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Sherman Says: Winter Olympics would be better at a limited number of well-equipped cities

SPRINGVILLE — Selection of host cities for the Winter Olympics is about the same as spinning a roulette wheel while wearing a blindfold. On ice.

Fears of a terrorist strike continue to swirl around Sochi, Russia, with the family members of several American athletes turning down the opportunity to witness the games in person. Our competitors have been advised not to wear apparel designating them as Americans, while out in public.

Things might not be much better, four years from now. Guess which country is hosting the 2018 Olympic Winter Games? Try South Korea.

The city of PyeongChang was chosen to host the 2018 event by the International Olympic Committee more than two years ago. Two other cities; Munich, Germany, and Annecy, France, also made formal bids. While PyeongChang is not far from Seoul, the city that hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics, both cities are frightening close to the border with belligerent North Korea. No one can say if international tensions will subside in the shadow of the 38th parallel during the next four years, but there would be no such fears had the IOC awarded the games to Munich.

To the South Korean organizing committee’s credit, it had bid unsuccessfully on the games, twice before.

“Over the course of 10 years of bidding, we listened and learnt from the Olympic family. Our efforts and commitment to hosting the Olympic Games have been rewarded,” said Yang Ho Cho, chairman of the 2018 Bid Committee for PyeongChang.

Fast forward to the opportunity to bid on the 2022 games. According to the Toronto Globe and Mail, five cities are in the hunt.

Ukraine is bidding to hold the games in Lviv, even though the country is in the midst of an uprising against its president. Norway has submitted a bid for Oslo, but recent polls have found that most Norwegians don’t want the games. China is bidding, even though two upcoming Olympics will be held in Asia – the 2018 Games in Korea and the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. That leaves bids from Kazakhstan and Poland, neither of which has ever hosted an Olympics.

The Sochi Olympics have reportedly cost $51 billion, more than double what Britain spent on the 2012 Summer Games, according to the Globe and Mail.

The IOC would be smart to establish a pool of no more than five locations for future Winter Olympics. Rotating the event would keep infrastructure and housing up-to-date and give local organizers a timetable to build upon.

Just because a city has never hosted the Olympics is not enough of a reason to set in motion a construction and development blitz for a region that will likely never utilize its full potential again.

Lake Placid is the obvious choice for a United States venue, as it hosted the games in 1932 and 1980. It still serves as a national training center. Plus, there would not be too much concern about a hostile attack from neighboring Canada.

Vancouver hosted the Winter Olympics four years ago and would represent western Canada well. That leaves at least two sites in Europe and Asia. Munich is centrally located and is already poised to finalize a successful bid.

Security concerns are now one of the biggest factors, in determining where events of this scale will be held. Limiting the number of venues would eliminate the cost of reinventing the wheel, every four years. Then, there’s the inconvenient truth swirling around Mother Nature.

“Winters are going to get shorter. There will be fewer days below freezing. In fact, that is already happening,” said Camilo Mora, a University of Hawaii geographer, in Scientific American. The IOC declined to speculate on how climate projections might affect decisions for future winter games.

This weekend’s forecast for Lake Placid, as posted Monday, shows temperatures in the high 30s. It will be slightly warmer in Vancouver. It will be close to 60 in Sochi.

Limiting options for the Winter Olympics would reward countries that already know how to get it right.

David F. Sherman is managing editor of Bee Group Newspapers and a columnist for the Weekly Independent Newspapers of Western New York, a group of community newspapers with a combined circulation of 286,500 readers. Opinions expressed here are those of the author. He can be reached at dsherman@beenews.com.


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