POSTED: July 18th 2017

NEIL WILSON: The Olympics could take to the road

Rhine Ruhr Olympic City Mayors of 13 cities band together for a unique bid plan © Rhine Ruhr
Rhine Ruhr Olympic City Mayors of 13 cities band together for a unique bid plan © Rhine Ruhr

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

(SFC) International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach's plan he called Agenda 2020 to advance the Olympic movement into the 21st century did not come out of the starting blocks like a sprinter. Certainly not one likely to win any race.

It was in December 2014 that the 40 recommendations were passed unanimously by the IOC membership but more than 30 months later the only tangible result is the establishment of television's Olympic Channel.

That in itself was an idea Bach himself put up when he was first elected an IOC member in 1994, so its gestation period has been positively elephantine.

But this week, from Bach's own country of Germany, comes hope that another of his ideas will see fruition in the not so distant future. The German state of North Rhine-Westphalia has put forward a dream of holding the 2032 summer Olympic Games across 13 cities.

These stretch from Aachen on the border with Holland to Dortmund, a distance of a little under 100 miles and on Germany's superb autobahn routes less than two hours of driving.

That is perfectly in line with Agenda 2020's recommendation 1:4 which allows the "organisation of entire sports or disciplines outside the host city."

A Games across 13 cities sounds outlandish. You might as well have multiple world championships in Olympic sports held at the same time completely independent. Hardly a case of bringing the Olympic family together every fourth year.

 But the distance between the furthest is no more than Los Angeles to San Diego. Indeed the time you would take driving on LA's grid-locked roads from the extremes of Los Angeles' 2024 bid venues might be not too much more than the 1 hour 51minutes from Aachen to Dortmund.

Another virtue of the concept similar to LA's is the use of existing venues. There are 16 stadia in the area covering major cities such as Bonn, Cologne and Dusseldorf with seating capacity of 30,000 or more. Eighty per cent of the venues could be ready tomorrow, and the IOC will not vote on 2032 - the next available summer after it decided on a joint award of 2024 and 2028 this month - until 2025.

The IOC have said this month that it is open to consider future winter Olympic bids which use an existing bobsleigh track in a different country to save the expense of building another under-used facility, so they are clearly open to spreading the Games geographically.

North-Rhine Westphalia is the first to express a serious interest in the concept. The IOC's hope is that it will catch on. Having only two bidders to host each of 2022 and 2024 was a threat to the sustainability of the Olympic Games.

Agenda 2020 may not have leapt from its blocks but this could be a sign that it will reach its goal given time.  

** 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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