IOC Debates Reinstating Member Visits to Bid Cities; National Bids

Ahead of Friday’s Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) membership is participating in the 126th all-members session in Sochi. Newly elected President Thomas Bach leveraged this opportunity to discuss his “Olympic Agenda 2020” plans and spark debate about the issues.

On the table regarding the site selection process are bid city visits by members and switching the scope of the bids from the city to national level, much like the hosting of the FIFA World Cup.

On the brink of the start of Sochi 2014 the worldwide discussion has been circling around the selection of the Russian Black Sea resort for this installment of the Games; and amid cost overruns, construction delays and human rights concerns – asking how the IOC could back the risky bid.

On Wednesday, a key topic for the new agenda was the bid city process and how it could be reformed to allow members to make better choices and incent a wider range of potential host cities to bid.

Foremost, IOC members debated in favor of reinstating IOC members’ visits to bidding cities, allowing them a first-hand look at the potential site ahead of their decision. Such visits were abolished in the wake of the Salt Lake City vote-buying scandal that broke in 1998 leading to the expulsion of several corrupt members.

Many members, including Canada’s Dick Pound argued that the organization has now moved on and site visits should be brought back – but member Prince Albert of Monaco disagreed.

“The costs are significant for the IOC and it’s also a lot of time for the bidding city to organize these visits,” he said.

“I think it’s very risky to go down that path again.”

Also discussed was shifting the bid scope to allow national bids instead of bids from cities alone, spreading venues across a wider scale leaving a better, more efficient legacy and giving more cities a chance to participate.

Israeli member Alex Gilady was opposed to this concept.

He said “if we go to a country we will lose the Olympic Village.”

“If we change the concept from city to country we may start the end of the Games.”

Before leaving Sochi working commissions will be established then working groups will develop recommendations and draft proposals for the future of the bid process. These will be reviewed and could be accepted by the IOC at an extraordinary session to be held in December in Monaco.