The Olympic Games is a unique and complex project that also offers manifold benefits and opportunities, and, for this reason, for a city to host successful Olympic Games, many years of careful and precise planning are required, with all of the relevant organisations, authorities and stakeholders working together.
One of the most important decisions taken by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is the election of the host city for the Olympic Games. The Games are awarded to one city, although some venues may be located outside the host city itself. The host city election takes place seven years before the Games, but the actual bid process is launched 10 years before and lasts for a period of three years.
The three-year bid process is split into three phases (each lasting approximately one year) and is governed by the Olympic Charter (Rule 33 and its bye-law):
- Phase I: Invitation Phase
- Phase II : Applicant Phase
- Phase III: Candidature Phase
With the adoption of Olympic Agenda 2020, a strategic roadmap for the Olympic Movement, the IOC has introduced the Invitation Phase where NOCs are invited to declare their interest in bidding to the IOC. The IOC provides a range of services to NOCs and cities which are interested in bidding. This is done through the sharing of best practices, provision of materials, individual workshops and assisting the cities in understanding Games’ needs to put together a solid project that best meets the city’s long-term development needs. Encouragement of legacy and sustainability begins right from the outset of the Invitation Phase to ensure the Games act as a catalyst for positive development of tangible and intangible legacies for the city and the region.
At the end of the invitation phase, NOCs and cities are invited to commit to the bid process and a city becomes an official Applicant City.
During Phase II, cities develop their vision and concept. The IOC provides the Applicant City and its NOC with the full package of bid documentation including a full list of the Olympic Games “detailed obligations” as well as the Applicant and Candidate City Procedures and Questionnaires. Also provided are the Olympic Charter and the Host City Contract, which includes details of the IOC’s contribution to the organisation of the Games. The IOC places great importance on sustainability and legacy through the maximum use of existing, temporary and demountable facilities where no long-term legacy need exists. The IOC hosts an Applicant City Seminar to provide further information and assistance to the cities.
During Phase II, the Applicant Cities are asked to answer an IOC questionnaire and submit their answers, called an Application File, to the IOC. The Application File is then studied by an IOC-appointed Working Group. This Group, which includes representatives of various Olympic stakeholders such as the International Federations (IFs), the National Olympic Committees and the IOC Athletes’ Commission, carries out a detailed risk and opportunity assessment and makes a thorough and detailed report to the IOC Executive Board, which is then responsible for selecting the cities that will advance to Phase III. The cities selected become Candidate Cities.
The Candidate Cities are requested to answer the third-phase IOC questionnaire and submit more detailed plans to the IOC which are contained in a Candidature File (a city’s blueprint for the Olympic Games). The Candidature File is accompanied by legally binding guarantees. In addition to the Candidature File submission, the Candidate Cities are invited to make presentations to the ANOC General Assembly, the International Sports Federations and the IOC members.
The Candidature File and accompanying documents are analysed by an IOC Evaluation Commission which, like the Phase II Working Group, also includes representatives of various Olympic stakeholders such as the IFs, NOCs and the IOC Athletes’ Commission, as well as the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). The Candidate Cities host the IOC Evaluation Commission, which gives the Cities an opportunity to make technical presentations to the Commission as well as offer first-hand site analyses of proposed venues. This technical information allows the Evaluation Commission one-on-one interaction with the Bid Committee and greatly aids the Commission in creating their report, highlighting the risks and opportunities of the Bid project. The report is provided to the IOC members and is used in their decision to select the host city.
The IOC places great importance on education, and transfer of knowledge is a key commitment the IOC has to deliver to the Candidate Cities. A main objective is to ensure that the Candidate Cities are as informed as possible to aid them in creating the best plan possible to host successful Games and to positively impact the host city and region. Part of the education process includes Candidate Cities’ participation in the IOC Olympic Games Observer Programme and participation in the Olympic Games debrief. The Observer Programme is an excellent way for Cities to gain knowledge and first-hand experience of what occurs behind the scenes during an Olympic Games. The debrief allows them to learn from most recent Games organisers’ best practices. In addition to these education programmes, the IOC organises workshops with the Candidate Cities, tailored to the needs of each city, to aid them in their project.
Election of the Host City
Following a final Candidate City presentation and a report by the Evaluation Commission Chair, the IOC members vote by secret ballot and elect the host city. The newly elected host city then signs the Host City Contract with the IOC.