Sustainability Key to Winter Olympics Destination Selection

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Skift Take

Sustainability and building a lasting legacy are reshaping the selection process for future Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games host destinations.

On Wednesday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced the French Alps and Salt Lake City, Utah, as the preferred destinations for the 2030 and 2034 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, respectively. 

The ICO approved the double allocation at the 141st IOC session held in Mumbai, India, in October. The IOC has made a strong stance by selecting climate-conscious host destinations, looking to ensure a beneficial legacy. Both hosts already have the majority of the infrastructure needed to host the competitions.

The IOC and the French National Olympic Committee (CNOSF) will now flesh out the 2030 bid. The US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) will do the same for its 2034 bid. The Olympic governing body will make its final decision in July when the 2024 Summer Olympics begin in Paris, France.

New Selection Process

Specific climate-conscious criteria, introduced in December 2022, have impacted the IOC’s destination selection process. These include the engagement of sustainable tourism strategies, creating a solid legacy by maximizing the use of existing venues, and the overall experience of both locations in hosting international events.

“What really stood out about the French Alps and Salt Lake City-Utah projects was their vision for the athlete experience, their alignment with regional and national socio-economic development plans, and their very strong support from the public and from all levels of government,” said IOC Member Karl Stoss, chair of the Future Host Commission for the Olympic Winter Games in a press release.

French Public Approves

The public and regional and national governments strongly supported the selection of the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur regions in France, with 68% of the public in France voicing support. 

“Innovative, sustainable and inclusive Games, which will make France and its mountains shine. What pride!” French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Utah in the Limelight

Salt Lake City hosting the 2034 Winter Games received support from 80% of the public along with support from state and national governments. Salt Lake City was the only candidate soliciting to host the 2034 games.

“I’m just so happy for the people of Utah – that we can finally have this moment after a decade of work,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall in a statement, adding, “Now, we have these next 10 years to bask in the limelight a little bit, to make sure that our preparations are just off the charts, and have the greatest experience possible.”

Salt Lake City is actively building on its legacy that began after hosting the Winter Games in 2002. All of the proposed venues are located within an hour of the designated area of the central Olympic Village.

Sustainable Approach Impacting the 2026 Winter Games

Boosting the Winter Olympics Games’ sustainability credentials also impacts the upcoming Milano-Cortina 2026 Winter Olympics in Italy. Initial plans for hosting the bobsleigh, luge and skeleton competitions in Cesana, Italy, have received pushback from the IOC.

The now-defunct sliding center in Cesana would require extensive renovations to be worthy of hosting the competitions. On Thursday, the IOC recommended using a venue outside of Italy to avoid any new construction.

“We insisted that only existing and functioning venues should be considered at this point in time,” said Christophe Dubi, the IOC’s Olympic Games executive director, during a press conference.

A decision from the government is expected on December 5.

The ICO does not usually allow any Olympic Games competitions to take place outside the host country. Loosening these restrictions further illustrates the IOC’s efforts to make its competitions as sustainable as possible.

Switzerland Hosting Next

The ICO also announced that Switzerland is in line to host the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games 2038. The IOC’s executive board has invited the country into “Privileged Dialogue” on project Switzerland 203x.

The ICO commended the Swiss bid’s use of existing venues. It also acknowledges Switzerland’s extensive experience hosting international winter sports events and its role as host country of the IOC and many international sports federations.

In practice, this means that the IOC will not consider any other bids for 2038 until the end of 2027, or until the project is deemed ready. Should the 2030 and 2034 bids not go forward, the Swiss bid would also be considered.

The ICO also revealed that it considered a fourth bid from Sweden, which presented “an impressive vision to stage the most sustainable Games in history.” However, the bid was dismissed due to concerns over the funding strategy and conditional government support.