POSTED: July 5th 2016

JOHN GOODBODY: The 2024 Olympics race is narrowing to two cities

© Bigstock
© Bigstock

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

(SFC) One thing that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) does not like is any opposition from local residents to staging the Games.  It has a long a memory and in 1972, Denver, which was awarded the 1976 Winter Olympics, pulled out because the city's population did not want them and instead they were transferred to Innsbruck.

One also recalls in 1986 the opposition from many citizens of Amsterdam to the possibility of hosting the 1992 Summer Games. As a result, the Dutch city went out in the first round of voting.    

Since then many cities now hold their own referendums to make certain they do not suffer the same embarrassment and waste of time, money and effort. Oslo and Hamburg are just two cities, which have recently decided that bidding for the Winter or Summer Games is not worthwhile, unless there is solid backing for the venture.

One other essential support is that of the city authority and now Rome, one of the four cities hoping to stage the 2024 Games, could lose on both counts. The choice for the IOC members for 2024 is clear. Should they go with a European city, Paris, Rome, or Budapest or should they give the Summer Games to the United States, which despite being the biggest paymaster of the IOC, has not hosted them since 1996. Originally, of course, Boston was chosen but declining support in the polls meant that it was withdrawn and Los Angeles is the candidate.

The election of Virginia Raggi as Mayor of Rome is a blow to its hopes of hosting the Olympics. She has made clear her opposition, pointing out on Vatican Radio that the 'Eternal City' had only recently completed payments for the 1990 World Cup and saying:"Do the math and see how much these events weigh heavily on the people's shoulders."

She simply does not think that it is morally and financially acceptable when Italy is under such financial constraints to pile more debt on the local population. Instead, the first female mayor of the city wants to tackle what she sees as more important issues, such as the lack of social housing, the widespread corruption and the traffic problems. Her first city council meeting this week will underscore her priorities.

Raggi is considering whether to have a referendum in which she would lay out the advantages and disadvantages of hosting the world's biggest sports event. Any substantial opposition, let alone an adverse result and the Rome bid is sunk.

It is true that a letter from leading environmental organisations has been sent to both the Rome organisers of the Games and also to CONI (the Italian Olympic Committee) and subsequently published by the daily newspaper La Repubblica, in which the authors have backed the bid. The signatories include Greenpeace and the World Wide Fund.

The letter points out:"The Olympic Games can be an opportunity for recovering abandoned areas and buildings, coexisting and developing the city rather than exploiting it." This is true but the city authorities may prefer to do this directly rather than, in addition, have to build sports facilities. 

The IOC will surely be wary, when it votes in Lima, Peru in September 2017, of giving the Games to any city, where there is strong opposition, especially the mayor, who has to be party to the contract for hosting the Games.

Given that Budapest is the rank outsider, it does look as if the choice for 2024 is between Los Angeles and Paris. And it would be chary of the IOC after the French capital has three times failed to get the Games (those of 1992, 2008 and 2012) not to be rewarded this time. Paris deserves the Games, 100 years after it last hosted them. It should get them.

** JOHN GOODBODY will cover the 2016 Olympics for The Sunday Times, his 13th 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 · John Goodbody · Los Angeles · Budapest · Paris · Rome

For more information contact:
Laura Walden ()

All original materials contained in this section are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Sports Features Communications, Inc the owner of that content. It is prohibited to alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.