Normally, we wouldn’t know who will host the 2032 Olympics until five years from now, but based on a report from Inside the Games which is the top media source dedicated exclusively to Olympic sports coverage, that decision is being made right now. In 2017 the IOC shattered all previous precedent by awarding the 2028 Olympics to the United States. Normally, that decision would have been made in 2022, on six years notice, and via a bidding process.
What the IOC did was to award Los Angeles an Olympic Games on 11 years notice and without a bidding process. The 2032 Olympics are 11 years away and the IOC appears to be on the verge of doing it again. And we know which city it will be:
Before you book your hotels I must stress this is unofficial, but it Inside the Games is calling it “all-but certain.” The only remaining obstacle is local politics and whether Australians react negatively to the news and pressure officials into withdrawing the country from hosting the Olympics. The IOC appears to be adamant that its top choice, and only choice is Australia. The decision is likely to become official shortly before the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
It makes sense that the IOC likes Australia. The IOC prefers cycling through continents, and per the cycle, it is Australia’s “turn.”
2016: South America
2028: North America
If the IOC were to award 2032 to Australia, it would complete the exact same cycle which occurred from 1988-2000
1996: North America
So why is all of this happening now?
In 2015 the IOC found its Olympic bidding process engulfed in crisis after the 2022 Olympics came down to just two cities, Almaty, Kazakhstan and Beijing, China. Neither were ideal choices. For the IOC, the bidding process had fallen apart and the IOC needed to find a new way to secure host cities and never again find itself being forced to pick between two cities it didn’t want.
While the bidding process has recovered in recent years and held up surprisingly well for the 2026 Olympics, the damage was done. The IOC had already experimented with new ways to award the Summer Olympics and it appears the IOC has had so much success in that endeavor, they aren’t turning back.
When the IOC has three strong candidates bidding on a single Olympics, what it accomplishes is secure a single city, but burn bridges with two additional cities in the process and discourage those cities from bidding again. The bidding process also racks up millions of dollars in wasted costs as five different potential host cities design logos, design stadiums, and conduct things like traffic studies, and for four of them, it will all be done in vain.
If the IOC has a strong candidate in mind, why put four other cities though an expensive bidding process that was essentially over before it even began? If the IOC has three strong candidates which are all interested in hosting a Summer Olympics, why waste two of them and be forced to start over in the following Olympic quad, when the IOC can simply distribute all three of them evenly across the next three Olympics?
At least for the Summer Olympics, the era of open bidding may very well be dead.
Entering the 2000s, sports organizations such as the IOC and FIFA were under pressure to open up their major events to less developed countries. As many saw it, there was racial bias and general unfairness in a bidding process that rich and predominately white countries won on nearly every occasion.
This caused the sports world to experience a wave of major sporting events going to less developed countries. Brazil hosted the World Cup (2014) and Olympics (2016). South Africa (2010) and Qatar (2022) were given World Cups, while China was given Olympic Games in 2008 and 2022. The pivot to less developed countries was once championed as moral, but then reality set in.
While these events accomplished the goal of promoting better inclusion for poor countries and non-white countries, it accomplished something else. These sporting events became textbook examples of wealthy countries exploiting poor countries. Massive construction projects were going to countries where workers were subjected to low pay and dangerous working conditions. Facilities were being built with weak regulatory oversight and questions being raised as to how they addressed topics such as pollution and impact on the local population.
Billions of dollars were being poured into countries to build luxurious sports stadiums while those very same countries had crippling problems and could better use those funds to reduce poverty, build schools, and roads. Even worse, less developed countries have higher rates of corruption and these billion dollar construction projects were vulnerable to money being syphoned off via corruption.
But the most pressing concern was these high profile sporting events were now being used to support and empower regimes with human rights violations. The 2022 Qatar World Cup has a reported 6,500 worker deaths and some have alleged they are using de facto slavery to build their stadiums. Meanwhile the 2022 Olympics are being held in a country that is currently engaged in genocide.
For the IOC, there has never been a more pressing need to find Olympic host cities in countries with Western democracy and strong concentrations of wealth. This is occurring at precisely the same time the IOC is starting to rethink how it awards cities. For Brisbane, they and Australia may very well get an Olympics out of it.