POSTED: May 16th 2017

JOHN GOODBODY: IOC inspectors need to read between the lines

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

(SFC) Examining the facilities and plans of candidate cities for the 2024 Games is just part of the task of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Evaluation Commission. As it winds up the visits to Los Angeles and Paris this week, it has a unique question to solve: would either or both of them agree to stage the Summer Games in 2028 if it were unsuccessful for 2024?

Publicly both of them say they are only bidding for 2024 and that it would be impossible for them to stage the Games four years later. Well they would, wouldn't they? What the Commission, chaired by Patrick Baumann, must try to glean is whether this is true.

The IOC vice-presidents are due to report in July on the feasibility and desirability of the Games for those two Olympiads being awarded at the same time at the IOC meeting in Lima on September 13. There are strong reasons now to do this. The lack of interest for 2024 -Los Angeles and Paris are the only cities now bidding after Hamburg, Rome and Budapest all withdrew- must be worrying the IOC. How many bids can it expect for 2028?

I was initially against the possibility of allocating both Games simultaneously, an idea floated by IOC President Dr. Thomas Bach. But that was until Budapest withdrew earlier this year. The situation changed, so my opinion changed.

As Dr.Bach said: "We have two excellent candidates there from two major Olympic cities. This is a position we like to be in." So grab at the opportunity. If they don't, they may regret it.

Both cities have strong cases. Paris, where Baron de Coubertin revived the Olympic Movement in 1894, last hosted the Games in 1924 and has three times bid unsuccessfully since then, most recently for 2012. France has enormous experience of hosting international events and has most of the facilities already built.

Its main weaknesses are the need to build an Aquatic Centre and particularly an Athletes Village, both of which would be in St. Denis, close to the Stade de France, where the athletics would be staged on a track that hosted the 2003 World Championships. Paris insists that the site cannot be left vacant for another four years before building starts -although presumably work could still commence before 2021 if it were awarded the 2028 rather than the 2024 Olympics. The Village would be converted into 4,500 new homes, plus a host of other facilities subsequently.

The big weakness of Paris is that France has been the target of repeated terrorist attacks in recent years: Charlie Hebdo, the Bataclan massacre and the lorry attack at Nice, just for starters. When Casey Wasserman, who leads the Los Angeles bid, said LA was the "right city" at the current climate, people inferred that the sprawling Californian megalopolis was the safer of the two options.

Paris, under the expert guidance of Mike Lee, has promoted several of the ideas with which he guided London to success for 2012. The Commission this week was greeted by hordes of sports-playing children and the chair is Tony Estanguet, the triple Olympic canoeing champion, not a politician.     

LA, which lasted hosted the Games in 1984, only stepped in when Boston withdrew and has almost all the necessary facilities, including most of the Village, which would take over the campus of the University of California (UCLA) at Westwood. But all those facilities would be available in 2028 as well as for 2024.

The IOC especially needs the American money from television and sponsorship and given that the last Summer Games in the country were in Atlanta in 1996, it is about time they were there again.

The question for the IOC is surely not whether the 2024 and 2028 Games should be staged in Paris or Los Angeles but in which order.

** 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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