Annecy will fight for 2018 Games while President Sarkozy stays home

The Annecy 2018 Olympic bid team will suffer a morale blow with French media reports indicating that President Nicolas Sarkozy has no plans represent his nation’s bid at the election in Durban, South Africa next week.

The French bid, already an outsider in this race, will stand by and watch the heads-of-state of the other two candidate cities meet, greet and present to International Olympic Committee (IOC) members at the most crucial point of the race. South Korean President Myung-bak Lee will lead the PyeongChang team and German President Christian Wuff will front Munich’s bid during what could be defining moments in the two leaders’ nations.

Involving heads-of-state in final bid presentations increased in importance for successfully contending a bid when in 2005 Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair traveled to Singapore to bring home a victory for London. His presence and personal candor with IOC members has been credited with the upset win over Paris and French President Jacques Chirac, who also attended.

Sarkozy’s reluctance to travel to Durban could be a reflection of his lack of optimism in a race where Annecy has been lagging behind – and the risk of suffering the same embarrassing fate as Chirac.

The final bid presentations for the 2016 Summer Games involved the state leaders of all four bids including President Barack Obama of the United States who controversially traveled to Copenhagen to represent his home town of Chicago – amid backlash that he should have attended to business at home. He was already on Air Force One headed home when he got the call that his bid was shockingly ousted on the first ballot.

Sarkozy has been touring French provinces in what has been described as a precursor to a re-election campaign for 2012. Today he was in southwest France when he was reportedly assaulted by a man as he was shaking hands with the public. With already depressed public opinion poll numbers, Sarkozy has probably decided to avoid the risk of a visible connection to a failed bid.

French Sports Minister Chantal Jouanno will arrive in Durban Sunday to represent the federal government’s role in the bid – that is unless Sarkozy has a change-of-heart before the final presentation scheduled for July 6.