International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has launched a formal exploration into the possibility of awarding both the 2024 and 2028 Olympic Games to Paris and Los Angeles later this year, it was announced following and Executive Board meeting in PyeongChang, South Korea Friday.
Bach set forward a four-person committee consisting of IOC Vice Presidents to explore potential options to change the bid process in the wake of a crumbling system that has seen four 2024 host city candidates abandon the race leaving only two to contest the prize.
“The exploration should be with the view to make the candidature procedure – as already indicated in decisions we have taken before – more pro-active, more collaborative and less expensive in the future,” Bach said.
“So, all the options are on the table and this includes also the 2024/28 procedure and vote.”
But his choice of committee members could lead one to believe that the exploration is designed merely to quiet the calls for the joint award, and to instead to preserve the existing bid process – one that the organization highly values as a key event event on the calendar between the Games.
Australia’s John Coates, Turkey’s Uğur Erdener, China’s Yu Zaiqing and Spain’s Juan Antonio Samaranch, some of whom have already expressed concerns with the joint-awarding plan, are now charged with vetting any proposals to move forward with – and they’ll decide whether an IOC membership vote will be required to approve any changes or if amendments to the charter will be needed.
They’ll also work out any logistics with respect to the involvement of Los Angeles and Paris in the process.
Bach said “after we have received the report in the EB, the IOC Members will have the opportunity to discuss these recommendations in July this year when we have the briefing with the candidate cities.”
The IOC has been spun into crisis mode after Boston, Hamburg and Budapest were forced out of the 2024 Olympic bid race due public opposition of the plans, and Rome’s Mayor dropped her support due to the costs and risks. For the 2022 Olympic Winter Games bid four of six candidates dropped out leaving only two race outsiders to choose from.
With Los Angeles and Paris left in the hunt for 2024, locking up a Games in both lucrative America and in the Olympic hub of Europe where viable bids are becoming scarce could be seen as a significant win for the Olympics – and a stabilizing path out of its current tailspin.
But the four-member committee will have many motivations to push back against any plans to award the 2028 Games this year.
Coates, as President of the Australian Olympic Committee, is endorsing a potential bid for the 2028 Games from Brisbane, the Queensland city that has already invested hundreds-of-thousand of dollars in a feasibility study. Erdener is Chief of Turkey’s Olympic Committee and was involved on Istanbul’s bid for the 2020 Games – the fifth of recent failed bids by the Turkish city. A sixth attempt could be in the works for 2028.
They’ll need to assess the potential political fallout from other cities that may be aspiring to host the 2028 Games, perhaps even promised the opportunity during the new “invitation” stage of the 2024 bid process. At least three cities, Baku in Azerbaijan, Doha in Qatar and Toronto in Canada, had entered talks with the IOC to assess 2024 bids – and the three instead decided to defer campaigns to a future quadrennial.
Also at stake for the four Vice Presidents are their political standing in the organization that could be negatively impacted if they choose to deny the general membership their opportunity to vote for the host cities in 2024 and 2028. Many “back-benchers” in the organization value this voting opportunity as one of the top perks of the position.
There is also little to guarantee that any plans for the joint award will be accepted by the two candidate cities. both Los Angeles and Paris say that their bids are configured specifically for the 2024 timeframe and may not be available in 2028. Though this is likely just political positioning, if neither city admits to being open to a “consolation prize” and advance planning could be futile.
But Bach, as he hands off the decision-making responsibility to those he knows will likely preserve the status quo, continued with the rhetoric that he’s open to change.
He said “what we discussed is that we have an opportunity, that we have two excellent candidates from two major Olympic countries, two candidatures which are embracing Olympic Agenda 2020 very much with the great use of existing facilities, with therefore very low investment budgets, with a modern approach to the Games, with great attractivity for the youth.”
“This is the position you like to be in.
“Even more so if you look at the world in this moment, where we can see a lot of instability, a lot of fragility, a lot of uncertainty. Where we can see many, many changes.”
But Bach backtracks.
“If [the working group members] come back saying that it is better to make no change then it is done and we will make no change. When they are coming back with a different proposal it will depend on how far the change is going.”
“At this moment, I cannot speculate on this. It will be up to the four Vice Presidents not only to tell us about a solution but also about a timeframe and the feasibility as such.”
Bach explained that the Olympic Charter should not get in the way of making these changes.
“I am one of the co-authors of the Charter. I know that the Charter is offering some flexibility there.”
The charter states that host cities must be chosen seven years in advance of the Games unless in ‘exceptional” circumstances.
An IOC Evaluation Commission is set to visit Los Angeles and Paris mid-May ahead of the report of the working group. The IOC membership will meet in July in Lausanne, Switzerland to view technical presentations from the bids and to consider the finding of the Vice Presidents.
The IOC is scheduled to elect a winner September 13 in Lima, Peru.