Shane Igoe has a solution for what ails the Winter Olympics: Hoth.
As in the sixth planet of the Hoth universe. As in the icy land where Luke Skywalker nearly froze his tauntauns off. As in the completely make-believe Star Wars world.
"That's sort of the catch," concedes Igoe on the last point.
Details aside, Igoe has launched a campaign to make Hoth the host planet for the 2014 Winter Olympics. The mock effort comes complete with a Website, Hoth2014.com, an online petition, and, in a twist, a serious intent.
Though it promotes a nonexistent alien planet, Hoth2014.com wants real-live Americans to care about the Winter Olympics again.
Certainly, the event is not without its fans. NBC estimated two-thirds of all Americans caught some coverage of the just-concluded Turin Games. But the ratings also showed that the Olympics was upstaged by the likes of American Idol, Dancing with the Stars and Desperate Housewives. Overall, prime-time ratings for the games were down 37 percent from 2002.
A writer and freelance Web producer, Igoe is a self-described "child of the '70s." As such, he remembers when bobsled action was a good excuse to blow off one's bedtime, and when speedskater Eric Heiden was akin to a superhero.
"Growing up in the '70s and early '80s," Igoe says, "I always wanted to be an Olympian."
When the Turin Games arrived, Igoe watched. But judging by the TV ratings, he noticed others weren't. One day, when discussing with friends how to revive interest in the Winter Olympics, Igoe tossed out a "goofy idea." Hold the games on Hoth, he suggested. The suggestion got a chuckle. And on Feb. 24, it got a Website.
Hoth2014.com argues that the popularity of the Star Wars universe would boost the popularity of the Winter Olympics. The accompanying petition calls on the International Olympic Committee, NBC and "Darth Vader, Yoda, et al." to get hot on the arctic sphere that last hosted The Empire Strikes Back.
"I threw it up there as a funny thing, and it took on a life of its own," Igoe says.
As such, Igoe says he's received a "huge response" from Netizens in Winter Olympic-friendly climes such as the Netherlands and France. He says he's received unsolicited pictures of "Stormtroopers doing the biathlon" from Star Wars fans. And PetitionOnline.com says his petition has secured a modest 1,250 or so signatories as of Wednesday night.
Through this all, Igoe hasn't contacted or heard from Lucasfilm, the all-powerful keepers of Hoth. Lucasfilm, however, has heard of Igoe's site.
Fortunately, for Igoe, it doesn't sound as if the Stormtroopers will be confiscating those biathlon pictures anytime soon.
"We thought [the site] was very fun," Lucasfilm spokeswoman Lynne Hale said Wednesday.
But, alas, the force is ultimately not with the Hoth2014.com effort. That's because there's another catch.
Assuming the I.O.C. could get past the part about Hoth not really existing, Hoth2014.com can't get past the part about the deadline--the one it blew by more than a year.
Host city nominations for the 2014 Winter Games were due in July 2005. Already, according to GamesBids.com, the Olympics-tracking site, the I.O.C. has narrowed its list of candidates to seven locales.
Hoth is not among them.
Hoth will not host the 2014 Winter Games.
"Technically, no," agrees GamesBids.com's Robert Livingstone. "Maybe 2018."
Igoe, who belatedly learned of the I.O.C. deadline, is thinking the same thing. In the name of keeping the campaign alive, he's acquired a new URL, the less time specific HothOlympics.com. He might one day submit a formal Olympic presentation. And he hopes soon to spur discussion about the future of Olympics events and coverage.
There's just one thing Igoe won't do: "I'm not lobbying that they build a fake planet."