GamesBids.com 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: #4 – Should IOC Award Both 2024 and 2028 Olympic Games To L.A. and Paris Next Year?
If anything, this question asked in the title could be the top Olympic bid query of the year: should the International Olympic Committee (IOC) award both the 2024 and the 2028 Olympic Games To L.A. and Paris respectively at the same all-members session scheduled for September 13 in Lima, Peru?
Earlier in December IOC President Thomas Bach was pressed to answer this question, and surprisingly he didn’t rule out the possibility – but he didn’t endorse such a plan either.
He said at the time, “let us study this question, which is not an easy one.”
Such a plan was first proposed in September by veteran Olympic sportswriter Alan Abrahamson in his 3 Wire Sports column and he wrote bluntly “The IOC ought to declare that the next two Games, 2024 and 2028, are going to Los Angeles and to Paris, and in that order, and then spend the next few years figuring out how to make this process work in and for the 21st century.”
Abrahamson, a Los Angeles area resident (though he claims no bias in this regard) is one of the most seasoned Olympic writers with access to the inner circles of the Olympic movement, so it’s no surprise his comments gained traction among the IOC thought leaders.
The plan is simple, logical, and probably effective – but I don’t think the IOC will execute on it.
The premise is that L.A.’s bid, a project that requires no new venue construction and is supported by 88 per cent of Angelenos, is as close as the IOC can get to a sure bet and offers a safe path to 2024. Don’t forget, it was L.A. that turned the Olympic Games around in 1984 by making them profitable once again after years of heavy losses. Check.
Choosing America’s bid would also appease the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and broadcaster NBC who together provide the top revenue source for the Olympic movement. Check.
Then by immediately securing Paris to host its third Games in 2028, a quick return to a capable major European capital will be assured without risking the possibility of a weak field during the next bid cycle. It would also demonstrate goodwill from the IOC by awarding the Games to a bid that has failed in three recent attempts. Check.
As an added bonus, Paris would get eleven years to prepare for the Games, and could work with L.A. to leverage lessons learned. The IOC would have six years before it would have to kick off another bid campaign (for 2032), hopefully enough time to figure out how to make the process work again. Check.
By skipping a bid cycle, Bach would be following through on his “too many losers” comment made in December in reference to bolstering the bid’s “invitation stage” that is used to vet cities that may not be ready at the outset and instead encourage them to defer until a future cycle.
Most importantly, with public perception of the Olympic movement at an all-time low – this plan will buy all stakeholders time to turn things around and earn the trust of referendum-voters by demonstrating that the capability exists to organize the Games without debt, corruption and chaos. Check, check and check.
The alternative for the IOC would be to push forward with President Thomas Bach’s Olympic Agenda 2020, a set of reforms that provide new guidelines designed to fix the bid process. The problem is, the three ambiguous bid reforms with which each vastly different subsequent bid has declared a perfect fit, don’t work. And when it comes time for IOC members to secretly vote for their favorite bid, the Agenda becomes irrelevant.
In short, words on a screen won’t fix the problem – but actions could.
If Abrahamson’s Advice was put into play, the IOC Executive Board’s decision to select L.A. and Paris – and encourage the voting members to ratify that decision in Lima – would then embody Agenda 2020. Instead of words to encourage change, the decision would be that change.
Could it be that simple? No.
With the IOC being a broad, international policy-making organization – such a path could result in political war.
First, there may be underlying issues created by the 2024 race of which we are not aware. What of Baku, Doha and perhaps Toronto? All three were hot prospects running up to the application deadline, all three have made multiple recent bids but all three stood down, making way for four European cities along with L.A. to fight it out for the prize. Were those cities promised anything during secret “invitation stage” discussions? Certainly they were offered the chance to bid instead for 2028.
The IOC ought to declare that the next two Games, 2024 and 2028, are going to Los Angeles and to Paris, and in that order, and then spend the next few years figuring out how to make this process work in and for the 21st century. – Alan Abrahamson, 3 Wire Sports
There could be much political collateral at stake.
What about Budapest, the third remaining candidate in the race? Any official IOC discussion that refers to Budapest as an outsider or somehow relegates the bid’s status to anything less than an equal contender would violate the IOC’s own ethics rules.
And Budapest officials would argue a compelling point that setting the Agenda 2020 example with only L.A. and Paris could create an exclusive mega-city Olympic club where only a handful of nations and cities would be viable hosts in the future. This path would fly in the face of Olympic values which suggest the Games belong to the world. In fact, Budapest executives believe the whole point of Agenda 2020, the model all three applicants have been working so hard to conform to, is to open the doors for mid-size cities that wouldn’t otherwise be able to organize the event.
An assumption in this double-election is that Paris is willing-and-able to play the role of runner-up, and that it is wise for the IOC to take an eleven year ride with an organizing committee. The availability of the City of Lights for the event in 2028 may be subject to new contracts and new approvals – and the status of proposed venues, or land for those venues could be different after an additional four years.
For the IOC there will be increased risks in the equation that come with the additional time. There will be more shifts in governments and additional economic cycles to weather – the same kinds of change we saw in Rio during the only seven year journey from bid city to host city, one that almost led to the most disastrous Games in history.
When it boils down, the IOC may just reject this two-for-one concept simply at its face value. The IOC benefits greatly from bid campaigns, and eliminating a Summer Games bid cycle might feel like a loss. Bid campaigns from nations around the world help spread Olympism and positive Olympic messages in the gaps between the Games. Whether a city wins or loses, a legacy from the bid itself is often left behind, benefiting key national Olympic committees. Bids are a valuable marketing tool for the IOC.
And the opportunity to vote for the next Olympic host city is one of the favorite perks of IOC members, one which they won’t give up easily.
I believe, with all political motives taken into account, Bach and his Executive Board will continue the course – only tweaking the bid process and leveraging the existing Agenda 2020 to try to turn things around. With recent lessons-learned from Rio and Tokyo, they’ll be hoping that voting IOC members will make a thoughtful choice in September.
But if they really want to be the change they are hoping for, they may just consider the Abrahamson Advice.
That would most certainly be the top Olympic bid story for 2017. Stay tuned!