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Big cities get civic boners at the idea of hosting the Olympics. It means you’ve really made it as a city if you get to spend 10 years and billions of dollars to prepare to host events that people care about once every four years, as well as obnoxious tourists, terrorist threats, and Michael Phelps’ entourage. That said, only a handful of cities can really handle the Olympics. But the IOC, bless its heart, at least pretends to take the bids of every candidate city seriously.
Published July 31, 2012 More Info »
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Published July 31, 2012

Tehran

You may know Tehran, Iran, as the setting of the second and third act of every ‘80s action movie, in which Chuck Norris and/or Sylvester Stallone roughed up America-hating goons in keffiyehs and blew up huts and dusty streets because they had to find the president’s kidnapped daughter, dammit. And yet this is the also the Tehran that technically came in second in bidding for the 1984 Olympics. Granted, only two cities wanted them because the bidding happened just after the province of Quebec went $2 billion in debt hosting the 1976 Olympics. So the city that wasn’t Tehran got the ’84 Olympics, a city just barely more hospitable than Tehran: Los Angeles.

Denver

In order to host the Winter Olympics, a city must meet one requirement: is it cold and mountainous enough to look boss on a beer can? If yes, you get an Olympics. Denver is so cold and mountainous that it’s already on a beer can (source: Coors Light can), and it was once awarded the 1976 Olympics (the one with boring winter sports, like ice dancing, not the one with boring summer sports, like non-ice dancing, also known as gymnastics). But then when the city starting spending millions of taxpayer money to build sports facilities that would never be used again, and destroying lots of trees and wilderness in the process, voters rejected an emergency funding bond measure, and Denver cancelled the Olympics. The IOC, presumably freaked, offered the games to Whistler, British Columbia, or “the Denver of British Columbia,” who also said no. Innsbruck, Austria, agreed to host the games, probably after the IOC did stuff to Innsbruck, Austria, in a Fresno motel room while Innsbruck’s friend Donny videotaped it.

Detroit

You may know Detroit as a city so riddled with pollution, corruption, and crime that they have to use robot-cops to brutally enforce the peace. (Also, Eminem is from there, and it’s too bleak even for him.) Believing in the mantra of fake-it-‘till-you-make-it, Detroit has bid on the Olympics seven times, and never hosted. In 1944, Detroit lost out to London, but the games were cancelled on account of World War II, meaning people would rather fight a war or do sports in a city decimated by bombs than go to regular Detroit. In 1956, Melbourne got them instead of Detroit, with animal quarantine laws forcing the equestrian events to be held in Stockholm, who hadn’t even bid on the game; not even horses wanted to go to Detroit. Detroit bid for the 1960 games, which went to Rome as a makeup prize for the city having to bow out of the 1908 Olympics after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. In the future, perhaps, Detroit will get the pity vote, with the IOC feeling sorry for Detroit, primarily because that remake they’re doing of Robocop will probably be just terrible.

Eastern Europe

No Eastern European city has ever hosted the Summer Olympics, likely because the formerly Soviet-controlled region enjoys a reputation backed up by documentary films Borat and Gymkata that it’s a smog-choked grey industrial wasteland where the national pastimes are still waiting in line, listening to Autograph cassettes, and making mud sculptures of Ivan Drago. But an Olympic bid is a great way for a city to show the world that it’s totally changed now, and no longer a bleak bloc outpost, which is the city equivalent of a teenage goth phase. Belgrade had a failed bid on the ’96 Olympics, leaving Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic free to have his own “Olympics” by which we mean “genocide.” Tashkent, Uzbekistan, unsuccessfully bid in 2000, because the IOC thought it was a made-up country, had a good laugh, and gave it to Australia, because they had always wanted to go to Australia (and are huge Air Supply fans).

Andorra la Vella

Andorra la Vella is the capital city of Andorra, a country so tiny that its principal economy is being a trivia question (and also being a tax shelter). It’s a country that’s not even demarcated on most maps, a miniscule territory high in the Pyrenees, right on the border of Spain and France. It’s a principality, jointly governed by the president of France and a Spanish diocese of the Catholic Church. And it always goes well when small, powerless things are watched over by the Catholic Church. Andorra la Vella covers a span of 10 square miles and has a population of 22,000 people, which isn’t even big enough to watch the Olympics, and yet they put a bid in for the 2010 Winter Olympics. To put that in perspective, Atlanta was thought to be a small city and unlikely choice to host the 1996 Summer Olympics. Manhattan is three times the size of Andorra la Vella, and New York City got turned down for the Olympics. Fun fact: most New York City apartments are actually bigger than Andorra la Vella. (What I’m saying is that it’s small.)

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