Reporting From Lausanne, Switzerland – Tuesday’s possible International Olympic Committee (IOC) decision to award both Paris and Los Angeles with Olympic Games at the same session is not without precedent. In fact, the last such double-award occurrence almost a century ago significantly impacted the same two cities, and the immediate needs of the IOC.
Pierre de Coubertin came up with the double-award scenario 96 years ago after the founder of the modern Olympic Movement in 1921 declared that he would retire after the 1924 Games and wanted to celebrate the event one more time in the birthplace of the Olympics – Paris.
At the time, international sport was struggling in the aftermath of the First World War and many European National Olympic Committees feared that they couldn’t afford the costs of travel to a distant Games. Along with Paris there were bids from Amsterdam, Rome, Barcelona, Prague and Los Angeles – the latter, it was feared, would make attendance by many nations difficult.
At the 1921 IOC Session in Lausanne, Coubertin struck a deal with the French NOC that would have them support the Amsterdam candidacy for 1928 should Paris be awarded the 1924 Games. To ensure the next two Games would occur on European soil, starting with Paris – and that Los Angeles be pushed out of the immediate picture, he insisted that both Paris and Amsterdam be awarded the Games at that same Lausanne Session.
A first vote by members to accept the double-allocation was passed by a majority, then following votes awarded the 1924 and 1928 Games as per Coubertin’s plans. Los Angeles was awarded the 1932 Games, unopposed, at a later Session.
Was IOC President Thomas Bach reading history books when he formulated the recent proposal?
With Paris the likely favourite to host in 2024, and Los Angeles expected to be given the 2028 Games as a consolation – two historical streaks could stay alive. Paris’ second consecutive first-in-line dual-award win and Los Angeles’ third unopposed selection after getting both the 1932 and 1984 Games without an actual vote.
So, while Tuesday’s IOC member vote is unusual, it isn’t unprecedented. And the players and location are eerily similar almost a century later.
That’s your history lesson for today. Carry on.
A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of GamesBids.com 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.