POSTED: May 16th 2012
JOHN GOODBODY: IOC faces awkward decisions for 2020 Summer Games
THE JOHN GOODBODY COLUMN / An authoritative and exclusive series from Sports Features Communications
May 16 - Selecting host cities of the Olympics is seldom an easy choice for the International Olympic Committee (IOC). One of the few exceptions was in Moscow in 2001 when Beijing got the Games on the first ballot. The IOC members knew that China’s vast population was the most fruitful area for the expansion of Olympism. They were also convinced the country’s enormous financial reserves and its pride in wanting to parade its status in the world would result in few hiccups in the hosting of the event. And so it proved.
When the IOC Executive Board meets in Quebec next week, it has to decide whether to cut the field of five to make a short-list of candidate cities, probably of three. These rivals are: Istanbul, Doha, Madrid, Baku and Tokyo. There is a blackcloth of different and difficult issues that make any selection particularly challenging.
The uncertainty of the European economy has already meant that Rome has dropped out of bidding because the Italian Government would not give the necessary financial guarantees. The IOC will also have to consider whether Madrid, which in 2005 narrowly failed to get the Games instead of London, should go forward. The state of the Spanish economy may scarcely be encouraging but perhaps a further year will clarify whether the risk is worth taking.
Doha, already controversially set to stage the 2022 FIFA World Cup, has no worries on this score, fuelled as it is on the income from oil and gas. However, whether the IOC really wants send the Games to such a small country and also one which wants to move the event from the intense heat of the summer months to the autumn is another matter. Both European and U.S. TV stations much prefer late July and August for the Games, so that they do not clash with the regular autumnal sports of football in Europe and American Football in the United States.
Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, is having another tilt to get on the short-list with an improved bid and has considerable financial resources. But it may not have the necessary sporting know-how in many of the events to ensure that it goes forward. Tokyo, which last hosted the Games in 1964, should go through.
As should Istanbul, which for the umpteenth time, is attempting to host the Games, each time having improved its bid by adding more facilities. There is much to be said for Turkey as hosts since it breaks new ground for the Olympic Movement and the country also straddles both Europe and Asia. In addition it is not part of the Eurozone. However, Turkey has also bid for the 2020 European Football Championship and what is evident is that it cannot stage both events just a month apart.
The decision on the Olympics is likely to precede the one on the European Football Champship and, at some stage, Turkey will have to state which it wants. For UEFA, the governing body for European football, Turkey is also a new country to host its competition and Michel Platini, the UEFA President, has given his support to its candidature.
It is possible that the IOC Executive Board will decide to let all five countries go through. However, this would be the first time this has happened since the new structure of voting was set up following the Salt Lake City ‘votes for cash’ scandal, which broke out in 1998. However, it may not want to reduce the field to three, in case one or two later withdraw. It will not be an easy decision for the Board to make.
** JOHN GOODBODY covered the 2008 Olympics for The Sunday Times, his 11th successive Summer Games and is the author of the audio book A History of the Olympics, read by Barry Davies, the BBC commentator. He was Sports News Correspondent of The Times 1986-2007, for whom he received journalistic awards in all three decades on the paper, including Sports Reporter of The Year in 2001.
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