By Nick Butler at the Centara Convention Centre in Bangkok – an Inside the Games exclusive:
A new Working Group will be set up by the European Olympic Committees to evaluate why there has been such a decline in interest in bidding for the Olympic Games.
The new Group, proposed and accepted during the EOC Information Meeting here this morning, comes in a year in which every European contender has withdrawn from the race for the 2022 Olympics and Paralympics.
This is a major concern particularly due to the traditional popularity of winter sports on the continent.
EOC President Patrick Hickey told insidethegames afterwards the issue was of “vital importance”, with the Group a way to assist the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as they tackle the same problem as part of their Olympic Agenda 2020 reform process.
“What we have witnessed in the last year is communities, particularly in Europe, questioning the value and impact socially and economically of Games and large sporting events,” the Irishman, also an IOC Executive Board member, said during the meeting.
“We must not forget that in this round of bidding for the Olympic Winter Games, Europe started with five bids.
“There is here a strong warning for the EOC and winter sports in Europe.
“I propose to respond to this challenge by forming a Working Group to properly understand how we can reform this debate.”
The proposal was warmly receive by the NOC representatives present, Hickey revealed, with many potential members having already put themselves forward.
Its composition will be decided over the next few days, with both NOCs and former Bid Committees to be represented, potentially including those from cities who withdrew from the 2022 contest.
No resolutions will be proposed until well after the conclusion of Olympic Agenda 2020 at the IOC Extraordinary Session in Monte Carlo on December 8 and 9 next month.
European cities to have abandoned bids include Munich and St Moritz/Davos, which both pulled out following failed referendums before the process officially began, while Stockholm, Kraków, Lviv and Oslo all withdrew earlier this year.
While Lviv’s problems related more to the political situation in Ukraine, all the others concerned economic issues, and a lack of public and Governmental support, a particular worry for the EOC and wider Olympic Movement.
“It is vitally important we are able to promote Games to local and national populations,” Hickey added during the meeting.
“They are, after all, our biggest opportunity to excite young people to take up sport and to leave a lasting legacy in city and country, both in the infrastructure and experience.
“We must also properly deploy the strong, compelling economic and social narrative that follows these events, and we need look no further than London to see this impact following the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“I want the Working Group to report back to the EOC Executive so we are better placed to support the ambitions of NOCs and bidding cities to help them present their case.
“This in turn can give local people the confidence to support these bids because they are better informed about the once in a lifetime opportunity they present.
“We want local communities who have said no to say yes in future, because they need to understand the benefits these Games bring.”