2016 Top 10: #3 Agenda 2020 Continues To Disappoint Olympic Bid Stakeholders presents the ninth annual Top Ten list of Olympic Bid Stories for 2016. 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. We’ll run them down from 10th to 1st as the year ends – click on the links for details.

Top Olympic Bid Stories of 2016: #3 – Agenda 2020 Continues To Disappoint Olympic Bid Stakeholders

IOC President Thomas Bach at 127th IOC Session speaking on Agenda 2020 (IOC Photo)
IOC President Thomas Bach at 127th IOC Session speaking on Agenda 2020 (IOC Photo)

Last year for 2015, the failure of Agenda 2020 was our top story – even beating out the historical Winter Games bid election victory by Beijing that made it the first Winter and Summer Games host city.

This year IOC President Thomas Bach’s Olympic Agenda 2020 was still a prevalent theme, keeping it at number three on our list.

Along with proposed changes that were designed to reform the bid process for the better, Agenda 2020 was put forward to bootstrap the Olympic Movement into the twenty-first century.  This year we saw the launch of the Olympic Channel during the closing ceremonies of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.  Now available to be streamed on many devices, the channel recently inked a deal with U.S.-based NBCUniversal to form a cable network.

The long-discussed channel will help engage people, and hopefully younger people, with Olympic sports and athletes between the Games – giving them a dose of their heroes on an ongoing basis.  This was certainly a step forward.

Also a direct result of Agenda 2020 this year was the addition of five new sports to the Tokyo 2020 program.  Designed to embrace sports that are enjoyed by youth and by the host nation, the one-time change to the sport program will include baseball and softball, climbing, sailing, skateboarding and karate.  This too was considered and Agenda 2020 win.

From a bid perspective, however, Agenda 2020 has failed to make a positive impact leaving International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executives scratching their heads.  With proposals designed to cut costs and reduce white elephant legacies, it was hoped the reforms would attract more candidate cities and rally public support.  But with severe challenges organizing the Rio Games that were staged in August, and extreme budget increases already reported for the Tokyo 2020 Games – the opposite has happened.

Rome forced to abandon Olympic Bid Via @Roma2024 Twitter

With Hamburg already out of the race after losing a referendum over the bid late last year, Rome’s Mayor Virginia Raggi won her mandate on a platform that opposed Italy’s Olympic bid that she claimed was too costly, too risky and an unworthy diversion of funds from essential city services.  She claimed any support for the bid would be “irresponsible” and soon canceled the project.

It seems now that even IOC President Thomas Bach, the top Agenda 2020 advocate, sees that weaknesses remain in the process and has vowed that further changes are on the way.  Bach claimed that there were “too many losers” as a result of the process, discouraging new potential candidates.

But instead of abandoning the reforms it appears that Bach may want to double-down on Agenda 2020 in order to encourage a better result.  The newly introduced bid “invitation stage,” designed to open dialogue between the IOC and potential candidates before the application deadline, may hold the key; reports have circulated that the IOC may extend this period to better vet the applicants before any embarrassing withdrawals from the campaign after it has begun.

What is clear, however, is that until the IOC and its franchise organizing committees can prove that hosting the Games is a winning proposition once again, public support for bids will continue to spiral out of control.

One proposal (our number four story of 2016) is to elect both 2024 and 2028 host cities at a single session next year, abandoning an entire bid cycle so the Olympic movement will have time to make it all right before the next bid cycle.  But for political reasons this is not likely to happen.

Will Agenda 2020 make our list again in 2017?  Keep watching!

Watch or follow us on Twitter or Facebook and read the other top stories for the year listed so far, below.  We’ll be counting them down until January 1.

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A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. Robert Livingstone is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians.

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