POSTED: May 24th 2017
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NEIL WILSON: Has Hein Verbruggen the answer to the 2024 Olympic bid dilemma?


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

(SFC) So what does the IOC do now about 2024 - flip a coin?

June 9 is supposed to be D-Day - the day its executive board decide whether a plan to award the hosting of the 2024 and 2028 Summer Olympic Games at the same time at its Congress in Lima, Peru, in September.

It is the day when the EB, having heard the conclusions of its four vice-presidents on that possibility the previous day, decides whether to put the notion to the full membership.

It would appear the obvious way out to the dilemma of choosing between two bidding cities which the IOC Evaluation Commission could not choose between. Indeed, it could not put as much as a paper's width between their offerings.

Obvious but difficult. Neither Los Angeles nor Paris want to switch their bids to 2028. Or, at least, they are not saying so.

The IOC has encouraged them to have conversations on the subject but so far neither is mentioning the dreaded date of 2028 in public.

So the four VPs were given the task of looking at a joint award in Lima. They report on June 8 to the EB but one of them has thrown a giant spanner in the works. "We are not going to change the rules of the game in the middle of the process. That would be irresponsible," said Juan Antonio Samaranch Jnr.

So June 9 may turn out to present the world with more prevarication and delay. Or it could present the IOC with the perfect opportunity to suggest that the whole bidding process is changed in future. As Samaranch said to Spanish news agency EFE: "The Olympic city selection system which has worked wonderfully for almost 40 years is not currently delivering the expected results."

So what to do with it? Hein Verbruggen, honorary president of cycling's UCI and honorary IOC member, may have the solution. He suggests in a blog that instead of inviting bids, the IOC in future pick a city it wants and then negotiates terms with it.

It would, he suggests, negotiate terms with a second pick which would become the back-up and which would be promised the hosting of the next Games.  A suggestion which is rational, logical and practical in the days when the citizenry of most Western cities are taking to social media to oppose Olympic bids.

It would have the advantage of removing at stroke the $50-60million cities spend on bidding, and the IOC could remove the financial cost of organisation to a city by agreeing to underwrite it itself.

An obvious first choice city for 2028 would be the one that loses the 2024 vote. The obvious back-up city for that would be Madrid, a regular recent bidder which claims to have most of the sporting infrastructure in place already.  The Spaniards then would be guaranteed 2032.

The system would also take in the Winter Games. The first obvious choice for 2026 would be Almaty, beaten by only four votes by Beijing for the 2022 Games. Its back-up would be the Swiss canton of Valois which has announced an intention of bidding for 2026.

Verbruggen's presidency of UCI in the dark days of Lance Armstrong and the drug culture left the whole Olympic movement damaged. This timely proposal if taken up would be a welcome recompense. 

** 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.


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