POSTED: February 23rd 2017

JOHN GOODBODY: Bach must now push for 2024 and 2028 vote this year

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

(SFC) Situations change, so opinions can change. A month ago, I was not enthusiastic about the idea that when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) meets in September, it could decide at the same time, which cities should stage the 2024 and 2028 Summer Games.

The scenario was that Paris should host the Games in 2024, the centenary of when it last did so, and Los Angeles would be given the 2028 Olympics. One of the disadvantages of this was Budapest, the third candidate city for 2024, albeit the outsider, would feel understandably aggrieved that such a deal had been agreed without getting due recognition.  

However, the withdrawal this week of Budapest has altered the landscape. The demand for a referendum in Hungary following more than 250,000 signatures for the petition has resulted in the Hungarian Prime Minister, the Mayor of Budapest and the Hungarian National Olympic Committee accepting the inevitable.

This leaves just the two cities for 2024, although both are really strong candidates. It is unusual, although certainly not unique, for there to be just two cities. For 1980, there was only Moscow and Los Angeles (who were subsequently awarded the 1984 Olympics) and for 1988, there was Seoul and Nagoya, while for the 2022 Winter Games, Beijing just edged out the sole remaining candidate, Almaty.

For certain planning reasons, it would be better for Paris to get the 2024 Olympics. Although Los Angeles has always insisted that it is only interested in 2024, one would have thought that the organisers would have accepted the certainty that if Paris gets 2024, then it can be rewarded with 2028. No American city, since Atlanta in 1996, has hosted the Summer Games and 32 years is long enough for a country, whose broadcasting rights and sponsorship deals provide the bedrock of the IOC finances.

The disadvantage of giving Los Angeles the 2028 Games is that there will be cities, which would have put themselves forward but will not have had the chance to do so. However, they can still do so for 2032. More important from the IOC's point of view, is that two successful Games in established venues in 2024 and 2028, will build up the Olympic brand.

And it must be realised that it is by no means certain that many other cities would bid for 2028. After all, Hamburg and Rome both pulled out for 2024 and so did Oslo for 2022, while Los Angeles became the U.S. choice for 2024 only when Boston withdrew.

As Dr. Thomas Bach, the IOC President, considers his strategy, he knows that by allocating both the 2024 and 2028 Games at the same time, the IOC has played safe in what is a tricky period for the Olympic Movement following the difficulties of Rio de Janeiro and with now Tokyo fearing that their budget may exceed $26 billion, four times the original cost.

Rule 33.2 of the Olympic Charter states: "Save in exceptional circumstances, such election"(of candidate cities) "takes place seven years before the celebration of the Olympic Games." Dr. Bach should try to persuade the members that these are "exceptional circumstances" and that it is worthwhile for Los Angeles to get 11 years to prepare for 2028.

There is a precedent. Amsterdam withdrew from bidding for the 1924 Olympics provided it was awarded them for 1928 and duly did so, although Los Angeles, wishing to bid for 1928, was unhappy. Still the Californian city got the 1932 Games anyway.

Now nearly 100 years later, the IOC should probably recognise the Olympic Movement will benefit from allocating both Games at the same time. It is the most pragmatic option.

** 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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