Global Fervour: Countries Vie to Host 2036 Olympics, India’s Passionate Bid Gains Momentum

Twelve years may seem like a long time before the Olympic host city is named for the 2036 Summer Games. Yet, if one goes by the recent media statements from International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach, the news that “almost 10 countries” are willing to host the 2036 Games adds a twist.

From an Indian point of view, the desire to host has been repeatedly expressed by the highest authority, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and has the backing of all. Obviously, at this time of the year, when General Elections for the Lok Sabha are on in the country, no politician will talk too much about an Olympic bid. At the same time, it is well known that the ruling party at the Centre, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has included the 2036 bid in its election manifesto. Elections are currently underway in India.

Bach’s statement has indeed stirred the pot for good reason. To hear that more nations are willing to come forward and host the Olympics is good news. The Summer Games are indeed a blue-ribbon event and have undergone changes over the years.

There have been innovations in many ways, with emphasis on cost-cutting, sustainability, and also how major issues like carbon emissions can be addressed. Even as the world’s eyes are on Paris, where the Olympics begin on July 26 this year, it is well known there are major concerns. In terms of planning in minute detail and delivering a good Games, Paris has already shown the world that everything is in place. Security will be a major concern, but French President Emmanuel Macron has assured the world that it will be a safe Games.

As regards the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles, the thrust is on keeping total costs under control. After all, in the past, many countries, from Athens in 2004 to Rio de Janeiro in 2016, saw the host nation plunge into massive financial crises plus the political establishment being rocked.

Bach’s media interaction recently, where he mentioned that “double-digit” hosts have shown interest in hosting the 2036 Olympics, could be seen as pressure on a few nations. However, from an Indian point of view, there is no pressure. If intent and expression had to be shown, it came from the highest office of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. At the same time, the NOC – Indian Olympic Association – President PT Usha has also repeatedly emphasized how important India’s bid is for the 2036 Games.

There may be a common perception that rich nations have an edge. In this regard, names like Doha (Qatar) and Saudi Arabia stand out, as there is no problem relating to funds. It is well known that these oil and gas-rich nations are keen to showcase to the world that they are ready to host the Summer Olympics in 2036.

Doha has shown the world it is a good host, dating back to the times when it first hosted the Asian Games in 2006. A lot has changed since then, with the country hosting big-ticket events in athletics, motorsports, and the high-profile FIFA World Cup in 2022. For those who think Doha hosted the football World Cup without glitches, there is a need for a fact check.

At the last minute, the nation pulled the plug on a major lager sponsor due to conservatism. Then again, not permitting certain colors like “pink,” a symbol of LGBTQ, also came in for flak. That the FIFA World Cup was a success is well known. However, the IOC will measure when it eventually decides on the 2036 hosts.

Saudi Arabia is indeed a big nation in terms of financial muscle. It is more than willing to show the world that a lot has changed there, with even tourism now on the agenda. The amount of petro dollars splurged on the controversial LIV golf is a sign that when it comes to loosening the purse strings, Saudis won’t back off. At the same time, Saudi Arabia wants to splurge money on big WTA events (tennis) as a host.

Yes, for some sitting in the United States of America, hosting the 2036 Olympics in Doha or Saudi Arabia may seem like blasphemy. There will be talk of human rights violations and more such controversial topics. However, Thomas Bach has not spoken on all this, though, a hint at a change in dates of the Olympics, from the traditional July/August to a cooler period, leaves room for interpretation. Everyone knows that the heat is high in desert venues in July/August.

Back to India, the interest in hosting the 2036 Olympics is honest, sincere, and one which has been envisaged as a matter of pride. The skeptics may mock India as an Olympic host, since we don’t win a large number of medals at the quadrennial extravaganza. But that cannot be held against India, for Athens, too, was no superpower when it hosted the Games in 2004.

Yes, it is interesting to read that Germany, Indonesia, and even Turkey may want to throw their hat into the ring for the 2036 Olympics. For the record, Doha’s bid to host the Olympics was rejected twice in the past – in 2016 and 2020 – by the IOC. October had been suggested as the period to host the Summer Games.

Indeed, there is no fixed timetable to decide when the 2036 Olympics will be awarded to a nation. There will be lobbying at the highest levels, and the eventual decision may not come before 2026 or 2027. The IOC has a separate wing that deals with this – the Future Host Commission.

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