POSTED: October 29th 2015

NEIL WILSON: LA's odd debt to their Olympic rivals from France

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

(SFC) Los Angeles' Olympic bidding committee owes a debt, it transpires, to France, the country whose capital city is its foremost rival to host the 2024 Olympic Games.

The debt more specifically is to France's president and to the since suspended president of the European Football Association, another Frenchman.

But for Nicholas Sarkozy and Michel Platini, we are told by the suspended president of FIFA Sepp Blatter, the United States would be hosting FIFA's 2022 World Cup finals instead of Qatar.

Blatter has revealed in an interview with Russian news agency TASS that before any vote of FIFA's executive committee it had been accepted that Russia would be awarded the 2018 finals and the US those in 2022.

Had that happened as Blatter planned, the likelihood of the US bidding for an Olympics two years later was unlikely. More remote was the possibility of it winning since the IOC will not want to make a habit of dogging the footsteps of FIFA's World Cup, as they are in Rio in 2016.

But, says Blatter, Sarkozy met the Crown Prince of Qatar, whispered in Platini's ear over dinner  that it would be in the national interest of France for Qatar to win and Platini switched Europe's four votes. So instead of the US winning by 12 votes to 10, Qatar won 14 to 8.

Everything in the football firmament followed from that decision, the controversy over Qatar, the first suspensions of corrupt FIFA officials, the FBI and Swiss government investigations and now the suspension from office of Blatter and Platini.

For which Blatter blames Platini but which in essence stems from Blatter's own decision to stand for a further term as president when he had promised not to. Because if Blatter had stood aside Platini would have been a slam-dunk to replace him.

Platini had not only support throughout Europe but of Sheikh Ahmed Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti described this week in an interview with AP as a power-broker.

Sheikh Ahmed is a member of the FIFA executive and president of the Olympic Council of Asia. Europe and Asia together are unbeatable in football politics, and the Sheikh can bring them together.

The Sheikh's support is now in the wind. He mentioned to AP just two possibilities among the seven presidential candidates, Europe's candidate Gianni Infantino, the UEFA general-secretary who is stand-in for his suspended boss Platini, and Asia's Sheikh Salman bin Ibraham Al Khalifa, the Asian confederation president.

Sheikh Ahmed has had his chance this week to wheel and deal while he chairs as president a meeting of the Association of National Olympic Committees. Whether he goes for LA or Paris, Infantino or Sheikh Salman will have enormous bearing on which wins.

** 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 · Olympics · Neil Wilson

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