Has Russia "destroyed" the Winter Olympics?

Only 2 cities still in the running to host 2022 Winter Games. Others withdraw.

MGN Online

LONDON -- The Winter Olympic games have traditionally been a smaller and less lucrative affair than their summer counterpart, but it's still a very expensive undertaking for any host nation.

The cost of the Sochi Winter Games in Russia this year was a staggering $51 billion, so it's no surprise that there's a sudden chill in the air among nations bidding for the 2022 winter games.

President Vladimir Putin spent more on the Sochi games than all previous winter Olympics combined, reports CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer.

The $51 billion bought Putin spectacular sporting venues and coverage that did wonders for Russia's -- and his own -- image, but at what cost to the games themselves?

Mitchell Moss, professor of urban policy and planning at New York University, says bluntly that Putin's vast expenditure has "destroyed the Winter games."

"The experience of Sochi has poisoned the games for other places, because they see that it costs too much to run them and it's a losing proposition," Moss tells CBS News. "Remember, the Winter Olympics are only one third the size of the summer Olympics. It gets one third the number of athletes, one third the number of countries."

The residents of Krakow in Poland saw civic bankruptcy looming if they had to equal or even outdo Sochi. A resounding 70 percent of Krakow residents voted "no" in a referendum this week asking whether their city should bid to host the 2022 Winter games. And the Poles aren't the only ones getting "cold feet."

Germans in Munich were crushed when their city lost the bid to host the 2018 games, and they planned try again for 2022. But six months ago, Munich withdrew its application, as did the Swiss.

Moss says the International Olympic Committee simply pushes cities to spend too much.

"I think after the World Cup this year in Brazil -- but more importantly after the Olympics in Rio, we're going to see the International Olympic Committee being forced to scale back," says Moss. "There's now a view that the Olympics are a way in which cities go into bankruptcy, rather than to add to their glamour."

Turning a city into an Olympic showcase, summer or winter, is an expensive gamble. But a groundswell of taxpayers in Europe, anyway, simply isn't willing to accept that the Olympic billions spent up front will ever pay off.

"We've had too many Olympic facilities which turn out to be used for 17 days and are paid for over 17 years," notes Moss.

The only two cities still bidding to host the 2022 winter games are Almaty, Kazakhstan, and Beijing, China.


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