POSTED: May 11th 2017

NEIL WILSON: Are Trump and Macron assets to Olympic bidders

LA City Council
LA City Council

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

(SFC) Just three days before the International Olympic Committee's evaluation commission touched down in Los Angeles this week to investigate its bid for the 2024 Olympic Games, the city's council voted unanimously to begin impeachment proceedings against US president Donald Trump.

Whether the council's action has any bearing, it is a reminder that presidential impeachment and Olympic bids seem to go hand in hand these days. Brazil impeached its president Dilma Roussof in the year it hosted the last summer Games. South Korea impeached its president Park Geun-hye 14 months before it hosts its Winter Games in 2018.

Presidents are rarely important to Olympic bids. Think of how many have failed utterly to influence IOC votes on hosting cities.

Nelson Mandela was probably the world's favourite politician in 1997 but his personal appeal to the IOC fell on deaf ears. Cape Town was eliminated early in voting for the 2004 Games.

Barack Obama, at the height of his popularity in 2009, flew to Copenhagen to glad-hand IOC members before the vote on the 2016 host city. Chicago, his home city, was first to be eliminated.

Hilary Clinton threw her weight behind New York's 2012 bid. It did not make the run-off. Nor did Buenos Aires when Argentina's popular Carlos Menem travelled to lobby at the vote.

Yes, British prime minister Tony Blair in 2005 is credited with a helpful role in London's winning bid in 2005 but then the French president at the time, Jacques Chirac, was in Singapore lobbying for the losing Paris bid.

The IOC's membership is an odd collection of aristocrats, autocrats and athletes. It has been happy in the past to award its Games to Adolf Hitler - both summer and winter - and to the Soviet and Chinese dictatorships, Moscow in 1980 and Beijing in 2004 and 2022.

They are egotistical enough to want the world's politicos to touch their forelocks to them when their cities bid but only to be influenced in their votes if presidents and prime minister do not show them that respect they crave.

So does Trump matter to Los Angeles' chances? Or, for that matter, Emmanuel Macron to Paris's hopes?

The Paris bid cheered Macron's victory last Sunday, more probably because it did not have the negative ramification of a National Front victory than anything Macron has said in its support.

Los Angeles has claimed all along that Trump is a fan of its bid. After all, he campaigned to put America First. But then LA Mayor Eric Garetti and bid chairman Casey Wasserman backed the Clinton presidential campaign.

The decision both bid teams must make is whether to invite their national presidents to Lima when the IOC vote. Would Trump's presence remind voters of his on Muslims and Mexicans? Would Macron remind them that his presidency may be weak without a parliamentary majority?

The simple question when it comes to crunch time is whether politicians matter. And history suggests that they probably don't.   

** 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 · Olympics · Neil Wilson

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