The evolution of future Olympic host elections: six years of constant improvement
The IOC has approved a more targeted and streamlined approach, in which flexibility and sustainability are key drivers. Two newly-appointed and permanent Future Host Commissions will ensure ongoing dialogue with interested parties for Olympic Games and Youth Olympic Games. This new approach aims to ensure the IOC remains in step with a rapidly changing world to deliver Games that are better aligned with future hosts’ long-term development plans while maintaining the inherent magic of the Games and providing the best possible experience for the athletes.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has made significant improvements to its approach to future hosts since the election of Thomas Bach as IOC President in 2013.
The reforms began in earnest in 2014 with the unanimous approval by the full membership of the IOC,* collectively known as the IOC Session, of Olympic Agenda 2020, a strategic roadmap for the future of the Olympic Movement that, with a focus on increasing sustainability and legacies, led to a major review of all aspects of organising the Olympic Games and Youth Olympic Games.
One of the key areas addressed by Olympic Agenda 2020 was the candidature procedure, with a new philosophy introduced that invited potential hosts to present projects that best fit their sporting, economic, social and environmental-planning needs rather than trying to fit the local context to the Games. The goal was to create Olympic projects that are less expensive and that maximise operational efficiencies, while also unlocking greater value for future hosts.
Building on the success of these initiatives, 2018 saw the adoption of the New Norm, additional reforms that provided Olympic hosts with even more flexibility in designing the Games to meet their long-term development goals. The IOC also increased the assistance and expertise it and the wider Olympic Movement provided.
The impact of these reforms has been considerable. A one-year, non-committal dialogue stage introduced for the candidature phase of the Olympic Winter Games 2026, for example, resulted in significant cost reductions in both the candidature and operating budgets – estimated to be more than 75 and 20 per cent lower, respectively, than the average for 2018 and 2022. As a reflection of the IOC’s flexibility with regard to the use of existing and temporary venues, 80 per cent of the proposed venues for 2026 were existing or temporary, a 33 per cent increase from the 2018/2022 average of 60 per cent.
So effective and appreciated was the increased partnership during the 2026 dialogue stage that the IOC set up a Working Group in early 2019 to consider ways to build upon these elements for the future.
A new approach
Following consultation with the IOC Executive Board (EB), the Working Group recommendations were presented to and approved by the IOC Session in June 2019. The Executive Board then agreed on an action plan for their implementation in October, resulting in the creation of a new, streamlined approach to future host elections that allows for increased flexibility and cooperation on a bilateral level.
This approach will create greater opportunities for dialogue between the IOC and interested parties (cities/regions/countries/National Olympic Committees), while allowing for more flexibility with regard to the timing of future elections. In addition, interested parties are not necessarily limited to a single city but can refer to multiple cities, a region or a country.
It opens the door to any interested party to enter into non-committal continuous dialogue with the IOC through two recently established Future Host Commissions (see below for more information). It also allows the IOC to target a potential host if deemed beneficial to the Olympic Movement.
*IOC Members represent the athletes, International Federations (IFs), National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).
The initial dialogue does not have to be edition-specific, with discussions intended to determine whether a potential host is best suited to organise an Olympic Games or a Youth Olympic Games, and when. The strict timelines and deadlines of the past have been eliminated.
The IOC will continue to offer hands-on support and expertise to help define and develop projects in partnership with the interested parties that will produce many long-lasting legacies for the local populations.
The new approach mirrors the rapidly changing world we live in: As the governing body of the Olympic Movement, the IOC has positioned itself at the vanguard of innovation and development to help deliver the best possible Olympic projects with the most benefits for Olympic stakeholders and future hosts alike.
“We must continue to keep up with the fast pace of change in our current world,” said President Bach. “Flexibility is a necessity to ensure good governance and to have sustainable Olympic Games in the future. We will do that while maintaining the magic of the Games, the fundamental principle of universality and our commitment to having athletes at the centre of everything we do.”
- The establishment of a permanent, ongoing dialogue to explore and create interest among interested parties for the Olympic Games and Youth Olympic Games;
- The creation of two Future Host Commissions (Summer and Winter) to oversee interest in future Olympic Games and Youth Olympic Games and advise the Executive Board;
- Giving the IOC Session more influence by having non-Executive Board members make up the Future Host Commissions.
Future Host Commissions
The two Future Host Commissions were appointed by IOC President Bach in October 2019. Both are gender-balanced and represent a full range of Olympic stakeholders, including athletes, International Federations (IFs), National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).
The Commissions comprise IOC Members who are not on the Executive Board to ensure that the IOC Session has even more influence by being involved from the very beginning of the dialogue. The full composition of the Commissions can be found here.
The Terms of Reference and Rules of Conduct for the Commissions can be found here.
Role of the Future Host Commissions
The role of the Future Host Commissions is to continually explore, monitor and encourage interest in future Olympic Games, Olympic Winter Games and Youth Olympic Games.
Part of their mandate is to interact with potential hosts to determine the nature and extent of their possible interest and work with them to understand the various elements and opportunities of the Olympic Games and the Youth Olympic Games.
The Commissions will assist interested parties in formulating a strong vision for their Olympic project and designing sustainable proposals that align with their long-term development goals.
The Commissions will report regularly to the Executive Board, providing advice and recommendations regarding possible hosts to enable the Executive Board to be in a position to react to various developments and opportunities deemed to be in the best interest of the Olympic Movement.
Continuous vs Targeted Dialogue – What are the differences?
Under the new approach, the Future Host Commissions remain open for dialogue in perpetuity.
This continuous dialogue will be exploratory in nature and non-committal, held with interested parties for a future Olympic Games or Youth Olympic Games with the support of their respective National Olympic Committees (NOCs). These discussions do not have to be edition-specific.
Throughout this dialogue, the Commissions will constantly monitor and analyse the projects, providing feasibility assessments that will form the basis for recommendations and advice provided at frequent intervals to the IOC Executive Board (EB).
In turn, the EB will provide regular feedback and instructions to the two Commissions.
At any time, the EB can make the strategic decision to instruct the Future Host Commissions to enter into targeted, edition-specific dialogue with an interested party or parties, who will then be referred to as preferred host(s).
The EB will base such a decision on a positive feasibility assessment from a Future Host Commission and on other factors, such as potential opportunity in terms of current global context (including socio-economic, geopolitical and universality factors), alignment with Olympic Agenda 2020, and strong public support.
At this time, the preferred host(s) will be asked to submit a streamlined set of documents, including guarantees, while the Future Host Commissions will make more detailed evaluations of the project(s) and, if required, visit the preferred host(s).
Based on the evaluation report of the Future Host Commissions, the IOC Executive Board can put one or more preferred host(s) forward for a vote by the IOC Session if all requirements have been met.
Should the preferred host(s) fail to deliver key requirements, the EB can instruct the Future Host Commissions to return to continuous dialogue with other interested parties.
Vote by the IOC Session
The Session’s prerogative to elect Games hosts has been preserved.
Once the Executive Board has put forward the preferred host(s) to the IOC Session, IOC Members will have the opportunity to hear presentations, ask questions and provide comments before voting for the future host.
IOC Members will therefore continue to be at the centre of the decision-making process.
Benefits of the new approach
With its strong commitment to flexibility, sustainability, legacies and the optimisation of all aspects of the Olympic Games, the IOC aims with the new approach to remain in step with our rapidly changing world to deliver Olympic events that are better aligned with future hosts’ long-term development plans while still maintaining the magic of the Games and providing the best possible experience on and off the field of play for the athletes.