Citing financial concerns, Norway more or less announced the end of its Olympic bid for the 2022 games on Wednesday. The government's vote against providing financial backing for the bid means that Oslo will likely go the way of Stockholm, Krakow, and Lviv, all of which withdrew from the 2022 host field.
Responding to the news on Norwegian television, Prime Minister Erna Solberg could hardly help but convey the sense that the Oslo bid⎯at the tune of $5.4 billion⎯ was like a global Sweet 16 party run amok. "The Olympics would have been great, they would have been fun, but there are lots of other important matters that we have to deal with."
This development also leaves us with just two curious candidates remaining: Beijing, China, and Almaty, Kazakhstan. With Qatar already set to host the 2022 World Cup—despite growing controversies—Oslo's imminent self-extraction means that 2022 will be The Year of the Authoritarian Host Country.
"Publics may finally be getting wise to the fact that the long-term economic benefits of hosting mega-events like the Olympics or the World Cup are usually negligible at best," Joshua Keating wrote after Krakow's withdrawal in May. "This is going to mean that fewer democratic countries will make bids for them and the ones that do, like Brazil, will do so in the face of widespread popular opposition."
The curiosity doesn't end there. First, let's consider Beijing. The host of the 2008 Summer Games left countless promises unfulfilled after it was called upon to improve its human rights record ahead of the Olympics. Beijing is not only mountainless, but is also less than 700 miles from Pyeongchang, South Korea, where the 2018 Winter Games will be held, and about 1,300 miles from Tokyo, which will host the 2020 Summer Games. Beijing would also be the first city in history to host both the Summer and Winter Games. Despite these apparent negatives, China has a ton of cash and is willing to spend it.
Then, there's Almaty. Kazakhstan may have the mountains, but it definitely does not have the cash. Kazakh Olympic Committee Board Member Andrey Kryukov, channeling "Daisy Bell," told Reuters earlier this year, "It will not be a big budget."
Kazakhstan's human rights record is also more than a little bit startling with its president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, having been in power since the dissolution of the Soviet Union more than 20 years ago. If selected, Almaty would probably be the most obscure host city, yet, and the first Olympic host city in Central Asia.
Should either Beijing or Almaty drop out, 2022 would be the first time an Olympic host is chosen by default. Somehow that seems fitting. If there's a decision left to made by 2015, the IOC will make it next July.