POSTED: September 15th 2015

JOHN GOODBODY: Paris the front runner for 2024 but LA could spring surprise

The iconic Eiffel Tower / Bigstock
The iconic Eiffel Tower / Bigstock

Los Angeles skyline / Bigstock
Los Angeles skyline / Bigstock

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

(SFC) As the deadline passes today for applicant cities to register their official interest in staging the 2024 Summer Olympics, the field of candidates is as interesting as it was for 2012. Then the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had a short-list of London, Paris, Madrid, Moscow and New York, an almost embarrassingly attractive choice.

London's narrow victory over Paris after a masterly campaign of political influence and manoeuvring, as well as its successful staging of the Games themselves, have drastically altered how cities have subsequently viewed bidding for the Olympics, with policies being further shaped by Agenda 2020, agreed by the IOC last December.

The need for detailed legacy and the greater flexibility in terms of the location of venues will have  been digested by the applicants as they now start to lay out just how they will host the event.  Given that the Games in 2016 are in Brazil and in Japan in 2020, the expected field for 2024 reflects the belief that the IOC will want them to return in 2024 either to Europe or to North America in 2024.

The four European cities, which are likely candidates, consist of: Paris, who have not staged the event since the 'Chariots of Fire' Games of 1924; Rome, who were last hosts in 1960; Hamburg, a new applicant, with Munich being the last German city to put on the Summer Games; and finally Budapest, an expected bidder and the rank outsider.

Since 1924, Paris has three times failed to win the vote, despite its importance in the development of so many sports, the fact that the modern Olympic Movement began at the Sorbonne in 1894, its attractions as a city and its experience in staging so many major competitions. When it lost in 2005 the bid for 2012, Paris was perceived to have been top-heavy with politicians and officials whereas London had a more dynamic persona.

Jean-Francois Lamour may have been a double Olympic champion (in fencing) but he looked in 2005 what he had become -- a rather portly middle-aged French Minister for Sport. Sebastian Coe, also a double Olympic champion was only seven months younger but he looked like the former athlete he was, still giving the appearance of youthful vitality. It is interesting that helping Paris with its public relations this time is Vero, the company set up by Mike Lee, who oversaw London's victory in 2005.

Paris has carefully weighed up the options for bidding for the Games. One of its problems is that the vote of the Europeans, who are the largest grouping from any continent in IOC membership, will initially be split between the four cities. At this stage, it seems it may take several rounds before the victorious city is chosen when the poll is held in Peru in 2017.

Los Angeles is the only candidate from the rest of the world, given Toronto's late decision not to bid.  The Californian city must hope that it will build up momentum by persuading some European members of its suitability. Its bid leader Casey Wasserman has said that 85 percent of the venues are already in place or planned and 80 percent of those have been built since the city last staged the Games in 1984.

What Los Angeles should not do is to emphasise that the United States has not hosted the Summer Games since 1996 although the country is far and away the biggest source of revenue to the Olympic Movement through TV deals and sponsorship. The IOC members already recognise this omission. To continue to ignore the claims of American cities ---Chicago went out in the first round for 2016--could be perceived as ungrateful and perhaps even ill-advised.

** 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 · Olympics · 2024 Summer Games · John Goodbody

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