A marketing consultant is boldly suggesting Queenstown spearhead a New Zealand bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympics.
Queenstowner Bruce McGechan, who’s had snowsports marketing experience, says the resort should hold the Olympics because it’s shown through it can run “really good winter sports”.
“But just as important as the sporting side, it provides such a huge economic benefit to NZ, mainly in the form of tourism, that to hold an Olympics, if the costs are controlled, is almost a no-brainer.”
Destination Queenstown boss Graham Budd says he admires the vision, although the scale and ambition of it may initially appear daunting. He says it would be easy to dismiss the idea as too hard or unaffordable but it deserves appropriate consideration.
McGechan believes no other major event would have better spinoffs for the country.
He estimates NZ, if it hosted the event, could benefit from $5.6 billion of tourism and International Olympic Committee expenditure between 2026 and 2031.
“You have two billion people watching the Winter Olympics, 54,000 broadcast hours.
“One of the key things, if not the key thing, Tourism NZ does overseas is promote our incredible scenery.
“Imagine shots at the top of [Queenstown’s] Remarkables or Coronet Peak or the backside of Cardrona looking down towards Lake Wakatipu, through the incredible mountain ranges, you just can’t beat it.”
He’s completed a pre-feasibility study and hopes a full inquiry can be undertaken next year – most likely by the NZ Olympic Committee and Government funding agency Sport NZ.
If the study pans out, the NZOC would then lodge its full bid by 2018.
The IOC would then choose a host city and country in 2019.
Rather than go it alone, Queenstown could team up other venues – McGechan’s plumping for Auckland, NZ’s largest city.
Host cities currently provide 24,000 rooms during a Winter Olympics.
Queenstown has about 4600 rooms and Auckland 12,700.
Given four per cent growth a year, McGechan says the two centres could easily reach the target by 2026.
McGechan’s ambitious plan comes, however, as possible host cities for the 2022 Winter Olympics fall like flies.
Bids have been pulled from the likes of Sweden, Poland, Germany and Switzerland after $US51 billion was allegedly spent on the Olympics in Sochi, Russia, this year.
Only Beijing, China, and Almaty, Kazakhstan, remain in contention for 2022, leaving media to describe it as “the Olympics that no one seems to want”.
McGechan says each centre could host an athletes’ village, paid for by private developers who could turn them into residential accommodation.
Auckland could host most of the five ice rinks, costing $500m, required for the Games for the likes of ice hockey, curling and speed and figure skating, McGechan suggests.
Local skifields could accommodate alpine ski and snowboarding events – bar downhill skiing, which would require a new course.
McGechan says the main challenge would be building a bobsleigh, luge and skeleton track and ski jumping facility.
McGechan was sales and marketing manager for Cardrona Alpine Resort when it brought the first FIS World Cup snowboard event to NZ and built a Super-G course.
He was also involved when the biennial Queenstown- and Wanaka-based Winter Games NZ started in 2009.
A league of doubters hasn’t stopped the area hosting a FIS World Cup and hosting the Winter Games.
“We’ve proven we can hold big events like Rugby World Cup. So now, if the costs are coming down, we should be able to hold a Winter Olympics.”
And if the feasibility study says NZ can’t afford it? “I’d be happy,” he says.