The beyond-the-moon cost of the Sochi Olympics — $50 billion and counting — has bidders for the 2022 Winter Games either dropping out or thinking twice.
Stockholm, which had hoped to be the first city to stage both versions, withdrew from the race this month because politicians concluded that a bid would require “too much speculation with taxpayers’ money.” And a recent poll found that a majority of Norwegians oppose a financial guarantee for even the bargain $6 billion undertaking that Oslo, the 1952 host, was contemplating.
Admittedly, the Sochi price — more than seven times what Vancouver spent in 2010 and more than Beijing lavished on its 2008 summer party — has been grossly inflated by runaway infrastructure costs (the railway and road from seaside Adler to the Krasnaya Polyana mountain resort alone is more than Vancouver’s total tally) as well as inefficiency and graft. But even a fraction of that amount seems to be too rich for most bidders.
Munich, which was bypassed for Pyeongchang for 2018, decided last fall against another shot after local voters said nein. If Oslo opts out too, that would leave four less-than-ideal candidates for 2022, with the IOC required to choose one next year.
The Polish city of Krakow would cohost with the Slovakian ski resort of Jasna, 95 miles away. Beijing would share the Games with Zhangjiakou, 100 miles distant. Lviv, the western Ukrainian city, currently is being turned upside-down by protesters. And Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, is in a remote spot near the Kyrgyzstan border.
The US Olympic team that was formally announced Monday and is expected again to top the table in Sochi includes 106 veterans and 49 medalists, 13 of whom have won gold, including fifth-timers Bode Miller in Alpine skiing and Billy Demong in Nordic combined. Ann Swisshelm, the 45-year-old curler, is the oldest athlete and Maggie Voisin, the 15-year-old freestyle skier, is the youngest. The 230-member team, which numbers 125 men and 105 women, includes 41 athletes from New England, nine of them from Massachusetts: hockey players Kacey Bellamy (Westfield), Alex Carpenter (North Reading), Meghan Duggan (Danvers), Michelle Picard (Taunton), and Molly Schaus (Natick), freestyle skiers Emily Cook (Belmont) and Annalisa Drew (Andover), figure skater Simon Shnapir (Sudbury), and bobsledder Steve Langton (Melrose). In retrospect, the selectors probably made the right decision by leaving Mirai Nagasu, the only Vancouver veteran, off the women’s figure skating team. Nagasu, who was bypassed for Ashley Wagner despite finishing third in the national championships, placed a career-worst 10th at last weekend’s Four Continents Championships in Taiwan despite competing against everyone else’s junior varsity. Nagasu, who was fourth at the last Games, still is first alternate for the Sochi squad. “You belong on the team,” Nagasu texted Wagner. “Good luck. Love you.” Though she concedes that it’s “absolutely insane” to change her long program this close to the Olympics, Wagner has done just that, combining “bits and pieces of the old and the new” into something she’ll feel comfortable with. “My dream has come true,” said Wagner, who just missed making the 2010 team. “I just need to skate through the rest of it.”
Plushenko the pick
Why did the Russian skating federation pick aging warhorse Evgeni Plushenko for its sole men’s spot in Sochi? “Only pragmatism,” said sports minister Vitaly Mutko. After 18-year-old Maxim Kovtun finished fifth at the European Championships after beating Plushenko at the nationals, officials concluded that it was a better bet to send the creaky 31-year-old three-time medalist and former champion to the Games. “What is better?” mused Mutko, who predicted that Kovtun “will tear everyone to shreds in the future.” “Just to go and give a worthy performance or to risk it and taste the champagne?” . . . Sarah Hendrickson’s relentless rehabbing of her rebuilt right knee paid off when the reigning world champion was named to the Olympic women’s ski jumping team for the sport’s debut in Sochi. “I laid at the bottom of the hill and thought that everything was over,” said the 19-year-old Hendrickson, who crashed in an August practice in Germany . . . Even though the top Germans were missing, Kate Hansen’s victory in last weekend’s World Cup luge finale in Latvia was an impressive achievement. No American had won a singles race since Cammy Myler in 1997, and Hansen, who’d been 21st the previous weekend, knocked off Canadian medal favorite Alex Gough while setting a record on the Sigulda track. Meanwhile, Armin Zoeggeler, who will be Italy’s flag bearer in Sochi, won his 57th Cup race at age 40. He’ll be seeking his sixth medal at his sixth Games.
Olympic bobsled champion Steve Holcomb will be going back to Olympus with a chance to make history again. Holcomb, whose four-man victory in Vancouver ended a 62-year US drought, will be favored to be the first Yank to win the two-man since 1936 after claiming the World Cup title in Koenigssee, Germany, last weekend with his fifth triumph in eight races. Holcomb, who finished second to Germany’s Maximilian Arndt in the four-man, collected his third overall crown. While Elana Meyers missed dethroning Canadian champion Kaillie Humphries by just 1 point (and .03 seconds in the finale), the 2-3 overall finish by her and Jamie Greubel was the best season’s showing by the Americans since Jean Racine and Bonny Warner went 1-3 in 2001. It also was the first time that the Germans, who won 11 straight crowns before Humphries stopped them last year, didn’t have a woman among the top three . . . If Lolo Jones were named Lolo Smith, would she have been given a spot on the Olympic bobsled team? “I should have been working harder on gaining Twitter followers than gaining muscle mass,” Vancouver veteran Emily Azevedo told USA Today after Jones had been named the third brakeman behind Aja Evans and Lauryn Williams, ahead of Azevedo and Katie Eberling. “I know she didn’t pick herself,” Eberling said. “I know she’s not the one to be blamed.” Jones, who was a hurdler on the 2008 and 2012 summer teams, undeniably had the most star power of the trio and she made two podiums during the World Cup season. While Eberling won three bronzes, her 17th place in her last outing before the selection didn’t help. Azevedo had a legitimate gripe. She had only three starts to Jones’s four and none with top pilot Meyers. Did NBC, needing a marquee name to substitute for skier Lindsey Vonn, lobby for Jones? “Preposterous,” declared Gary Zenkel, the network’s Olympic president.
While Noelle Pikus-Pace was outpointed by British rival Lizzy Yarnold in the women’s World Cup skeleton standings, she’ll go to Sochi as co-favorite after winning her fourth race in Koenigssee. Pikus-Pace, who just missed a medal in Vancouver, has made the podium in every race since her controversial disqualification for sled handle tape in the Calgary opener. Latvia’s Martins Dukurs wrapped up his fifth straight men’s title ahead of brother Tomass, while Matt Antoine finished third, the best showing by a Yank since Zach Lund in 2008 . . . NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly wrote in an e-mail to the Associated Press that the league would reevaluate sending its players to Sochi should something “significant” happen prior to the Games. But he added that the NHL doesn’t expect to pull its players based on the security measures put in place. Daly also said the league would reassess players’ roles in future Olympics if there appears to be ‘‘an unreasonably dangerous situation’’ in Russia . . . The Olympic trio of middleweight champion Claressa Shields, flyweight bronze medalist Marlen Esparza, and lightweight Queen Underwood all were victors at last weekend’s US boxing championships in Spokane, Wash., as was light welterweight Destiny Chearino of Warwick, R.I. Esparza, who beat Boston’s Katie Durgin in the semis, won a record eighth title while Underwood, who outpointed Lynn’s Rashida Ellis in the semis, claimed her seventh. Burlington bantamweight Amanda Pavone, who bested Norton’s Melanie Costa, and Somerville welterweight Melissa Kelly both reached the finals.
John Powers can be reached at email@example.com; material from Olympic committees, sports federations, interviews, and wire services was used in this report.