On International Sports
October 8, 2009
Were they misled or did they miscount?
That is the question Chicago 2016 Olympic bid committee officials are being forced to answer after senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett said President Barack Obama traveled to Copenhagen based on the committee's assumption the race was close enough that his presence "would make a huge difference."
Some on the bid committee were saying Chicago had up to 33 votes in the first round. Charlie Battle of Atlanta, among half a dozen international relations consultants paid by the bid committee, said he expected "23 or 24."
Instead, Chicago wound up with 18 and was knocked out in the first round, when Tokyo had 22 votes, eventual winner Rio de Janeiro had 26 and Madrid, 28.
The issue no longer is whether Chicago could have beaten Rio if both had been in the final round, which seems unlikely given the International Olympic Committee's desire to have South America host its first Olympics.
The issue is how Chicago got far fewer votes than anticipated.
The answers include the nature of a secret ballot, sympathy votes, some flawed intelligence gathering and skilled Rio electioneering to make sure Chicago did not make the final round.
"I don't think it was miscounting," Chicago 2016 Chairman Patrick Ryan said. "I think people changed their mind once they got in the closed session."
Ryan also said, "We had far more commitments, way more commitments than we needed to make it into the second round."
Chicago had at least nine people -- plus Ryan -- lobbying for votes.
"What I heard on a consistent basis was the first round vote was the most dangerous, and if we were able to navigate our way through that, we were in reasonably good shape," said U.S. Olympic Committee Chairman Larry Probst. "It turned out that whatever vote counting we may have done, it wasn't enough to get us through the first round."
"When you're analyzing votes, it's more art than science," said Bob Ctvrtlik, the former USOC international relations vice president. "The beauty of a secret ballot is we will never have all the answers. Many, many people who committed to us all can't be telling the truth."
After all, verbal commitments mean nothing in a secret ballot.
"I think the IOC should in the future really study the (voting process)," said IOC member C.K. Wu of Taiwan.
The IOC insists the secret ballot gives its members independence from global politics. Yet French President Nicolas Sarkozy said his country's two members would vote for Brazil, which agreed last month to buy 36 military aircraft from a French company.
Battle endorses the idea that some IOC members who had committed to Chicago were so confident the city would advance they shifted to Tokyo in the first round after hearing its committee plead to help it avoid embarrassment.
Luciano Barra of Italy, one of the lobbyists working for Chicago, said those who shifted to Tokyo may have included Arab members from countries belonging to the Asian Olympic group who wanted to show regional solidarity.
"There were many situations where people who in principle favored Chicago decided to give the first vote to another city," Barra said.
Barra also thought some IOC members might have rejected Chicago out of petulance over security inconveniences caused by the presence of Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. That was given credence by what Leo Wallner of Austria told the Web site Around The Rings: "IOC members did not like waiting 45 minutes outside her door to meet her."
One consultant said an unintended consequence of President Obama's presence was to get Brazil to work even harder to get Chicago out in the first round.
Ryan disagreed. "I don't think (Rio) could have worked any harder," he said. "I don't think they needed any extra motivation."