POSTED: July 12th 2017

JOHN GOODBODY: IOC President Bach should take credit for host city deal

(L to R) Mayor Eric Garcetti of LA, IOC President Thomas Bach, Mayor Anne Hidalgo of Paris © IOC/Christophe Moratal
(L to R) Mayor Eric Garcetti of LA, IOC President Thomas Bach, Mayor Anne Hidalgo of Paris © IOC/Christophe Moratal

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

(SFC) Dr. Thomas Bach has not had the most auspicious four years as President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). It is true that his wide-ranging consultation on changes to the Movement, enveloped in a project Tokyo2020, received almost unanimous approval but many of the proposals were so straightforward that they did not need his leadership.

It was not Dr. Bach's fault that the Sochi Winter Games were tarnished by blatant Russian cheating or that the Rio Olympics had so many problems - only last week the IOC turned down a request from the organisers to help bale them out because they still owed an estimated $28 million to contractors and suppliers. After all, Rio was selected as the Games host in 2009, four years before Dr.Bach assumed office.

However, the IOC's sparring with the World Anti-Doping Agency, an organisation that it helped to set up in 1999, over the extent of Russian malpractice was unseemly and did not sit well with an organisation, which is supposed to be the guardians of ethical values in sport.

And Dr Bach's spineless attitude towards the Russian participation in the 2016 Summer Games, offloading the responsibility to the individual federations, scarcely showed the qualities of leadership for which one had hoped.

At least, he had the enterprise to have the refugees taking part in those Games, something for which he should be applauded. And now he has done a further service to the Movement by accepting that the hosts of the 2024 and 2028 Summer Olympics can both be decided at the IOC Session in Lima on September 13. The intention is that with only two cities having bid for 2024, then either Paris or Los Angeles will be awarded the earlier Games, with the other one getting 2028.

I had been unsettled by this idea as long as Budapest remained a candidate for 2024 but it seemed eminently sensible, when the Hungarian capital pulled out, for this unique strategy to be enacted. After the IOC three times failed to return the Games to the city where the IOC was established in 1894, it was surely time for Paris again to host the event, exactly 100 years after the last time, the "Chariots of Fire' Games in 1924. France is hugely experienced in staging major sports events and unlikely to run into some of the financial problems that affected Athens and Rio.

It is also time for the Summer Games to return to the United States, whose television and sponsorship contracts make the biggest contribution to the IOC's income. Los Angeles hosting the Games will provide a massive stimulus in future negotiations with American companies.    

What was accepted this week was a "tripartite agreement" between the IOC and the two candidate cities, with the hope that one of them will agree to postpone their staging of the Games to 2028. If neither of the cities accepts this plan, then the Session in Lima will just vote for 2024.

It is widely believed that Paris would win in 2024 - its main weakness being the worry over security following the terrorist attacks in recent years. Many IOC members are not enamoured by Donald Trump but by 2028, he will no longer be U.S.  President, even if he were re-elected for a second four year term in 2020, which is why Los Angeles would do well to accept the inevitable and agree to go for 2028.

Any other cities applying for 2028 can instead concentrate on 2032. In the meantime, the IOC can have the satisfaction that the future of the Summer Games, so unsettled by the spate of withdrawals from bidding cities, is assured for the next 11 years. For that, Dr. Bach should take some credit.

** 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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