By Stuart Fuller
In less than two weeks the application window for cities bidding to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, the Games of the XXXIII Olympiad, closes. The actual vote to determine who will follow Tokyo in 2020 takes place next summer in Lima, Peru but that still hasn’t stopped the speculation who are the favourites to host the games, nor has it stopped domain name speculators in registering names in the hope that they may hit the jackpot if they back the right proverbial horse.
At present there are four cities in the running to host the games, although there is still time for further applications to be made or for any of those to withdraw their intention to bid. Rome, Paris, Budapest and Los Angeles currently vote for the rights to host the greatest show on earth after cities such as Hamburg, Boston, Doha, Istanbul and Melbourne withdrew their bids. Whoever is chosen will have to find substantial funds to build or upgrade their facilities to host the 17 day event (longer if they are also chosen to host the 11 day Paralympic Games as well). In a recent article published by the aptly-named Fortune Magazine, it is estimated that a successful bid from Los Angeles will cost in the region of $4.6 billion and forecasted to make a modest profit of $160 million. Any of the four cities only need to look at recent history to understand the huge financial burden. London 2012, whilst seen as the most successful in history in terms of marketing, PR and the spectacle, barely broke even (Revenues of £2.41bn versus costs of £2.38bn) whilst Greece’s 2004 event left the country with crippling debts.
The uncertainty on who will host the games hasn’t stopped domain name speculators registering names though. In late 2015 the International Olympic Committee flexed their digital asset protection muscle by filing a complaint against an organisation called CityPure who had registered scores of domain names that could potentially match Olympic bid or host cities, not only on the 2024 games but future ones such as Rome2028.org. They also registered Toyko2020.org which was seen as a clear infringement of the IOC’s intellectual property.
CityPure are not alone in speculating on potential host city names. The domain name www.berlin2028.org for instance is registered to an individual in Ukraine whose contact email address gives away his motivations – email@example.com. The IOC has been a thorn in the side of ICANN for many years, searching for the kind of protection that other non-government organisations receive. For instance, they wanted a block on anyone applying to run dotOlympic(s) and dotOlympiad as a new gTLD, in a similar way to The Red Cross in terms of being a protected organisation. They have also used UDRP in the past to recover infringing names such as Lillehammer2016.com and org (in relation to the Youth Olympics) where any initial approach hasn’t been successful.
It does seem strange why anyone would make such speculative applications for domains knowing full well that a) there's very little chance they can second guess the selection panel (perhaps this is why www.Manchester2032.org still remains available to register!) and b) should they guess successfully and own domain names relating to future games, they will be in breach of the IOC's intellectual property and the names will have to be surrendered.
Of course, global events such as the Olympics and The FIFA World Cup can be an Intellectual Property nightmare, so it's important that they have a strategy in place. Not that it will stop the speculators trying their hand at beating the system which ultimately will win.