Lviv 2022: 5 Lessons from Minsk 2014

  • Lviv 2022: 5 Lessons from Minsk 2014
Issue 69, June 2014.

Lviv 2022: 5 Lessons from Minsk 2014

Considering the political upheaval that has rocked the country – and this city’s Olympic bid – since early November, it is nothing short of remarkable that Lviv’s chances to host the 2022 Winter Olympics have actually increased. Currently there are only 4 bids remaining: Lviv and Oslo in Europe, and Almaty and Beijing in Asia. Oslo’s bid is on life-support as one of the governing parties has refused to give the financial guarantees that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) requires. In addition, with the 2018 Olympics already headed to Asia (PyeongChang, South Korea), the IOC will be hesitant to have back-to-back games on that continent. Especially if they have any illusion of retaining the participation of the NHL hockey professionals in what has become the Winter Games’ marquee event. Lviv’s bid too has suffered, as the bid has sat idle for months as the country gets its political house in order. But with so few candidates remaining (especially if Oslo is forced to withdraw), it is reasonable to think that the IOC will keep all remaining cities as ‘Candidate Cities’ following the committee meeting in July. If this is the case, Lviv 2022 will have one year to convince the IOC that it is indeed capable of hosting the event and that the IOC should host the games in Europe.

I recently travelled to Minsk, Belarus to cover the 2014 IIHF World Hockey Championship and to see what lessons Lviv 2022 could learn from its neighbour. Here are 5 things Lviv 2022 could learn from Minsk:

#1: The Lemburg/Lwow/Lvov/Lviv Games

On nearly every piece of official material fans were told that ‘Minsk is one of the cleanest cities in the world’. And did they ever mean it. From workers cleaning up cigarette butts just seconds after a fan (always foreign) threw it on the floor to the distinct lack of graffiti anywhere in the city to their army of street sweepers to inebriated locals storing there trash until they could find a rubbish bin, every foreigner echoed the theme: ‘Minsk is the cleanest city I’ve been to’. It would be valuable for Lviv 2022 to come up with an idea they’d like fans to take home with them and theme the bid that way. They could play up Lviv’s coffeehouse heritage (the ‘Caffeinated Games’), or maybe the city’s multiethnic heritage (‘The Lemburg/Lwow/Lvov/Lviv Games), or maybe they’d like to cast the city in its historic roots (‘The Medieval Games’) – whatever the idea is, the committee would do well to stick to it.

#2 – If You Build It, Then Build It

For the 2014 World Hockey Championships, Minsk refurbished one arena and built another from scratch. Both arenas were clean, modern, and finished. In fact, their wonderful new arena is considered to be among the finest in Europe. Moreover, and notably unlike Sochi, other construction that was set to be completed before the event, was actually finished. For example, the plan for Sochi was to have Europe’s newest amusement park open before the Olympics. When the time came, 2/3 of the park was unfinished and only 3 rides were operational. In Minsk, the city opened the newest waterpark in Eastern Europe days before the event began. It should be said that venue construction is the weak link in Lviv 2022’s Olympic bid. Nearly every venue needs to be constructed from scratch, and even those that were supposed to have started already – namely the new arena set to hold matches for the 2015 FIBA European Basketball Championships – have been delayed due to the recent unrest. With many cities dropping out of the 2022 race due to the perceived cost of hosting the event (thanks to Putin’s $52 billion Sochi Games), Lviv 2022 needs to prove to the IOC that they have a handle on venue construction. Surely investment dollars from the West that will pour in following the signing of the EU Association Agreement will help.

#3: If You Build It, They Will Come…

The Belarussian people seemed genuinely surprised at the sheer number of visitors the tournament brought to Minsk. That being said, the size of that tournament pales in comparison to the number of visitors and athletes the Winter Olympics is sure to bring. Minsk did a fine job of having regular public transit running from venue to venue with plenty of multilingual volunteers around to assist foreign fans. Surely Lviv will need to improve its public transportation infrastructure –especially out to Arena Lviv (which is set to be the main Olympic site) – if Lviv 2022 has any hope of hosting. One notable mention from Minsk was that they built 4 FanZones: one at each venue, one outside the fan village (accommodations), and one in Central Minsk. This would be a great suggestion for Lviv 2022. Can you imagine the celebration at the FanZone on Prospekt Svoboda after Ukraine wins biathlon gold?

#4: Little Things Matter

When fans travel to a foreign country there are two things at the top of their minds: security and communication. Minsk should receive high marks for the latter. Along with the army of multilingual volunteers, the city had other touches too – like multilingual transit maps and a special ticket window at the train station especially for visiting fans. Lviv’s tourist infrastructure has greatly improved since hosting the EURO 2012 tournament and many young Ukrainians speak one or more European languages now, so likely the Lviv organizing committee has little to worry about regarding communication. The security in Minsk, however, was rather intrusive. Metal detectors, full-body frisks, and thorough bag checks were encountered not once, but twice at each rink. With the recent unrest in this country, security will be top of mind when Lviv 2022 presents their case to the IOC in July. The committee will need a credible plan (that they can afford).

#5: From Ukraine, With Love

Why does a city bid for a major sporting event in the first place? A few reasons stand out: 1) to improve the city’s image; 2) to improve the city’s sporting and tourist infrastructure; and/or 3) to show the region to a legion of potential foreign tourists. Belarus had the right idea by eliminating visa requirements for fans that had purchased tickets. This allowed a great number of visitors to go to the country that might never had gone there for any other reason. Fans in Minsk were greatly impressed by the city and, in particular, the people of Minsk. Many have expressed their desire or intention to return. Lviv has a great opportunity to develop several world-class facilities – both in the city and in the nearby Carpathian Mountains. Surely once fans get a taste of this charming city, they will want to return. Believe me – I speak from experience.

  • LM Reaney