POSTED: October 5th 2016

NEIL WILSON: Keeping Olympic bids honest

Tokyo the host of the 2020 Olympic Games / Bigstock
Tokyo the host of the 2020 Olympic Games / Bigstock

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

(SFC) After the president of the International Olympic Committee opens the envelope to reveal the name of the city that will host an Olympic Games seven years hence, and after the cheering in the hall dies, there is one last task for the chairman of the successful Host City Candidate. 

He - and invariably it is a he - sits down with the IOC president and puts his signature to a contract.

The document sets in legal form what the city has agreed to undertake, the dates of the Games, the Organising Committee's share of revenues and  the guarantees to which its state is committed.  Every last t is crossed and i dotted.

Except now we discover that both Host City can drive a horse and carriage between the lines.

We discover it now because this week Tokyo 2020 is being recommended by advisers to its federal government to tear up the Bid Document which won it the Host City election.

Apparently construction costs in Japan since the signing of its contract in September 2013 have risen four times and it needs to cut costs. It can do this, it is told, by dispatching sports to existing venues in other Japanese cities.

Track cycling has been moved already 145 kilometres south-west of Tokyo. Rowing and sprint canoeing could be sent 400 kilometres to the north-west to another city, Tome. Swimming and volleyball also fear being elbowed well away from Tokyo itself.

Now this, remember, is the Host City Candidate that told IOC members before they voted that, with the exception of football  preliminaries, the only sports to be staged outside of 8km (5 miles) from the Olympic Village would be shooting and modern pentathlon. All 36 sports venues with the exception of football preliminaries would be within the city of Tokyo. The IOC evaluation commission report described it as a "compact Games concept".

It was on that basis that the majority of IOC members cast their votes in its favour. Now it wants to change not only its goals but the dimensions of the playing field.
Now Tokyo 2020 is offering Japan 2020. Instead of a compact Games it wants to offer a series of independent world championships spread across the nation.

The IOC voters were reassured in 2013 by the Evaluation Commission report's finding that underwriting the necessary construction work was a fund of $4.5 billion that had been in place since Tokyo's unsuccessful bid for 2016. This fund alone exceeded projected construction costs, it was told.

The Japanese plead now that construction costs have escalated because of the country's infrastructure re-building following the tsunami but that work began two years before the Host City election and before its Bid Document's production. It could be anticipated.

The only change that could not be envisaged by the Japanese was the IOC's imposition of five extra sports on Tokyo. It would reasonable then for the city to expect the IOC to cover those extra costs. Beyond that, Tokyo should be told that its contract is based on its Bid Document and is legally binding.

If not, the other candidates for 2020 should feel aggrieved and all future bidders will come to the conclusion that a Bid Document is merely an opening gambit.  The IOC must insist Olympic bids remain honest.

** 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.

****The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sports Features Communications.

Keywords · Neil Wilson · Olympics

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