The Olympic bid site selection process “produces too many losers” International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said Thursday at a quarterly Executive Board meeting held in Lausanne, Switzerand.
Cities that are interested in hosting the Olympic Games have declined over the past several years but the IOC had hoped to bolster the number of applicants when Olympic Agenda 2020 reforms were passed in 2014 that were expected to make bidding for and hosting the Games more affordable and sustainable.
But of five applicants for the 2024 Games, two have already dropped out of the race due to costs and declining support.
Bach said Thursday “without the Olympic Agenda 2020 we would have in effect no candidate for 2024.”
“We have to think long term and we have already started somehow with 2024 by reducing the number of losers because in this invitation stage we have already advised three potential other candidates not to put their candidature forward.
“One of the points to be considered are the strengths of this invitation phase entering into dialog some cities at an even earlier stage going into more detail in the discussion.”
The 2024 Olympic bid process was the first to vet potential candidates ahead of the city launching a campaign by introducing an interactive invitation stage where the potential, risks and responsibilities of an Olympic Games could be assessed. While it has never been expressly confirmed by the IOC, it is understood that 2016 and 2020 bidders Doha, Qatar and Baku, Azerbaijan had entered into discussions with the IOC about possible 2024 bids during the new phase but decided not to move forward.
The third potential candidate advised by the IOC not to submit a bid was likely Toronto as the Mayor of the Canadian city said on the eve of the application deadline that he decided not to move forward after discussions with the IOC.
“We will have to further study our candidature process there and beyond 2024, I told you we are very happy with the field of 2024, but we are seeing that because of Agenda 2020 there are more changes,” Bach said.
In October Rome dropped out of the 2024 race after shifting municipal politics left the bid without Mayoral support, and last year Hamburg withdrew from the competition when the bid narrowly lost public support in a referendum.
The IOC President said “you can see how in many countries, not only in Europe but also in other continents in the meantime you have popular movements, anti-establishment movements, that are getting stronger and stronger, they are asking different and new questions.”
“You can be happy about a strong field in quantity for one day but you start to regret it the next day because then the procedure starts to produce losers.
“That is not the purpose of an Olympic candidature procedure to produce losers, the real purpose is to produce the best possible host for an Olympics.
“So we will have to look into this.”
Bach’s surprising and potentially game-changing comments creates ambiguity surrounding the IOC’s goals with respect to bidding. While Bach and his organization have been pushing for larger Olympic bid fields after seeing only two cities left in the running for the 2022 Winter Games and now three for 2024, Thursday’s comments lend themselves to generating a smaller, better-curated list of candidates.
When pushed for clarification at a press conference Bach admitted “I don’t have the golden rule in my head.”
But the IOC Chief didn’t deny the possibility that both 2024 and 2028 Summer Games hosts could both be awarded to the existing candidates when members vote for the 2024 winner next September.
He said “let us study this question, which is not an easy one.”
It’s clear, however, that major changes are on the way for the Olympic bid process. Several nations are already preparing possible bids for the 2026 Olympic Winter Games including Switzerland, Austria and a bid from Calgary in Canada. That process is expected to get underway next year.
All three contenders for the 2024 Games – Los Angeles, Budapest and Paris – were approved to move on to the final stage of the bid by the IOC Executive Board Thursday allowing them to cross the finish line when the final vote takes place September 13, 2017 in Lima, Peru.