POSTED: March 22nd 2017

JOHN GOODBODY: Paris and LA are best options for 2024 and 2028 as hopes of future Games in Africa fade

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

(SFC) It was inevitable that both Paris and Los Angeles would insist recently that their bids to stage the 2024 Olympics were only for that year and not also for 2028. As the International Olympic Committee (IOC) considers the possibility of awarding the Summer Games for both years when they meet in Lima in September, one expected that the two remaining candidate cities for 2024 would naturally rule out the fall-back position of being hosts four years later.

Well they would, wouldn't they? After all, to do otherwise would reveal a chink in their applications and suggest a natural alternative to the IOC. But in the case of Paris, it seems as if there is a solid reason for this. The planned site for the Athletes' Village in Seine-St. Denis will not be available after 2024.

Los Angeles seems to have greater flexibility, although it would not admit this. It already has the permanent venues built (and that would be the case in 2028). It can also use the university campuses for housing, as it did in 1984, should it need to do so.

Both are excellent candidates, with the security for Paris being their major worry, something heightened when a prospective terrorist was shot dead at Orly airport last week. In recent years, we have had the Charlie Hebdo attacks, the killing of 130 people in Paris in November 2015 and the 86 mown down by a lorry, driven by a terrorist, in Nice in July 2016.

However it would be giving in to terrorism if these incidents were to rule Paris out as a candidate. It has the huge experience of staging major sports events, including the 2016 European Football Championship, when significantly there were no terrorist incidents. It has not staged the Summer Olympics since 1924, the 'Chariots of Fire' Games. It has superb transport communications and is within easy reach of large number of other countries. And this is its fourth bid from a city where, in 1894, Baron de Coubertin revived the Olympic Games.

I think it makes sense for the IOC to give those Games to Paris, which remains the favourite, and tell Los Angeles that, if does lose the vote, then it will automatically get the 2028 Games, should it so wish to do so, without needing to bid again. The future of the Summer Games will so be assured at a time when fewer and fewer cities are prepared to bid.

And what was striking recently was that one continent, Africa, seems to have little chance of a bid for many years to come. This is because Durban has just pulled out of hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games, having already been awarded them.

The South African Government was not prepared to underwrite their cost of an event that has about 6,000 competitors from 70 countries and territories, far smaller than the Olympics. Several cities in both England and Australia, where the 2018 Games will be hosted on the Gold Coast, as well as Delhi and possibly Singapore have now offered to step in for 2022. The most practical venue would be London, where the venues remain from the 2012 Olympics.

However, from the IOC's point of view, the fact that South Africa, the richest country on its continent, could not get government support, must be a further blow to the Olympics reaching a new continent, the only one so far not to have staged the event.

The 2022 Commonwealth Games in Durban were seen as a possible stepping-stone at some stage for an Olympic bid. Can one see the IOC now even considering such an application in the foreseeable future?

** 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.

Keywords · John Goodbody · Olympics

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