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  • Financial Risks Challenge Dutch 2019 European Games Bid


    (ATR) Despite lacking government support and financial guarantees, the EOC is poised to approve the Netherlands as host of the 2019 European Games on Saturday.
    Around the Rings understands that because the Dutch NOC is the preferred bidder, already accepted by the European Olympic Committees executive committee, it will likely be ratified by delegates at the continental Olympic body’s extraordinary general assembly in Belek, Turkey.
    (Getty Images)
    The Dutch NOC will make a presentation about its games plan to delegates. But the approval of the assembly, probably by acclamation, could be subject to strict conditions set by the EOC – that the financial and government support issues are resolved by a certain deadline, or the bid is dead.
    Amid funding problems, the Dutch sports movement voted two weeks ago to push ahead with its European Games bid. But serious questions remain about who will finance the 125 million euros projected cost of what will be a
    nationwide games.
    The Dutch sports movement is seeking 25 million euros in government funding for the project, which the EOC believes fits in with the sustainability aspect of the IOC’s Agenda 2020 reforms. There will be no new sports venues built or major investment in infrastructural projects.
    With two of the Netherlands’ top five cities – Rotterdam and Utrecht – withdrawing from the bid citing financial risk, there are also question marks around which cities will have a hosting role. Both those cities could yet be
    persuaded to join the Games, a Dutch NOC spokesman tells ATR.
    Amsterdam, The Hague and Eindhoven are said to be on board but they have yet to provide financial commitments, along with several smaller cities.
    Two weeks ago, Dutch NOC president Andre Bolhuis admitted the bidding concept, which would involve a program of about 17 sports, required financial commitments from national, regional and local governments, as well as the support of sponsors and private donors.
    Dutch NOC leaders knew that the fast-track bidding timetable for the 2019 European Games, which only began in September, would not allow them to offer rock-solid financial guarantees by the time of the EOC meeting in Belek.

     Concerns around the bidding concept are made plain in a letter from the Dutch sports minister Edith Schippers to parliament. ATR has seen the letter, dated May 1.

    Schippers is broadly supportive of the 2019 European Games in principle but notes, “At the moment there are still many outstanding questions and issues to be clarified."
    A Dutch NOC spokesman said officials would be discussing the questions with the sports minister to persuade her that the project should receive the full backing of the government.
    The Hague is one of the larger Dutch cities said to be on board with the bid. (Getty Images)
    In the letter she lists seven questions, among which are queries about the split between public and private financing, the funding required from host cities and distribution of revenues and sports program in participating cities, as well as the impact of the European Games on grassroots and elite sport in the Netherlands.
    Schippers promised to examine all the issues and make a decision on whether the government should proceed with the 2019 European Games by the close of this summer’s Baku Games on June 28.
    EOC president Pat Hickey is confident that the Dutch NOC bid will receive the necessary guarantees.
    “The host city selection process for the 2019 European Games is firmly on track,” he told ATR, revealing for the first time that the EOC had identified its preferred hosts, the Dutch Olympic Committee.
    The Irish IOC Executive Board member confirmed that the Dutch bid team would present its proposed European Games concept to the assembly in Belek on Saturday, which would vote “on whether to ratify in principle the Netherlands as hosts of the next European Games."

    “If the Netherlands’ proposal is ratified, the EOC will continue its private negotiations with all stakeholders – including the Dutch government – until a definitive sporting, commercial and financial plan is finalized,” he said.
    Hickey added: “From the outset, the guiding principle of the EOC’s European Games host city selection process has been flexibility.
    “We have taken a collaborative approach to our negotiations with all interested parties, to ensure we have a 2019 plan that fits the needs of the European Olympic family and the needs of the host country.”
    Acknowledging the unresolved issues around the Dutch NOC’s bid, he indicated that talks with other 2019 potential bids would be restarted: “While the EOC has identified our preferred hosts for 2019, we will continue to have conversations in parallel with other NOCs who have expressed an interest in bringing a European Games to their country.”

    Reported by Mark Bisson

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