POSTED: September 24th 2014

NEIL WILSON: IOC ties itself down with a new contract for Host Cities

The IOC headquarters in Lausanne / SFC
The IOC headquarters in Lausanne / SFC

THE NEIL WILSON COLUMN / An exclusive, authoritative series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) A debt is owed by every city which bids in future to host future Olympic Games to the citizens of Stockholm, Munich and Krakow. The burghers of those and other cities put the frighteners on the International Olympic Committee.

This week, in a mood of transparency unusual among those involved with the IOC, Oslo’s bidding committee put the full text of a new draft contract for host cities offered to those bidding for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

Revealed was one important change from past contracts to the document that all successful bidders must sign immediately after victory, the removal of a paragraph in which the IOC reserved the right to add new events up to three years before the Games.

That paragraph in the past allowed the IOC not so much to move the goalposts after the contract was signed but to alter the dimensions of the pitch.

Sochi’s cost in 2014 of $51 billion was in part the result of trying to create from nothing a Games venue, Russian president Vladimir Putin’s ego trip. Corruption may also have pushed up the price but not a small part of the rise was down to the IOC itself.

After it signed a contract with Sochi legally binding on the Russians but a moveable feast on itself, it added to the problems for the Russians by adding women’s ski jumping, ski half-pipe and teams events in luge, biathlon and figure skating to its programme.

So the cost to Sochi went up, and potential future bidders took to the hills. Or, in terms of a Winter Games, away from the hills. Three are left for2022 and one of those, Oslo, still awaits its government’s necessary blessing and may be a goner.

For the first time since the world’s great cities began queuing to bid for Olympic Games in the mid-1980s, the IOC found itself with just two certainties, one of which hosted a Games as recently as 2008 and both of which are undemocratic autocracies. Not an ideal world for the five-ringed circus.

So in a rapid response to complaints in Norway about the profligacy of the IOC, it has tightened up controls on its own organisation. New events may be introduced in December after president Thomas Bach’s Agenda 2020 but before the vote on the 2022 Games next year every bidder will know exactly where the programme stands.

Oslo 2022 chief executive Eli Grimsby unsurprisingly welcomed the change, probably the reason she spread the word widely on its website. The Norwegian government may feel less adverse to the risk when it can be confident in advance of the bottom line.

The new contract also clarifies the tax exemptions the IOC demands for itself in host countries, limiting them to those levied on it within the host country. Another sensible step forward.

The IOC at last under its new management of Bach and executive director Christophe Dubi is getting the message. Its Games cannot live in a bubble but only in the real world.

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 · IOC · Olympic Bidding

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