JOHN GOODBODY: The USA to consider bidding for the 2024 or 2026 Olympics
THE JOHN GOODBODY COLUMN / An authoritative and exclusive series from Sports Features Communications
December 26 - The United States is the biggest financial supporter of the Olympic Movement. The American TV network, NBC, pays more money to screen the Games than any other country –and by a large amount. Most of the ‘Top’ partners of sponsors are American companies, with Coca-Cola having supported every Games since 1928. Every sports event wants to attract the interest of the United States and this applies as much to the Olympics as any other.
Yet for the last 10 years, the USA has been sidelined in Olympic affairs. Bids for the 2012 and 2016 Summer Games have been sharply rejected. In Singapore in 2005, New York was up against probably the strongest-ever field when the poll for 2012 was being considered. Despite much sympathy for a city, which had been struck by the terrorist attack of 9/11 less than four years earlier, it was not really a surprise that it went out in the second round, beating only Moscow. London, the eventual winner, went on to the third round, together with Madrid and Paris, the pre-ballot favourite.
What was more of a shock was the extent of the failure for 2016. It was not just that Chicago lost in 2009, it was that it went out in the first round. And that was with a credible bid from the home town of Barack Obama, who himself was present in Copenhagen to lobby for his city. The rebuff to the United States came so early in the voting that Kevin Gosper, a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Australia, said it would cause “untold damage” to relations between the IOC and the United States.
There were several reasons for this early exit. There were lingering memories of the 1996 Games in Atlanta, regarded as the worst in the past 20 years. The IOC also did not take kindly to the attacks of U.S. politicians in the ‘cash-for votes’ scandal surrounding Salt Lake City’s successful win for the 2002 Winter Games. And, most important of all, the IOC was in dispute with the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) over the distribution of revenue from American companies in their sponsoring of the Olympic Movement.
By the time the voting for the 2024 Summer Games and 2026 Winter Games takes place, the first two factors will have faded in the memory of most IOC members while the third was settled earlier this year, with Dr.Jacques Rogge, the IOC President saying that it was “ a very happy moment” for both organisations as a deal was agreed.
Last week, the USOC decided that it would welcome interest from cities for either Games, knowing that it could delay which one to go for until 2015, with the IOC vote for the 2024 Summer Olympics not taking place until 2017.
It would seem more likely that the USOC will aim for those Summer Games, rather than the 2026 Winter Games, but this will depend largely on the quality of the bids from the contending cities. As it is, we know that the 2020 Olympics will be staged either in Tokyo, Madrid or Istanbul and so a bid by the United States, more than 20 years after Atlanta, would seem to have a strong chance.
The IOC needs the United States and, at this stage, it would certainly seem appropriate for an American city to bid –and this time not be humiliated as Chicago was in 2009.
** JOHN GOODBODY covered the 2012 Olympics for The Sunday Times, his 12th 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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