This week, Oslo, Norway announced it was withdrawing its bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, creating panic in the hallways of the International Olympic Committee. Oslo was a Sure Thing, a lock to win the 2022 Games. The two remaining finalists – Almaty, Kazakhstan, a former Soviet provincial capital best known for its catastrophic mudslides, and Beijing, the Pollution Capital of the World – leave much to be desired. There are already rumblings that the IOC will dispense with protocol and select a venue outside of the normal selection process.
Houston, this is our chance.
I know what you’re thinking. Don’t you need mountains to host a Winter Olympics? And snow? If past actions of the IOC are any indication, the only things you really need to qualify as a Host City are a can-do attitude, world-class hotels and restaurants, plenty of cash, and strippers—lots and lots of strippers. Check, check, check and double-check. We’re as good as in!
So what if we’re tabletop flat and the natives break out their parkas when the thermostat dips below 60 degrees? We can do this! The genius of Houston is that we never let facts get in the way of a beautiful idea. Give us some money, a couple of bulldozers, and some good, hard-blowing A/C, and we can do anything. That’s how we put a man on the moon, my friend. That’s how we built the dang Astrodome. And that’s how we’ll pull off the Winter Olympics.
Imagine it: a fleet of specially outfitted F-150s, snow machines mounted in the beds, custom painted with the Olympic mascot (I’m thinking an anthropomorphic barbecued rib, wearing a scarf and ski hat) and our new motto—“Houston’s Cool!”—cruising the streets of Our Fair City, spreading a man-made Winter Wonderland over everything. How about history’s first indoor biathlon—a bunch of armed white guys schussing through the frozen downtown tunnel system. We’ve already got plenty of armed white guys – we’re halfway there!
Toyota Center, of course, would be the ice skating venue, and if the NHL could put a hockey rink in Fenway Park for their “Winter Classic” series, there’s no reason why we can’t stick a frozen pond in Minute Maid Park. Downhill skiing? Astrodome, this is your moment! Grand slalom? Throw some of that artificial snow on the West Belt at I-10 flyovers, and you’re good to go. If we need to, I’ll bet Joel Osteen would let us fire up the refrigeration system at the old Summit: if it was good enough for Gordie Howe, it’ll be good enough for some Dutch speed skaters.
The Winter Olympics are usually held in February. So is the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Think of the tie-ins: George Strait performing at the opening ceremonies. Little Russian figure skaters in those spangly pixie costumes, competing in mutton busting. Bull Riding on Ice. It’s kismet, I’m telling you.
Who better than Houston to host the 2022 Games? The last time Beijing held an Olympics, they spent $40 billion, and within two years of the closing ceremony, nearly every venue was abandoned and in bad decline. They don’t deserve a second chance. As for Almaty, when have you ever found yourself thinking, “Someday, I’d really love to see Kazakhstan”? In fairness, Kazakhstan roughly translated means “Land of The People Who Are Independent and Free," which makes Kazakhs sound like the sort of people who fly “Don’t Tread On Me” flags from their pickup trucks and subscribe to Ted Cruz’s Twitter feed—they’re probably a lot like Texans, only with fewer cowboy hats and more yurts.
Still, it’s Kazakhstan. Our track record in countries ending in –stan leaves a lot to be desired. Salt Lake City has been mentioned as dark horse candidate, and while Salt Lake City is very nice place with the necessary venues and a proven track record, it isn’t perfect. Several of the Salt Lake venues are actually in Provo, which requires travel down Interstate 15, a soul-sucking stretch of concrete that makes Spencer Highway in Pasadena look like the Champs-Élysées. I-15 is perpetually busy and filled with vehicles manned by hands down, no doubt about it, The Worst Drivers in North America, reckless and aggressive and seemingly ready to die. The 50-mile trip from Salt Lake to Provo leaves you shaking and sweaty and wondering how much worse it would really be if Mormons drank coffee and alcohol. For bad drivers alone, I say Salt Lake is out. Besides, they’ve already had a turn. Who does that leave? It leaves us.
This is our time, Houston. We have the moxie. We have the cash. And by golly, we have the bulldozers. Houston 2022: Think Snow.