Top Olympic Bid Stories of 2014: #7 – IOC Reforms Mandate Bid Consultants Registry presents the seventh annual Top Ten list of Olympic Bid Stories for 2014. These stories impacted the course of Olympic bids, or the Olympic bid process, and formed interesting plot lines for the year. We’ll run them down from 10th to 1st during the holiday season.

#7 – IOC Reforms Mandate Bid Consultants Registry Top Ten 2014 #9 (Jon Tibbs, JTA) Top Ten 2014 #9 (Jon Tibbs, JTA)

The use of consultants to guide cities with their Olympic bids has been commonplace for decades in a space where specific experience and knowledge is extremely limited but essential for success.

All recent successful bids have leveraged the expertise of the small group of professional consultants in order to convince the IOC to partner with them and host the Olympic Games.

But this year – that model of success was questioned, then turned on its head.

Late last year Thomas Bach was elected President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and he introduced Agenda 2020 and made a promise to change the way cities bid for the Olympics.  He also blamed “outside consultants” for stifling bid creativity that would otherwise come from the cities themselves and encouraged national Olympic committees to develop bids on their own.

At that point six applicants for the 2022 Games distanced themselves from the traditional bid consultants in order to win the IOC’s favor – and top bid consultants made other plans.

But then four European bids dropped from the race in the wake of one of the worst public relations disasters in Olympic history.  Referencing the reportedly high cost of building the infrastructure for the Sochi 2014 Games, constituents rejected the perceived financial risks of hosting the Games in the future.

IOC’s Executive Director Gilbert Felli said the IOC should take blame.  In what seemed to be an underhanded remark he said that the IOC’s mistake was to allow outside consultants to control the communications, and then the wrong messages were sent.  It’s worth noting that most of the European bids were rejected while the expert consultants were on the sidelines.

Fast-forward a few months and Bach releases Agenda 2020 and a proposal to create a consultants registry that would contain a list of professionals who comply with the IOC’s ethical standards.  Now, it seems, bids could consult the registry and hire the needed expertise without fear of losing marks from the Evaluation Commission.  Of course, the choice to consult the registry is at the discretion of each bid committee and they could hire as they please.

It seems we have come full-circle on the issue.

But at least one professional told that he sees value in what has transpired:

JTA totally supports the concept of an Olympic consultants register for which we have been pushing for several years.

At the moment potential Olympic clients are confused by the wide and overlapping range of consultants’ services and conflicting claims of experience and expertise. There is also a huge discrepancy in ethical values and fees charged by consultants for similar services simply because the clients, such as bid cities, have no clear understanding of the average market rates. Some clients believe that the more they pay, the better chance they have in winning. This is simply not the case and the proposed register will enable the IOC to give potential Olympic clients a list of approved consultants for the proposed work and give some indicative industry standard fees that they can expect to charge.  It is then up to the potential client to accept or decline the advice given by the IOC.

– Jon Tibbs, JTA

Watch or follow us on Twitter or Facebook for Top Bid Stories #6 to #1.

About Robert Livingstone

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.