During the events dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the Olympic Committee of Ukraine, the idea of holding the Winter Olympics in this country was repeatedly voiced at the highest level. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke about this, he was supported by the head of the IOC, Thomas Bach, who was invited to Kiev. In the near future, a Ukrainian delegation will go to the IOC headquarters in Lausanne – perhaps this will be the first step towards the creation of a national bidding committee. If we are talking about the 2030 Games, we must hurry up – the elections will be held in 2023. Another conversation is how real all these desires are, because conversations about the Ukrainian Olympics have been going on since 2006, and since then it has not become closer.
Problematic 230 kilometers
“The big dream is the Olympics in Ukraine. And I really believe in it. I am sure that our great country deserves to become the host of the Olympic Games, ” Volodymyr Zelenskyy said. – At such moments, I always remember the words of weightlifters and my father, the master of sports in weightlifting. They say: to go and try to lift something is always not easy. It’s easy – don’t try and walk away. That’s what the weightlifters said. Therefore, as for the Olympic Games, we will definitely try. ” Thomas Bach, having seen “an extremely impressive presentation of the modern sports infrastructure of Ukraine” and “given the wonderful sports traditions of the country”, welcomed this initiative.
But all this is just words. Is the implementation of such a project realistic, and how does this threaten Russia? The main natural bottleneck for many organizers of the Winter Olympics is the high mountains. Downhill competitions require an altitude difference of 1000 meters – there are not so many such places in the world mastered by man. But there is no such problem in Ukraine. Near Ivano-Frankivsk there is a ski resort “Bukovel”, which will quietly cover all the needs of the Alpine disciplines. Another conversation is that it is very far from Kiev (650 km) and not close (230 km) from Lviv, which expressed its readiness to host the “plain” competitions of the Olympics. This is guaranteed to require very serious investments in transport infrastructure.
The idea to hold the Winter Olympics in Ukraine appeared back in 2006, when the Bukovel resort had just started to develop. It was under President Yushchenko, and it was about the 2018 Games. Then, in 2010, Viktor Yanukovych took up the idea, proposing to fight for the Olympic Games-2022. At the same time, Lvov announced his Olympic ambitions. But the project practically did not move, although the “Olympic Hope-2022” fund managed to master 165 million hryvnias. Be that as it may, subsequent political events finally canceled these plans. Now Volodymyr Zelenskyy has decided to make the Winter Olympics “part of the future of Ukraine.” First, it was about a joint application with Belarus or Poland. But now, apparently, the Ukrainians are ready to cope on their own.
According to official figures, thrifty Koreans held the Olympics in Pyeongchang for “only” $ 13 billion. But this is without investment in non-sports infrastructure. Ukraine definitely needs to prepare several million for the bid campaign (these costs will not be returned even in case of defeat in the elections), plus at least 20 billion for the construction of the Games facilities, which are practically nonexistent in the country now. Well, not counting the Bukovel resort and the Arena Lviv stadium for ceremonies. In addition, you will have to build:
- Two or three Olympic villages;
- Two ice hockey arenas plus training rinks;
- Ice arena for figure skating and short track speed skating;
- Curling ice rink;
- Speed skating oval;
- Two ski jumping jumps;
- Bobsleigh track;
- Snow park for snowboarding and freestyle;
- A spacious arena with cross-country skiing and biathlon tracks.
And this is in the event that the program of the Games remains unchanged, which is not a fact. In order to use many of these facilities for their intended purpose after the completion of the Olympics, additional, very serious expenses will be required – some organizers simply demolish the Olympic facilities immediately after the starts. There are very few people who want to spend a lot of money on the Olympics, but just by 2030 a good company of applicants is gathering. And for their expensive project, the Ukrainians will still have to compete with the Spanish-French region of Catalonia, the American Salt Lake City and the Japanese Sapporo. However, due to coronavirus cases, these applications may not reach the IOC or be postponed until 2034.
In 2012, Ukraine jointly with Poland hosted the European Football Championship, but after the events of 2014, it voluntarily refused a number of major sports starts – for example, applications for the 2015 Ice Hockey World Championship and EuroBasket 2017 were withdrawn. At the same time, the country hosted the 2019 European Diving Championships, the 2020 European Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships and some other major competitions. An application was submitted for the European Basketball Championship-2025, and it was decided to abandon the idea of holding a joint European Championship-2026 in handball with Russia. But all this, in terms of the level of costs, is, of course, incomparable with the Winter Olympics. On the other hand, Ukrainians certainly have the right to spend their budget money as they want.
Another question is that the country has problems with the continuity and stability of power – and for such a long project like the Olympics, this is even a bigger headache than the financial issue.
For Russia, the project of the Olympics in western Ukraine, if it is nevertheless implemented, has its pluses and minuses. The downside is, of course, the foreign policy context, which is unlikely to soften much even after nine years. Surely this will negatively affect our participants in the Games. A big plus – the Olympics will be held in climatic conditions similar to ours, in an understandable cultural environment and in a familiar time zone. This will greatly facilitate the preparation and logistics of our teams.