POSTED: April 6th 2010

NEIL WILSON: Bidding business could generate one last teaser for Rogge

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LONDON, Apr 06: Don Porter, president of the International Softball Federation, has expressed his opinion that the use of big buck spin artists is one of the reasons the cost of bidding and organising major sports events is out of sight.  Those were his very words.

Now I don’t know how big were the bucks the ISF spent on spin artists to lobby for softball’s inclusion in the Olympic Games and its less successful  subsequent campaign to stay in it. But some figures are available which prove his case because Freedom of Information in the US has made them available.

Take the recent unsuccessful bid by Chicago to host the 2016 Olympic Games. In 2007 alone, the lobby company Dutko Worldwide was paid $770,000 to lobby Senate and House of Representative.

Not, you notice, to lobby those who had a vote in the final decision only those who had a vote in the decision within the United States on which city would be a candidate in that election.

Lobbying the same Congress has cost the United States Olympic Committee, of which Porter was a highly respected board member for 14 years, almost $1 million since 2006.  Between 1998 and 2001, leading up to the Salt Lake City Games, the USOC and the IOC between them spent $3.19 million on federal lobbying.

Very big bucks but small beer alongside the cost for any city candidate of lobbying the 100-odd voting IOC members  if it wishes to host an Olympic Games.  Vancouver’s successful bid for 2010 cost it $35 million. Sochi’s bid costs for 2014 have not been revealed but are reputed to be far greater.

London-based industry

Bidding for Olympic Games and other major sporting events has become an industry, and it is an industry increasingly centred on London because English is the language of bidding and there are highly developed advertising, film and communications skills available there.

No Olympic bid process seems complete now without the lobbying rivalry of Englishmen Mike Lee, of Vero Communications, and Jon Tibbs, of JTA.  Some they win. Lee was involved in London and Rio’s bids, Tibbs with Athens and Sochi. Some they lose. Lee worked for Salzburg, Tibbs for Paris. Always they get well paid.

Global communications companies as large as Hill & Knowlton, Weber Shandwick and Bell Pottinger vie for their slice of the action, and nothing wrong with that. But each time the sophistication of the bids increases so does the price. And with each increase comes a decrease in the number of countries and cities which can afford to bid.

Jacques Rogge marked his Olympic presidency by putting a top limit on the number of sports and athletes which can compete. Perhaps before he retires in 2013 he should impose limits on what cities can spend on bidding for Games.

NEIL WILSON reported his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. He has since covered another nine summer and nine winter Olympics for various newspapers, including The Independent and the Daily Mail with whom he has worked for the last 19 years as Athletics and Olympic correspondent. He was Britain's Sports Journalist of the Year in 1984 and is the author of seven books.

Keywords · Neil Wilson · Porter · softball · ISF · Olympic Games · Rogge · IOC · Games bids · Mike Lee · Jon Tibbs

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