Jan 23 (Reuters) - The Winter Olympics brand has to become financially more attractive because the cost of next month’s Sochi Olympics may scare away future bidders, International Olympic Committee marketing chief Gerhard Heiberg said on Thursday.
Heiberg, who will step down following the Feb 7-23 Games after 10 years of leading the IOC’s marketing commission, said the winter event had to go “back to basics.”
The Games and local infrastructure projects at the Black Sea resort have cost some $50 billion according to Russian officials, making them possibly the most expensive Olympics - summer or winter - in the event’s history.
Organisers, who had to build virtually every venue from scratch, said during preparations Sochi was the largest construction site in Europe.
“We have to go back to basics,” Heiberg told Reuters in a telephone interview. “We need a competition where the cities will not spend that much money.
“If we continue what we see now, then a lot of countries will stay away from winter Olympics. I know (IOC) president is concerned about that.”
Pyeongchang will host the 2018 Winter Games with organisers hoping to establish the little-known South Korean resort as an Asian winter sports destination.
Norwergian Heiberg, who has overseen sharp revenue growth from the IOC’s top sponsor programme from $663 million in 2001-4 to more than $1.0 billion a decade later, cited examples of winter sports powerhouses Switzerland and Germany dropping plans to bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics due to cost concerns.
Swedish capital Stockholm also pulled out of the 2022 Games race last week leaving five candidates to fight it out.
Norway’s Oslo and Chinese capital Beijing, both former Olympic hosts, face competition from Ukraine’s Lviv, Krakow in Poland and Kazakhstan’s Almaty.
“For 2022 the race is on and we will see what happens but I don’t think that any of the candidates will spend even half as much as Sochi,” said Heiberg.
“After the race for 2022 we have to attract more cities for future Games. There is the question of money and in the IOC we will have to discuss how we will tackle that,” said Heiberg, who was head of the successful 1994 Lillehammer Olympics. (Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Pritha Sarkar)