South Island 'couldn't cope' with Winter Olympics

New Zealand's only International Olympic Committee (IOC) member, Barry Maister, says there is almost no chance of Christchurch and Queenstown hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics.

"We simply couldn't cope with the size and the scale of such an event," Maister told an "insidetheolympics" news website based in London.

"I don't think we would get any bidding support for it because a lot of the athletes wouldn't want to come all the

way down here for unreliable snow and ice conditions."

The possibility has recently been mooted that Qatar could host the soccer World Cup in January 2022 - the northern hemisphere winter - to avoid extremely hot summer temperatures.

This could result in a clash between the World Cup and the Winter Olympics, and one solution might be to hold the Winter Olympics in the southern hemisphere.

The Winter Olympics has never been hosted in the Southern Hemisphere and has only been held in North America, Europe and Japan.

Northern Hemisphere cities reported to be considering a 2022 bid include Harbin in China, Lillehammer in Norway, Barcelona and Zaragoza in Spain, Toulouse in France and Quebec in Canada.

IOC President Jacques Rogge has said there are no plans to move the Games' date.

Maister is on the IOC bid evaluation committee assessing Annecy (France), Pyeongchang (South Korea) and Munich (Germany), all campaigning for the 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.

He said he would be concerned about the infrastructure available in New Zealand for such a massive event.

"For example, there would be more buses required to get athletes up the mountains than we have got in New Zealand," he said.

Businessman Bruce Ullrich, a former Olympic and Commonwealth Games administrator, made an abortive bid in 1998 to attract the Games to Christchurch. There was talk of a joint Christchurch-Queenstown bid, aimed at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Maister, who recently stepped down as secretary general of the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) after 10 years, told another Olympic news website, morethanthegames, that he recognised when he saw the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics that events on such a scale was beyond New Zealand.

"My initial take is that a Winter Olympics Games for New Zealand is ambitious in the extreme ... we're a little country," he said.

And NZSki chief executive James Coddington said Christchurch's accommodation would be taken up by the Olympics press corps, let alone the athletes and support crew.

- NZPA

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