POSTED: February 13th 2011

Annecy 2018 has something to sing about at last in Winter Games race

Put it to music: Pernilla Wiberg, Gwendal Peizerat and Jean-Pierre Vidal / lake images
Put it to music: Pernilla Wiberg, Gwendal Peizerat and Jean-Pierre Vidal / lake images

Gunilla Lindberg: left with little to say / lake images
Gunilla Lindberg: left with little to say / lake images

KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

GENEVA, Feb 13: All polite, sensitive, restrained formalities were thrown out into what remained of the snow as Annecy’s 2018 Winter Games bid team celebrated seeing the back of the 11-strong IOC evaluation commission.

This was not a case of irritation or upset. Quite the opposite. Charles Beigbeder and his team needed to unwind after all the stress of the last two months.

They did so by climbing on stage at the Imperial Hotel after the concluding press conferences of the commission’s four-day inspection and singing their way through a bid-based reworking by Olympic ice dancer Gwendal Peizerat of The Eagles’ Hotel California.

At the time this was funny, entertaining and engaging. In fact, it was far more than that. The song and its rendition – led by Peizerat and bid vice-presidents Pernilla Wiberg and Jean-Pierre Vidal – said everything about the tensions of the last eight months.

Sports Minister Chantal Jouanno told this writer earlier in the day that she had been advised by “many people” to pull the plug on the bid after last June’s critical analysis by the IOC had been followed by the departure of general director Edgar Grospiron and a budget crisis.

Her refusal to countenance surrender and the manner in which new bid president Charles Beigbeder and a revamped team had committed themselves to rescue work had succeeded . . . and they knew it.

Winning is something else entirely and beyond discussion right now. But what the chorus, the cheers and the laughter did represent was an acknowledgement that the bid is, at the least, alive and kicking and credible.

How many observers would have forecast as much at the start of the year?

The IOC’s concluding press conference was an embarrassment. Commission leader Gunilla Lindberg was bound by diplomatic niceties to thank the hosts and acknowledge their work. And that was all.

Venue structure

This was not so much a press conference, more a statement on legs. Lindberg reported a significant improvement in the venue structure since last June, acknowledged the “very strong governmental support highlighted by the presence of the French President Sarkozy and members of his cabinet” and the chance to have met “so many Olympians and Paralympians who play such an important role in the bid committee.”

Frankly, the IOC media department needs to find a more imaginative way of stating the blindingly obvious, next bid cycle around; clearly, Lindberg cannot vary the script in PyeongChang this coming week or in Munich at the start of next month.

Annecy’s bid has its strengths and weaknesses. The compact nature of the Chamonix site plus its great Games heritage and the majesty of the Alps are strengths; the fragmentation of venues around Annecy, including the ‘satellite’ site at La Plagne (a third hub to everyone bar the bid team), is a weakness.

How that may compare with the other two bidders will be subjectively clear when Lindberg’s report is published on May 10, ahead of the IOC briefing on May 18 and 19. Reality will then cut in on July 6 in Durban.

In the meantime, Annecy’s hills can remain alive with the sound of music.

Keywords · IOC · evaluation commission · Lindberg · Annecy · 2018 Winter Olympics

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