020 Olympics, the IOC would normally be reluctant to send the Games to Asia for a third straight time.

Even before the start of the official 2022 campaign, two potential serious contenders stayed away. St Moritz-Davos and Munich cancelled proposed bids after voters in Switzerland and Germany voted “no” in referendums.

Potential host cities, especially in Western Europe, are concerned about the financial costs of the Games, many scared off by the US$51 billion (S$63.6 billion) spent for February’s Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

Rio de Janeiro’s delayed preparations for the 2016 Olympics are also a major concern. Changes to the bidding process and efforts to reduce the cost of the Games are among the key issues being addressed by the IOC as part of Bach’s “Agenda 2020” — his blueprint for the future of the Olympic movement that will be voted on in December. AP

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