IOC Forms Working Group To Retool Troubled Olympic Bid Process

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced Wednesday that it will form a five-member working group to define the next steps in the reformation of the troubled Olympic site selection bid process.

IOC President Thomas Bach speaks at an Executive Board Meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland March 27, 2019 (IOC Photo)

IOC President Thomas Bach speaks at an Executive Board Meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland March 27, 2019 (IOC Photo)

Speaking from the organization’s Executive Board meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, IOC President Thomas Bach confirmed that the group has been given an open mandate to steer the process in the right direction.

The group will be led by IOC Member John Coates and include four other members representing all five continents.

“The composition and the members of this working group represent not only the five continents but they also represent a wide scope of knowledge on the candidature procedure.”

The other members are not on the IOC Executive Board and include Danka Bartekov, Lingwei Li, Lydia Nsekera and Gerardo Werthein.

Bach explained that Coates is an ideal selection to chair this commission due to his close involvement in the recent double-allocation that led to the awarding of the Summer Games to Paris in 2024 and Los Angeles in 2028.

“We gave them a kind of blank cheque to organize themselves,” Bach said adding “we hope that they will be creative and effective in decisions.”

“The time continues to change and we want to be on top of these developments and this is why we discuss further steps to make the candidature process even more flexible and more dialogue oriented.”

As an example, Bach suggested a possibility of the IOC directly approaching a candidate that it deems qualified to host within Agenda 2020 constraints explaining “maybe in a previous candidature procedure we have advised you not to be a candidate… we have been following your development,” and now might be a better time.

IOC President Thomas Bach at 127th IOC Session speaking on Agenda 2020 (IOC Photo)

IOC President Thomas Bach at 127th IOC Session speaking on Agenda 2020 (IOC Photo)

He rules out, however, striking a deal directly with a city and without public consultation.

“We want this also to be transparent and not being presented as a fait accompli without nobody knowing who is talking to whom,” he said.

“The Olympic Games are too big and too important than that you could make an arrangement with a city without a public discussion.”

Bach expects that the work will take time, but he hopes to see some results quickly.

“I would hope that maybe for the [IOC] Session in June we’ll get at least maybe some guidelines or some directions or some principles but I do not want to put limits on their efforts.”

“If they would come up with a full solution ready for May, it would be even more welcome , but that is very ambitious,” he said noting that the next Executive Board meeting is on May 22.

The formation of the commission follows a string of failed bids for the 2020, 2022, 2024 and 2026 Summer and Winter Olympic Games, many due to loss of stakeholder confidence in the economics of organizing the event and the credibility of the IOC.

Four of six cities dropped out of the 2022 process, three of five exited the 2024 process and there are only two of seven remaining applicants interested in hosting the 2026 Games.

The Olympic Agenda 2020 reform package written in 2013 has items to address the bid process, but so far it has proven ineffective in retaining interested candidates.

But Bach believes this is changing, he said “now the reforms are gaining momentum and we are getting the message of the reforms across better,” referring to recent positive responses to 2026 bids from Milan-Cortina in Italy and Stockholm Åre in Sweden.

“Better than the beginning where we were facing many challenges,” he added.

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Last year promising campaigns by Sion in Switzerland and Calgary in Canada were cancelled after losing public referendums.  Two bids from Austria, Innsbruck then Graz, left the race after losing public support.

Milan-Cortina and Stockholm Åre have both proposed low-cost and widespread regional concepts that use about 80 percent existing or temporary venues.  This is the model that the IOC hopes to move forward with, to regain public trust.

Bach also pointed to growing interest by National Olympic Committees to host the 2030 and 2032 Olympics, with as many as eight projects in development for 2032.

On Tuesday the IOC released a commissioned Publicus poll that found 77 percent internationally  “believe staging the Olympic Games provides many benefits for the host city.”

It also found that 72 percent “believe hosting the Olympic Games provides and opportunity for economic development.”

Robert Livingstone

About Robert Livingstone

Robert Livingstone is a senior editor, award-winning journalist and author, covering Olympic bid business as founder of GamesBids.com as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. He is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians. Follow him @enotsgnivil