(ATR) It’s deadline day for the three cities bidding for the 2018 Winter Olympics to submit their initial plans to the IOC – and Munich remains ahead of PyeongChang and Annecy in the latest rankings by Around the Rings.
The Bavarian bid offers a strong team, good infrastructure and experience in winter sports. It’s a combination that will be hard to match from PyeongChang and Annecy.
PyeongChang is not far behind, based on the experience of two previous bids that almost succeeded. But unless it steps up its game, the third time will provide more disappointment. In its favor, the South Korean bid has the distinction of offering to host the Winter Games in a new country, eager to boost winter sports.
Annecy is clearly the dark horse in the race, lacking a powerful raison d’être to return the Olympics to the same part of France that hosted the 1992 Games in Albertville.
Each submitted their applicant files to IOC headquarters ahead of today’s deadline. The submissions clear the way for a panel of IOC technical experts to review the files and determine whether the cities have what’s needed to stage the Winter Games.
The IOC Executive Board will review those findings in late June to determine if any of these bids should be cut. But unless the experts expose a fatal flaw in the applicant files, we predict all three will stay in the race for the last 12 months of the campaign. The IOC will vote for the 2018 host on July 6, 2011, in Durban, South Africa.
We have analyzed previous bids for the Games using the Around the Rings Olympic Bids Power Index, a matrix of 11 categories, a mix of subjective and objective ratings. We will not use the index at this early stage of the campaign, as we do not yet have the information needed to provide a worthwhile Index.
On-the-scene visits by ATR staff to the cities, an essential element of the Index, have not taken place. Nor have we been able to review the plans being proposed in the dossiers presented to the IOC. Those documents will be released later in the week and we’ll report on them as they become public.
That said, there’s still plenty of information for us to make some preliminary observations about where things stand with each bid.
We’ve reviewed information already available from the three cities, interviewed bid leaders and observed their teams during the Vancouver Games, the first time each has stepped onto the international stage for this bid.
Munich Fits City and Mountains Model
Strong Points for Munich:
Since 1998, hosts for Winter Olympic Games have been good-sized cities that offer amenities such as hotels and transportation hubs, with ski and sliding events held at mountain venues some distance away.
Munich is the only one of the three bids that fits that model. That will provide an advantage when it comes time to house and transport Olympic guests.
In the mountains, the winter sports resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen (about an hour from Munich) is well-known for hosting elite competitions every year. It was also the site of the 1936 Winter Olympics.
Speaking of past Olympics, Munich may have the cachet of offering the IOC the chance to bring the Winter Games for the first time to a city that hosted the Summer Olympics.
The Munich team has been in place for almost a year. Its leadership is dynamic and well-spoken, including CEO Willy Bogner and chair Katarina Witt, who brings glamour and acclaim as an Olympian.
The president of the DOSB -- the German NOC -- is Thomas Bach, an IOC vice president – and a possible contender for IOC president in 2013. None of the IOC members associated with the other bids wield the influence among IOC colleagues that Bach does.
Germany has the biggest population base of Winter Olympic sports fans of the three as well as the most advanced system of winter sports clubs.
Weak Points for Munich
Opposition appears to be minimal, but the bid could face concerns if naysayers grow in number. Opposition so far seems to center on environmental concerns.
Another Winter Olympics in Europe, right after Sochi, could make the timing wrong for Munich. Garmisch, though 70 years ago, has already hosted the Games.
Distances between Munich and Garmisch-Partenkirchen, as well as to the sliding venue at Koenigssee, mean more venue-to-venue travel time as well as the need for three Olympic Villages.
PyeongChang Builds, Will They Come?
Strong Points for PyeongChang
With this third consecutive bid for the Winter Olympics, PyeongChang can show that it is delivering promised improvements made during past bids.
Government support at national and provincial levels seems committed to doing what is needed to host the Games.
With some venues built and two world championships (biathlon and snowboard), PyeongChang brings more experience hosting Olympic winter sports than did Sochi when it was chosen in 2007.
PyeongChang, with two competitors from Europe, can clearly make the case that 2018 provides the IOC with the chance to bring the Winter Games to a new part of the world, helping to grow winter sport.
The great success of South Korea at the Vancouver Olympics shows Korea is a major player in Winter Olympic sport.
While a two-hour journey from Seoul, once in PyeongChang, all venues are minutes apart, the most compact of the three venue plans.
With its third bid, the team from PyeongChang should have the best understanding of the three cities as to how the bidding process works, from the travel, to the bid documents and guarantees, to the right words to say to IOC members.
Weak Points for PyeongChang
The bid has yet to find a charismatic figure to lead the PyeongChang bid effectively in the international arena, a weakness faced in the past two bids.
While located in a scenic part of Korea, PyeongChang does not yet offer the range of hospitality amenities expected by Western guests, such shopping, dining or other diversions.
PyeongChang’s location near the East Sea could mean weather complications, which have affected past ski events in the mountains. PyeongChang would be the third Winter Olympics in a row held near sea level.
South Korea will need to improve its performances in other winter sports ahead of a possible Olympics.
Alpine and Nordic events, as well as hockey, are sports in which Korea has a low-profile.
Low-profile also applies to the two IOC members from South Korea. Neither have the influence or prestige of some of the members from France or Germany. The controversy over IOC member Kun Hee Lee which includes a presidential pardon for embezzlement charges and the IOC lifting its two-year suspension of Lee, is a bell that cannot be un-rung.
In terms of time zones, PyeongChang is the worst of the three bids for TV broadcasters in North America and Europe, the biggest markets for the Winter Olympics.
Annecy Debut in Olympic Arena
Strong Points for Annecy
The Annecy Olympics would be held under the backdrop of one of world’s iconic landmarks: Mont Blanc towers over the Haute Savoie region where the Games would be held.
Annecy itself, a lakeside city of 52,000, offers a picturesque setting.
Chamonix, the location for alpine events, sits in the shadow of Mont Blanc and carries the distinction as the host of the first Winter Olympics in 1924.
The bid is led by Annecy native Edgar Grospiron, who in 1992 won the first Olympic moguls competition. He turns 41 this week, the youngest bid leader among the three and the only Olympic medalist in the group.
Great location for European TV audiences, OK for North America.
Weak points for Annecy:
Like Munich, Annecy may suffer from trying to stage another Winter Olympics in Europe four years after Sochi, especially with a proven bidder from Asia offering a viable alternative.
Another challenge is the “why” for Annecy, when Albertville, 40km away, hosted the 1992 Winter Games.
At 52,000 in Annecy and 9,300 for Chamonix, the bid has the smallest population base of the three 2018 contenders.
Good roads link the region, but the biggest transport hub for Annecy is 30km away – in Geneva, Switzerland. Along with depending on Switzerland for the airport gateway, hotels would be needed in Geneva, adding the complication of border crossings and the necessity of agreements with the Swiss.
It’s the first time for Annecy to bid and the team may not have the experience of PyeongChang to understand how the bidding game is played.
Annecy is missing the public involvement of the two French IOC members, notably Jean-Claude Killy. Killy, respected as an Olympic great as well as an expert on staging the Winter Olympics (he was Albertville CEO), is occupied as chair of the IOC commission overseeing preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
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