If Boston isn’t selected for the 2024 Summer Olympics two years from now, an American candidate would be a lock for the 2026 Winter Games.
With three consecutive Asian sites staging the five-ringed circus after Rio de Janeiro next year and a European city all but certain to be picked for 2024 if the Hub isn’t the choice, a US bidder such as Denver or 2002 host Salt Lake City would have an open field.
Had the US Olympic Committee not decided last month to take its summer shot, it quickly would have been pondering a run for 2026 after having bypassed five straight winter cycles. Had the International Olympic Committee reopened the 2022 race in the wake of its Agenda 2020 reforms, the US could have had a decent chance to win had it jumped in.
Rarely, if ever, have there been two as unappetizing options as Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan, which were the only candidates when entries closed last week. It’s the first time since 1980, when Vancouver withdrew shortly before the 1974 vote and Lake Placid won in a walkover, that the Lords have had so few choices for a Winter Games.
The Chinese capital, which would be the first site to host both the Summer and Winter Games, appears to be the default choice for 2022. So declared IOC executive board member Rene Fasel, the International Ice Hockey Federation chief.
“They will kick my ass, but what can I do?” he shrugged. “This is a fact. China is a favorite.”
Beijing can repurpose a number of its 2008 venues for winter use. The mammoth Bird’s Nest stadium would be used for opening and closing ceremonies. The Capital Indoor Stadium, which seats 17,500 and was used for volleyball, would stage figure skating and short-track speedskating.
The former Wukesong Sports Center (now MasterCard Center), where LeBron & Co. won their basketball gold medals, would be the main site for ice hockey, while the National Indoor Stadium where gymnastics was held would be the secondary rink. And the Water Cube where Michael Phelps went 8 for 8 would be the curling building.
The problem would be the distance between the ice and snow venues, most of which would be in Zhangjiakou, more than 100 miles to the southeast.
How about Boston as a winter site? With TD Garden and the four Beanpot rinks, all of the ice sports except for long-track speedskating would be taken care of. Fenway Park or Harvard Stadium would be intriguing places for opening ceremonies. There are plenty of snow options in northern New England (several resorts have hosted World Cup events in the past), and Killington’s downhill, while not in the same class as those in the Alps and Rockies, would meet the minimum standards . . . Istanbul and Madrid, which lost out to Tokyo for the 2020 Summer Games, are seen as unlikely candidates for 2024. Istanbul has mounted five failed bids since 2000 while Madrid, runner-up to Rio de Janeiro for 2016, has been bypassed three times in a row. “I think Madrid is a little bruised,” observed IOC member Dick Pound of Canada. “And Istanbul has Humpty Dumpty to put back together.”
Latvia’s Martins and Tomass Dukurs, who’ve gone 1-2 in the first three World Cup men’s skeleton races going into this weekend’s stop in Germany, are looking like the best brother act since Tom and Dick Smothers. Except for Matt Antoine’s bronze in the season’s opener at Lake Placid, the Americans haven’t made a podium. With Sochi runner-up Noelle Pikus-Pace retired and Katie Uhlaender taking the winter off after ankle surgery, Savannah Graybill and Anne O’Shea are carrying the banner for the US women . . . No, nay, never, says the South Korean government about Pyeongchang holding some snowboarding events across the North Korean border during the 2018 Games. Gangwon Province Governor Choi Moon Soon floated the idea recently but South Korean officials understandably don’t want to share the Olympic spotlight with their neighbors, with whom they’re still technically at war. The Pyeongchang organizers have had enough on their plate recently with the “Nut Rage” incident in which Heather Cho, the daughter of committee chief Cho Yang Ho, ordered her Seoul-bound flight to return to the gate at Kennedy Airport and had the cabin crew chief booted off the plane after a flight attendant served her macadamia nuts in a bag instead of on the customary dish. Cho, who was a vice president of Korean Air, whose parent company her father runs, later resigned. Meanwhile, sales of macadamia nuts have gone into the stratosphere in the Land of the Morning Calm.
John Powers can be reached at email@example.com; material from Olympic committees, sports federations, interviews, and wire services was used in this report.