BidWeek, Reporting from Lausanne, Switzerland – If the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Tuesday afternoon solidifies plans to award both the 2024 and 2028 Olympic Games at the same Session later this year, the new arrangement had better come with a road map that will help the IOC members, the bid cities and – myself – navigate the murky path ahead.
It is widely expected that the full membership will vote to approve IOC President Thomas Bach’s original suggestion – that was later analyzed by a panel of four IOC Vice Presidents and approved by the Executive Board – to award both strong bids from Los Angeles and Paris with the Games next decade.
With well over half of the bid cities dropping out mid-race over the past few years, and several more not even considering the opportunity due to the implied costs and risks surrounding hosts of the mammoth quadrennial event, the IOC is considering the wise choice to secure the services of two willing and capable cities and buy four more years to straighten out their mess to revive the Olympic brand.
But it’s just a single step in the right direction and as it is said – the devil is in the details.
The real decision remains – who will host first? And how can all parties arrive at a solution that won’t insult one of the parties, immediately negating any goodwill originally sought a part of the plan.
Then, what of the 2028 city? It will need its own roadmap to help chart the new territory of organizing the Games over an eleven-year period.
Neither city has addressed the possibility of hosting in 2028, other than Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti who last month said that if his city were pushed to the back of the line, he would want a concession in the form of youth sport funding from the IOC.
LA’s recent rhetoric has indeed been more concessionary, leaving the widely held belief that Paris is the most likely candidate for 2024.
But don’t be fooled.
This race is about posturing, and LA’s low-pressure candor may well be the key to winning member backing should the 2024 allocation actually come down to a vote.
Paris says its plans are not available for 2028 due to time constrained land availability for an Olympic Village along the River Seine in Saint-Denis. This may, or may not be true – even the IOC recognizes that 30 per cent of the land for that project has yet to be acquired, according to its evaluation report. But even if the issue is real, an amended plan for 2028 Games would certainly be achievable. Games deliverables rarely match bid-time plans.
Instead LA claims it is ready to serve the Olympic movement no matter what, even though there are issues that could undermine the value of the 2028 Games for the U.S. city.
A report by the California Legislative Analyst Office (LAO) last week outlined such issues, even as it continued to welcome the opportunity for the Games in either 2024 or 2028.
“Four more years means there is a possibility that some existing venues will not be available or viable as the needs of Olympic sports evolve,” the report explained
“There is a possibility, furthermore, that the Olympic and Paralympic program of events will change more with the passage of four more years—with events added or dropped—necessitating further changes in the Los Angeles venue plan.
“With the Games funded largely by broadcast contracts, corporate sponsorships, and ticket revenues, there is the possibility that the Olympic brand will become less popular over time, reducing the amount of money flowing into IOC and Olympic organizing coffers.”
Seven years to the 2024 Games is already sufficiently risky, and you only need to look back one year to the Rio 2016 Games for a relevant example. When the Brazilian city was victorious in 2009 the nation’s economy was strong and booming. But only mere months had passed before the economics at play began to downward spiral, and Games preparations became a huge financial burden. There were fears that the Paralympics (that were ultimately scaled back) would be canceled altogether, and many vendors have still yet to be paid. The extent of the Rio 2016 debt was discussed by the IOC Executive Board Sunday, and they washed their hands of the millions of outstanding dollars, saying that they already closed the books on Rio last December.
Adding four more years of wait time injects even further variables into the planning that could make both the “high quality” bids that exist today financially cumbersome projects in the future.
There could be multiple government changes, churning economic cycles, natural disasters – stop me when you catch on – changing geopolitics, increasing security challenges, by now you get the point.
Maybe the double-allocation isn’t a good thing after all.
IOC President Thomas Bach said the “consolation prize” of the 2028 Games would be a present, something the city would receive even as it has lost the 2024 race. That city, he said, wouldn’t have to face the costs and the risk of bidding again, and potentially losing in the future.
But is the gift a Trojan horse?
Who’s really benefiting from the double allocation?
Bid teams had already begun to arrive at the lakeside Olympic Capital of Lausanne by Saturday and bid-related events are scheduled until Wednesday morning.
Bach will meet individually with the bid committees Monday, with Paris’ delegation set to include French President Emmanuel Macron and LA’s to be led by Mayor Garcetti. They will gather among IOC members and other stakeholders at a reception Monday night. Then on Tuesday, the two cities will make behind-closed-doors technical presentations to the IOC Membership.
IOC members on Wednesday will view exhibits set up by the bid committees to give them a taste of what could come.
But, it seems, none of that may matter.
The IOC membership will consider, and likely approve, the double-allocation during the Session to be held Tuesday. If the expected rubber-stamping takes place, the race will instead become a tri-party negotiation.
Perhaps – despite all parties having denied the fact – negotiations have already begun. That would have made the most sense heading into the double-allocation approval process. Otherwise, the real work would need to begin from scratch.
On the road map, if one is provided, I’ll be looking for what each stakeholder group gets from the change in the 2024 candidature process. For Paris and Los Angeles, what provisions will be in place should either one accept the 2028 role, and what will the allocation look like? For the IOC as a whole, how will the organization control the optics of the allocation, and how will they simultaneously manage the organization of three Summer Games. And for the IOC members, how will their participation in the allocation process preserve their most revered privilege, the election of the Olympic host cities.
And then there’s this. What if the 2028 ‘awardee’ says ‘no’? Will the IOC need to begin campaigning to recruit that city?
Though anything short of a member revolt against President Bach will see both Games offered to the two 2024 bid cities, how the rest of the week may play out is still a mystery to outsiders.