Top 10 Olympic Bid Stories Of 2017: Part 2 of 2

GamesBids.com presents the tenth annual Top Ten list of Olympic Bid Stories for 2017. These stories impacted the course of Olympic host city bids, or the Olympic bid process, and formed interesting plot lines and story arcs for the year.  In part 2 we count down #5 to #1 – click on the links for details.

(CLICK HERE TO READ PART 1 – COUNTING DOWN #10 TO #6)

#5 – Budapest Forced Out Of 2024 Olympic Bid Setting Stage For Historic Decisions

Budapest’s 2024 Olympic bid spent 2016 clinging precariously on to its Olympic dreams, enough so to make the story #10 on last year’s annual list. But that all came to an end this February when Hungary’s Olympic aspirations finally succumbed to the unrelated politics of the day.

Passers by read an Olympic bid poster at the Citadella in Budapest Hungary February 20, 2017 (GamesBids Photo)

Passers by read an Olympic bid poster at the Citadella in Budapest Hungary February 20, 2017 (GamesBids Photo)

A youth group with lofty political goals known as the Momentum Party managed to rally and collect over 266,000 signatures on a petition to force a referendum over the bid.  Group leaders admitted to GamesBids.com that they had nothing against the Olympics and were indeed using the platform to raise their profile and give people a say in the process.

Though polls at the time suggested a slight majority in Hungary favoured bidding for the Games, winning a referendum was no guarantee, and an almost unlikely result in the European environment where Olympic referendums typically end in defeat.

Entering a risky referendum was not appetizing for Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban who will be facing an election in 2018 and would not want a bid he backed defeated in a public vote.  Instead, he withdrew support to end the bid before the public could weigh in.

The decision was swift.  I had just left from a three-day tour of the Hungarian capital to examine its Olympic plans and a brand new aquatics facility built for the 2017 World Championships, only to arrive at Toronto’s Pearson Airport to the breaking development.  I filed my report while sitting on the floor against the baggage claim carousel.

Budapest officials vowed that they would bid again, but as the city’s exit from the race left only Los Angeles and Paris in the race allowing for the historic double-allocation of both cities – 2032 will be the next available opportunity.

It was later revealed, after Paris 2024 and LA 2028 were confirmed as host cities, that the IOC had already been preparing for Budapest’s demise and talks with LA and the double-allocation were in development.

#4 – Macron and Trump Become Part of 2024 Conversation

When Emmanuel Macron captured a stunning Presidential victory in France just days before the IOC Evaluation Commission members were scheduled to touch down at Charles De Gaulle Airport for an on-site inspection, it became clear that the 2024 race was squarely within reach of Paris.

French President Emmanuel Macron with IOC President Thomas Bach arriving at Olympic Museum in Lausanne (GamesBids Photo)

French President Emmanuel Macron (left) with IOC President Thomas Bach arriving at Olympic Museum in Lausanne (GamesBids Photo)

Macron was a solid supporter of the Olympic bid throughout his Presidential campaign and the bid committee was quick to embrace his victory.  More importantly, he defeated far-right populist candidate Marine Le Pen who was considered problematic for the bid.

Indeed, Macron wasted no time getting personally involved in the bid, welcoming the Olympic Committee to Élysée Palace the day following his inauguration and vowing to attend two critical meetings: a technical briefing in Lausanne in July and the final presentation September in Lima.

While Macron passed on the Lima trip after a deal to award Paris with the 2024 Games had already been solidified, he attended what ended up to be a more critical meeting – the July technical briefing where the President instead had the opportunity to negotiate the eventual double-allocation with Bach and LA Mayor Eric Garcetti.

His presence was considered a huge boost for Paris 2024 among the media and many observers, and he left Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, the ongoing face of the bid, in his shadow.

Meanwhile U.S. President Donald Trump seemed to have the opposite effect on the LA bid.

He spent much of his first year in office boosting his isolationist policies and fighting scandal after scandal, not paying too much attention to the Olympic bid.  But he did host IOC President Thomas Bach for a meeting at the White House in June, a rare diplomatic event.  The meeting was low-key and was not formally announced by the White House or the IOC and the agenda was never revealed.

But a Tweet by Trump in July while Macron was in Lausanne to promote Paris alluded that the U.S. President was involved in the negotiations.

“Working hard to get the Olympics for the United States (L.A.). Stay tuned!” the President Tweeted.

We now know that by July the double-allocation of Paris in 2024 and LA in 2028 was pretty much in stone, save the formalities – so perhaps the Tweet was just Trump stealing an easy win.

We also know that many in the LA 2024 bid committee were quite concerned that Trump won the election, and not just because the bid was led by Democrats.  With many of Trump’s policies against Olympic ideals, it was thought that IOC members would refrain from voting for the U.S. bid for that reason.

Trump’s election victory could have been the catalyst for LA’s double-allocation proposal.  If LA were to concede 2024 and instead be awarded the 2028 Games without a vote (just as it actually happened), the IOC electorate couldn’t vote against the U.S. bid.  And in eleven year’s time, Trump’s potential second term would have been long passed so there would be no risk that he could be the head-of-state to open the Games (as he could have been in 2024).

So though Macron was far more involved in his Olympic bid, perhaps Trump is the national leader who had the greatest impact on the outcome.

#3 – Paris Awarded 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games

Typically, the awarding of the Olympic Games is the top story of the year on our list – not number three.  But this year, the bid for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games was anything but typical.  At the end, Paris was granted its third Olympic Games uncontested after the race began with five applicants.  The decision was taken with a unanimous show of hands by IOC Session members in Lima, Peru September 13.

Paris 2024 and LA 2028 are awarded the Olympic Games

Paris 2024 and LA 2028 are awarded the Olympic Games (Left to Right: Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, IOC President Thomas Bach, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti)

Hamburg, Rome and Budapest were forced to withdraw from the race, and after creative negotiations and the bold plan of IOC President Thomas Bach – Los Angeles ceded the race to Paris.  More on this when we get to top stories one and two.

It was a long road for Paris, the city hosted the 1900 and 1924 editions, but bids for the 1992, 2008 and 2012 Games all failed.  The French capital had no appetite for further disappointment.

Led by dynamic Mayor Anne Hidalgo and equally spirited Olympic Champion Tony Estanguet – the Paris 2024 team put together a sustainable plan that included the use of many existing iconic venues.  Only the Villages and a swim facility need to be built.

The May election of bid supporter Emmanuel Macron as President of France further solidified the campaign, offering a strong partner at the highest level.  It would have been difficult for the IOC to turn down the City of Lights for a fourth time – and at the end, they didn’t need to.

#2 – Los Angeles Awarded 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games

Like Paris, Los Angeles was also awarded its third Games, uncontested at the Lima Session when members unanimously agreed to award the two cities consecutive editions.

As the sun sets on the LA 2024 Evaluation Commission Visit, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti (left) and Casey Wasserman continue to drive a compelling narrative (GamesBids Photo)

As the sun sets on the LA 2024 Evaluation Commission Visit, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti (left) and Casey Wasserman drive a compelling narrative (GamesBids Photo)

LA’s Games are to be held in 2028, and the decision means the U.S. metropolis will have the longest time to prepare for the Games in Olympic history.  Organizers will have almost 11 years to plan the event, even though there is not a single new venue to be constructed.

LA was to compete with Paris head-to-head at a final vote in Lima, but leadership from the Los Angeles bid and IOC Executives imagined a better way.  Concerned about how the Donald Trump presidency might negatively impact the vote – a dual-allocation that would grant LA the 2028 Games was considered.

The bid, led by Entertainment mogul Casey Wasserman, Olympic Champion Janet Evans and Mayor Eric Garcetti came up with a groundbreaking privately funded concept that leverages all already planned or existing facilities to deliver a low cost and potentially profitable event.  It was timed perfectly with the IOC’s need to prove that the Games could be staged without the high cost and risks associated with other recent Games.

With some leverage in hand, Mayor Garcetti had the acute vision to accept the 2028 edition with certain conditions.  Foremost, he asked the IOC for shares of broadcast and sponsorship revenue in advance, with payments beginning January 1, 2018 that would fund youth sports across the city.  It was that kind of vision for 2028 that won the support of an incredible 83 per cent of Angelenos according to a July poll.

The city’s unusual path to win the 2028 Games gives LA’s award the edge over Paris on our top stories list.  The U.S. city has won all three stagings of the Olympics unopposed.

#1 – Historic Olympic Games Double Allocation A Bold Move To Help Recover Olympic Movement

The last time two mainstream Olympic Games were awarded at the same Session was in 1986, when the Summer and Winter Games were awarded to be staged in the same year, 1992.

In 2017, for the first time two Olympic and Paralympic Games were awarded for separate years, and in a single vote.

The historic double-allocation that saw both Paris and Los Angeles awarded the 2024 and 2028 Olympic Games respectively, was by far the top Olympic bid story of the year.  The concept itself is groundbreaking – showing that the IOC and its President Thomas Bach are willing to create change, and create an environment for change and taking risks to obtain the results necessary to forward the Olympic Movement.

The IOC had been accused of providing only lip-service to address its recent challenges, and to only drone on about Agenda 2020 reforms and the resulting policy changes as a tool for change.  But by overturning the 2024 and 2028 bid campaigns to instead lock in two strong proposals, and buying time to convince the public that bidding for the Olympics is safe once again, the IOC has become proactive instead of reactive.

After Hamburg and Rome were ousted from the 2024 race in 2016 due to public push-back, and with all the signs that Budapest would soon follow suit, IOC President Thomas Bach feared that the competition was producing ‘too many losers’ – making the whole process toxic to the Olympic movement.  He felt that if he didn’t immediately embrace the value being offered to the IOC in strong L.A. and Paris candidatures, his organization could be left with nothing.

After Budapest left the race in February, serious discussions about a double-allocation took place.  A panel of four IOC Vice-Presidents was tasked with investigating the idea.  But, if you believe reports that came out after both cities were finally awarded the Games – the double-allocation with 2024 in Paris and 2028 in Los Angeles was a foregone conclusion, and the idea of LA officials who said they would rather guarantee the 2028 Games for the U.S. than face a risky election and potentially end up with nothing.

In June, the panel proclaimed that the double-allocation was possible and should be pursued.  By July, an IOC Session voted to allow the double-awarding during September’s Session in Lima, Peru.  Both cities immediately ratcheted back campaigning and within weeks it was announced that a deal had been struck.

The formalities of the awards took place at the IOC Lima Session in September, one of the most anti-climactic IOC Sessions in history.

Bach managed to convince almost 100 IOC members to give up their most sacred privilege, twice, by relinquishing their right to vote for the host cities for 2024 and 2028.  Instead they were only to approve the Executive Board’s decision.  With that, Bach took control.

Each quadrennial, less cities are interested in hosting the Summer Olympic Games (Click to enlarge)

Each quadrennial, less cities are interested in hosting the Summer Olympic Games (Click to enlarge) – This infographic was our most viewed image of 2017.

Two Games sited without a single ballot being cast.  An almost eight-year span for preparing, campaigning and politicking was instead replaced by just a few months of negotiations.  Plans were made for a Games that won’t open for almost eleven years, without the need to build any venues.  And no ‘losers’.  There were so many ground breaking firsts in one single site selection campaign.

And Bach has yet to rule out that it could all happen again for the 2026 and 2030 Winter Games bids.

This clearly was an unprecedented year – and one that has seen fundamental change in Olympic bidding that will take the process, finally, into the twenty-first century.

Happy New Year, and all the best in 2018 from GamesBids.com.  Watch for our on-site Olympic Winter Games coverage in PyeongChang February.

Follow @gamesbids on Twitter or facebook.com/gamesbids so you don’t miss a beat!

Robert Livingstone

About Robert Livingstone

Robert Livingstone is a senior editor, award-nominated journalist and author, covering Olympic bid business as founder of GamesBids.com as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. He is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians. Follow him @enotsgnivil

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