Many pundits are weighing in on the year-delayed, spectator-free Summer Olympics just completed in Tokyo. It’s become more and more apparent as the years go by that hosting the Olympics is a boondoggle for almost any city, and fewer and fewer cities are bidding to host.
Will the Olympics just peter out?
As Washington Post sportswriter Barry Svrluga put it yesterday, “The Olympics shouldn’t be a road show that lays waste to a town. They should find a home so we can stop wasting money and land and resources and just celebrate the athletes, whom the Games are supposed to be for anyway.”
Where could the Olympics find a permanent home? Athens, which is currently overrun with wildfires? Is there any city likely to offer a stable home to the IOC for decades to come?
And do the pandemic that delayed the 2020 Olympics and the heat that tangled up its schedules give us just a taste of what’s to come?
With that in mind, here are some Olympic Games news bulletins from the future.
Beijing, 3 January 2022 – Just months after the coronavirus-delayed Tokyo Summer Olympics played out before a live audience of no one during the hottest period of the year, the International Olympic Committee has announced the indefinite postponement of the 2022 Winter Olympics thanks to record high temperatures in Beijing.
Though climate scientists have come to expect warming temperatures around the world, they did not anticipate records in China’s capital city to be eclipsed by margins of more than 10 degrees Fahrenheit (6 degrees Celsius) two winters in a row. On January 28, 2022 the temperature soared to 89 degrees (31 Celsius).
The entire region is devoid of snow.
In addition, air pollution continues at dangerous levels in and around the city despite energy-use restrictions imposed for the Olympics. PM 2.5 particle concentrations are well into the “hazardous” zone at which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends everyone avoid any outdoor exertion.
When inhaled, atmospheric particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) can reach our lungs’ alveoli and enter the bloodstream. Thus any strenuous outdoor activity risks “serious aggravation of heart or lung disease and premature mortality in persons with cardiopulmonary disease and the elderly” and “serious risk of respiratory effects in [the] general population.”
Paris, 30 March 2024 – Preparations for the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics have been thrown into disarray by a lethal combination of social unrest, soaring temperatures, and the ongoing public health crisis.
Climate models are predicting a repeat of the record heatwaves recorded in 2019, when temperatures in France crested at 46 Celsius (115 Fahrenheit) causing roughly 1,500 deaths.
A resurgent COVID-19 – fueled by inequitable vaccine distribution, politicized vaccine reluctance, and the deadlier and more communicable omicron variant – had already necessitated pandemic protocols even stricter than those imposed at the 2020 (actually 2021) Olympics in Tokyo.
Now, with workers on a nationwide general strike and no sign of progress in negotiations between the unions and President Bertrand’s government, it’s looking more and more like there will be no staff to finish constructing the Olympic sports complexes, not to mention administer the Games themselves.
Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, 24 December 2025 – This resort town was looking forward to co-hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics with Milan. But after yet another nearly snowless winter of record-breaking high temperatures, and with snowmaking operations questionable in light of ongoing earthquake-related power cuts, cancellation of all alpine events seems more and more likely.
An IOC spokesman declined to comment.
Los Angeles, May 18, 2028 – With record-breaking wildfires having forced over half a million people from their homes over the last two months and several Olympic facilities already burned to the ground, the International Olympic Committee this morning announced the indefinite delay of the 2028 Games. “We’re denoting this a postponement,” an IOC spokesman said, “but admittedly it’s looking like it will be an outright cancellation. We believe California won’t be able to host any large, highly organized events for the foreseeable future.”
In related news, Barcelona, which had been the sole remaining contender to host the 2030 Winter Olympics, formally withdrew its bid. The city’s move has been a foregone conclusion for most of the past six years, which have been marked by drought and civil unrest. But up until this late date, city leaders were reluctant to make their withdrawal official.
(The other cities originally vying for the 2030 Games – Sapporo, Japan; Vancouver, Canada; and Salt Lake City, Utah – had all dropped out by 2026, citing various factors including heat dome effects, workforce issues, and the omicron variant.)
Brisbane, Australia, March 15, 2029 – At a joint news conference today, Brisbane’s mayor and International Olympic Committee representatives announced the cancellation of the 2032 Summer Olympics. They cited the near-abandonment of the city during the summer months of each of the past three years in the face of heat waves that have repeatedly broken temperature and duration records.
The IOC also indicated that its suspension on further Olympic planning will continue, given the absence of bids for any upcoming Games.