POSTED: January 24th 2017

JOHN GOODBODY: Olympics for 2024 and 2028 should be voted separately

Will the IOC award two Olympic Games in Lima? © Bigstock
Will the IOC award two Olympic Games in Lima? © Bigstock

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

(SFC) Despite the booming popularity of the Olympics, there must be concern that so many cities have  withdrawn in recent years from bidding to stage either the Summer or the Winter Games. The decision of Oslo to pull out of the 2022 Winter Olympics, when it was the clear favourite and on the short-list of three, was certainly one blow.

Equally significant was the withdrawal of Hamburg and Rome for 2024 and it should not be forgotten that Los Angeles, now on the final list of three for those Summer Games, is only there because Boston, the original U.S. choice, dropped out. Of course, the situation is not as serious as it was nearly 40 years ago, when Los Angeles was selected for 1984 because it was the only candidate.

However, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) must be worried and with justification, that fewer and fewer cities, with suitable credentials, want to host the event, especially given the perception that, after the difficulties of Rio de Janeiro, neither South America nor Africa are really ready to stage the Games in the foreseeable future.

My American colleague, Alan Abrahamson, suggested last August that when the IOC votes for 2024 on the three candidates, Budapest, Los Angeles and Paris, it could also vote on those three cities for 2028. It is an attractive idea, although publicly none of the applicants would endorse it, given that their strategy would always be to emphasise that they are concentrating on 2024.

Dr. Thomas Bach has not dismissed the project saying "let us study this question" and as IOC President, he has tended to like to get agreements done early, an outstanding example being the deal with NBC to cover all the Games until 2032, which given the American TV network is the biggest paymaster of the Games, was probably a sound move.

At the moment, Budapest, despite many attractive features, is clearly the outsider. Paris has bid three times unsuccessfully for the Games in the last three decades, has a proven record for staging major international sports events and has not been a host since 1924. As for Los Angeles, it is about time that the United States again put on the Summer Games, following the disappointment of Atlanta in 1996.

Certainly, when Dr Bach spent three days in Silicon Valley, an IOC  press release stated that he "dived into the future of technology, society and sport", meeting leading executives of Facebook, Google and Twitter.

The scenario, if the IOC were to vote on both Games at the same time, would be that all three go for 2024 and then the victorious city would drop out, leaving the remaining two for 2028. The betting would be that Los Angeles would get one and Paris the other. This would allow eleven years for the city chosen for 2028 to prepare, four more years than a host city usually gets. It would also give the IOC some solid confidence about its future.

However, there are drawbacks. Although it could be expected that, given the 2026 Games were in South America and 2020 will be in Asia, the following two Summer Olympics will be held in Europe and North America.

However, there are several European cities, such as Madrid, which has three times failed to get the Games, and possibly Rome, if there were a change of political opposition, who would protest, with justification, that it has had the chance to bid for 2028. A Canadian city might have wanted to try for 2028. And the IOC does like to do things properly.

One is not necessarily against voting on two Olympics at the same time - although the corrupt process of awarding the Fifa World Cup for 2018 and 2022 is not a good precedent--but I hesitate to recommend such a policy this year. It hints that the IOC is desperate.

** 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.  

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

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