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  • Op Ed: Politics To Rule Bid City Choices


    01/05/08

    With the election of a host for the Olympics as one the major duties for the International Olympic Committee, 2008 provides two chances for members to have their say on where the Games should land. Idealists might hope to have the decision based on technical merit; in reality, politics will rule.

    The first choice for the IOC comes in February when the host of the inaugural Youth Olympic Games will be elected.

    While not meant to be a full-blown replica of the Summer Games, the 2010 YOG are the first new event for the IOC calendar since the Winter Olympics were added 80 years ago. Doubts persist about the viability of this event, but there is no shortage of candidates: nine cities started the race, which is now down to five.

    Athens, Bangkok, Moscow, Singapore and Turin are all well known; three of them have actually hosted a Games. But based on information supplied to the IOC and to Around the Rings, it is clear that only two or three cities belong in the race.

    Moscow and Singapore have carefully constructed bids for the Youth Olympics. Athens, Bangkok and Turin are somehow still in the running despite plans that seem to be wanting.

    For our part, it’s been a struggle to get information from these three cities; presumably the IOC has had an easier time eliciting details that will make or break these bids.

    We predict that the IOC Executive Board will cut the field to two in time for the February postal vote. That number will avoid the need for a second round of ballots.

    The choice between two cities of equal caliber on the technical side will push politics into the fore on this vote. The YOG are ostensibly meant for cities not able to host the Summer Olympics. Does that mean Moscow will be rejected for being too big-league? On the other hand, if Singapore is the alternative to Moscow, does this minor player in the Olympics Movement have enough friends in IOC to match Russia’s significant influence?

    In the high-stakes poker match for the 2016 Olympics, the seven cities currently at the table will show their first hand January 14, when they submit initial questionnaires to the IOC.

    We don’t think these dossiers will contain many surprises. Chicago, Doha, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo are blessed with venues and experience that will make it difficult for the IOC to cut any of them from the list of finalists to be named in June. Technically, all five cities are head-to-head and for that reason, we expect all of them to be picked by the Executive Board.

    Baku and Prague appear to be the misfits this time around. Both cities are making their first bids against contenders who in many ways are ready to host the Games “next week”.

    The June 4 decision by the IOC Executive Board will be an easy one, deferring the juicy issues to the full IOC for its vote in 2009.

    Is world opinion changing enough to give Chicago a chance? Will the IOC tolerate the shadow of the 2014 World Cup hanging over preparations and build-up for an Olympics in Rio De Janeiro? Madrid is a reliable host for major sports events but is it best for the Games to remain in Europe after London in 2012? In Japan, bid leaders will have to answer “why Tokyo again?” when the rest of the field is seeking a first Olympics. Doha will challenge perceptions about staging the Games in the Mideast, but at the same time cannot escape the question of whether a nation of 800,000 can provide the spectators or home town athletes needed for the atmospherics of the Olympics.

    The race for the 2014 Winter Games decided last year in favor of venue-less Sochi shows that technical aspects seem to matter little in deciding where to send the Olympics. For 2016, with well-prepared bids at the front of the pack, politics will make the difference when the votes are counted in 21 months.

    Op Ed is a weekly column of opinion and ideas from Around the Rings founder and editor-in-chief Ed Hula. Comments, as well as guest columns are welcomed: comment@aroundtherings.com