POSTED: October 15th 2014

JOHN GOODBODY: The IOC has egg on its face over bids for Olympics

THE JOHN GOODBODY COLUMN / An authoritative and exclusive series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) The discussion over Agenda 2020, the re-evaluation of the Olympic Movement, cannot come soon enough. It will be debated at the Extraordinary Session of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Monte Carlo in December, amid understandable concern over bidding for the Games.

Of course, the issue is nowhere near as serious as the ‘cash -for-votes’ crisis over Salt Lake City, which threatened the very existence of the IOC in 1999. However, it is absolutely appropriate that the IOC should now discuss the bidding for the Games, given the bad publicity it has received over Oslo deciding not to apply for the 2022 Winter Games, the lack of many other candidates for those Games and even the wariness of cities considering being hosts for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Superficially, the Olympic Movement seems to be buoyant, at least financially. Both the 2012 and 2014 Games were hugely successful. Earlier this year, the IOC signed the U.S. rights to the Games through to 2032 with NBC for $7.65 billion. And Timo Lumme, the IOC’s managing director of TV and marketing services, said recently that he expected that each of its global partners (currently 11) would each be paying $200 million over four years by 2024, giving a total of $2 billion. This compares with a total of $96 million, when the TOP programme began in 1985-1988.

However, there are only two cities now candidates for the 2022 Winter Games, Beijing in China and Almaty in Kazakhstan, neither of which are renowned as centres for winter sports. The European cities have all dropped out well before the vote by the IOC, which will be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on July 31, 2015. A poll of the residents in Munich, for instance, found a large percentage against staging the Games.

Worse still, Oslo, the capital of Norway, the most successful country at the Winter Games, withdrew after the Government refused to underwrite the bid. Christophe Dubi, the IOC Executive Director of Olympic Games, described it as a “missed opportunity,” a clear indication that the IOC particularly wanted Oslo to be a candidate.

This led to an unseemly spat over the decision, because a Norwegian newspaper reported on the day of the Parliamentary vote some of the details in the 7,000 page dossier, which had been sent to the candidate cities as guidance for hosting the event. This included such choice items as IOC members having “fruit and cakes of the season” in their rooms, the bar in the IOC hotel extending its hours, meeting rooms being kept at exactly 20 degrees Celsius and the IOC President being met ceremoniously on his arrival at Oslo airport.

The very fact that the IOC quickly responded by insisting that these were “suggestions and guidance, not demands” was not the point. The perception was that the IOC wanted to be given special privileges and these facts were immediately seized upon by opponents of the bid. Siv Jensen, the Minister of Finance and leader of the Progress Party, said people in Norway would “shake their heads over the pompousness of the IOC requests.” The episode did no credit to the IOC and the Olympic Movement.

Nor is this all. For the 2024 Summer Olympics, when European cities would have been expected to mount a strong bid, given the fact that 2016 will be in Rio de Janeiro and 2020 in Tokyo, there are now suggestions that the French Government would prefer to wait until 2028 because Manuel Valls, the Prime Minister, wants to host Expo in 2025 and it would be difficult to stage the two huge events a year apart.

Meanwhile, the German Olympic Committee does not want to proceed with either Berlin or Hamburg as a candidate, unless it is sure the chosen city has the support of the local population. Its President Alfons Hormann was quoted by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung as saying: ”A second Munich must not happen.” The IOC has much to consider in December.

** 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.  

Keywords · John Goodbody · IOC · Olympics · Olympic Bidding

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