To adapt to environmental and technological challenges, the president of the International Olympic Committee does not rule out new scenarios, such as a Games in autumn (boreal), using artificial intelligence against doping or including eSports in the Olympic program.

“We have never been so keen to organize the Games, twelve, sometimes 16 years in advance,” said Thomas Bach in an interview with the French AFP Agency, despite uncertainties about the biggest planetary sporting event beyond 2036.

With the Winter Games in Milan-Cortina in 2026 and the Summer Games in Brisbane in 2032, and with the 2030 and 2034 editions to be attributed to the French Alps and Salt Lake City, the Olympic body has ensured that the event will be organized in the next decade in Western countries.

What next? The candidate countries have exchanged public campaigns for a confidential “dialogue” with the IOC. “We already have a double-digit number of interested cities for 2036 and 2040,” the German leader assured.

Bach declined to comment on the ambitions of the two Gulf sports powers: Saudi Arabia is the only candidate to host the World Cup in 2034 and Qatar, after seeing Brisbane beat it to the 2032 Games, is preparing to bid for the 2036 edition, the Qatari daily Al-Watan reported Saturday.

From summer to autumn

Bach considers that the bidding crisis has been overcome thanks to the reforms of his ‘Agenda 2020’, adopted in 2014 with the aim of reducing costs and improving the impact of the Games, favoring the reuse of existing facilities and putting a ceiling of 10,500 athletes participating per edition.

Containing the growth of the Games, the IOC is adopting a reverse strategy to that of FIFA, which is going to transform its men’s World Cup into a 48-team mega-tournament from 2026, organizing it on an entire continent, North America (United States, Mexico and Canada), and on three continents and six different countries in 2030.

Global warming has greater repercussions for the IOC than for FIFA: only a dozen countries in the world will be able to host the Winter Games from 2040 onwards, Bach recalled, leading the IOC to consider “a rotation” between venues.

The increasingly frequent heat waves may also affect the summer version, as already happened with the Tokyo-2020 marathon, which had to be relocated to Sapporo and its start moved to dawn to avoid high temperatures. Climate change will force to rethink “the whole of the international calendar,” admitted the Olympic patron.

“You will see the significant growth of the southern hemisphere”, where the Games coincide with the southern winter, “and of the eastern part of the world”, anticipates the leader, who also imagines a Games moved “to the autumn”, as already happened with the World Cup in Qatar-2022.

Doping supported by Artificial Intelligence?

However, organizing the Olympic Games is not the only challenge facing the IOC, which has established itself as the regulator of world sport, largely financing the fight against doping and the international federations by issuing ethical or medical recommendations.

For Bach, sports bodies must now pay particular attention to artificial intelligence, because “it will determine the future of our societies and will strongly influence many aspects of sport”.

The ‘AI Agenda’ launched last week by the organization plans to help “identify talent” and “reduce the gap between athletes who have at their disposal” the best training, nutrition and medical monitoring programs, with important sponsors, and the rest, explains the 70-year-old German leader.

But artificial intelligence may also have a more disturbing use: “I’m not a prophet, but when you look at the combination of AI and biochemistry, you can come to a perhaps dystopian conclusion about what these two scientific advances may affect the performance enhancement” of athletes, warns Bach.

For the patron of Olympism, however, what is ruled out is mixing e-Sports, which experienced its first ‘Olympic week’ in Singapore in June 2023, with traditional sports: “I don’t think you will ever see an e-Sports event at an Olympic Games, but maybe you will see, and very soon, an e-Sports Games,” he announced.

Source: Agencia AFP