One down, nine to go, lots to talk about

ACAPULCO -- One presentation down. As many as nine more to go, concluding with the International Olympic Committee's vote next July for the 2018 Games. Munich unquestionably had the best videos here Thursday. It's why they were widely perceived to be the winners in Thursday's initial presentations, with Pyeongchang slightly behind and Annecy farther back.

One presentation hardly makes for an Olympic victory, however. As the bid teams regrouped here Friday, and as officials from the more than 200 national Olympic committees on hand dissected what they'd seen the day before, discussion turned to key issues that were not explored Thursday in detail but may yet prove pivotal.

Here are reports of what they were talking about:


Vancouver in 2010. Torino in 2006. Salt Lake City in 2002.

Those are big cities, not winter hamlets like Lillehammer, the Norwegian town that played host to the Winter Games in 1994. And so the IOC's Winter Games trend in recent years is clear, driven by the obvious: Seventeen days is a long time in a little place. In a big city there's more to do around the Olympic action.

Sochi, Russia, site of the 2014 Games, is not small, either. The city itself counts about 400,000 people.

Pyeongchang would mark a departure. The population of the town itself is somewhere about 75,000 people, the president of the Korean Olympic Committee, Yong Sung Park, said Friday at a breakfast for selected reporters, and that estimate may be generous.

That's why the construction of a high-speed rail line linking Seoul and Pyeongchang is so intriguing; it addresses what could be seen as a significant weakness in the Korean bid.

The project is being developed apart from the 2018 bid; construction is likely to begin in a few months, the line to Pyeongchang done by 2017.

Typically, such so-called "technical" matters are of interest only to the experts who study them. In this instance, though, the train could be a game-changer, because you could go from Seoul to Pyeongchang, about 120 miles, in 50 minutes, according to material supplied by the 2018 bid committee.

That's more or less how much time it took each day to commute from Darling Harbor in central Sydney out to the Olympic precinct for the 2000 Summer Games.

You could, for instance, stay in Pyeongchang and get to Seoul, which is as interesting as any city anywhere, in about half the time it took this past February to get from downtown Vancouver up to the alpine events in Whistler.

Or you could stay in Seoul and commute to the action in Pyeongchang.

Not everyone, of course, is going to want to ride the train.

Thus the additional suggestion at Thursday's presentation to, in effect, bring Seoul to Pyeongchang -- communications director Theresa Rah, speaking from the lectern, describing it as a "Best of Korea" experience, with "world-class restaurants boutiques, shopping malls and entertainment options."

She added a moment later, "Imagine the excitement of the Winter Games, the beauty of the Orient and the best of what Korea has to offer, all together in Pyeongchang."

Details are far from complete, bid chairman and chief executive Yang Ho Cho said at the day-after breakfast. Asked by one reporter to name chefs who might be on hand in 2018, Cho said with a smile that he had no idea. If Pyeongchang wins, he said, "We have a concept and an idea and to implement it we have lots of time."


There's another Olympic bid trend that often gets overlooked but in recent ballots has proven central to the balloting.

The IOC repeatedly has voted for a particular individual that the members obviously like, respect and want to be partners with.

Examples are numerous: Athens won in 1997 for 2004, for instance, because of the personality of Gianna Angelopoulos.

The trend for the last four elections is clear: John Furlong for Vancouver 2010. Seb Coe for London 2012. Dmitry Chernyshenko (and Vladimir Putin!) for Sochi 2014. Carlos Nuzman for Rio 2016.

The strength of the Annecy bid is chief executive Edgar Grospiron.

The point of the Annecy presentation Thursday was to introduce Grospiron -- and to give him the endorsement (via video) of Jean-Claude Killy, the French ski legend and IOC Winter Games operations expert.


Grospiron, in interviews, indisputably has proven he gets the vision thing. Can he and the French turn it into a compelling narrative?

For instance, France has played host to the Winter Games in 1924, 1968 and 1992.  It would only be natural to position Annecy as the 21st century extension of that legacy, wouldn't it?

"It's a continuing story between France and Olympism," Grospiron said of the three prior Winter Games, in Chamonix, Grenoble and Albertville.

"What's interesting now is that Olympism doesn't need France to exist. But France needs Olympism to be able to develop its sporting activity, to reinforce that."

Another, perhaps related, possibility: Annecy could also position itself, he said, as a forward-thinking bid that aims to use the Games as a catalyst to take on such challenges as global warming -- that is, the effect of climate change on already-mature ski and snow resorts forced to deal with, say, diminishing snowfall.

"This land is what we have," he said, calling the region in and around Annecy and Chamonix "most beautiful and most precious."

He said, "Our responsibility is to modernize and at the same time to preserve our values -- or its values, its traditions, its authenticity, its environment.

"That's the vision that I have … to integrate harmoniously the Games between the eternal snows of Mont Blanc and the crystal-clear waters of Lake Annecy. That's our main issue."


The 1972 Summer Games will forever be remembered for the kidnappings and murders of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches.

There's no point tiptoeing around it. It happened. It's part of the story of the Olympics and Munich.

"We knew from the beginning that this could be our biggest problem," the mayor of Munich, Christian Ude, said in an interview, speaking in English.

"Therefore we had a lot of talks with members of other national Olympic committees. I spoke about this in Athens in 2004 with a lot of representatives of the Olympic family, especially with the members of the Israeli delegation. The surprising answer -- surprising for me personally -- was that '72 was the first attack of international terrorism on the Olympic family. This could happen in the United States, in Great Britain, in Spain, in Russia, everywhere. It's not the responsibility of the location where the international terrorists have made an attack.

"That," he continued, "was not only the opinion of one or two -- the president and general secretary of the NOC of Israel but also the opinion of other members and of other countries. I spoke with the NOC of Poland, the former Czechoslovakia, Russia. They all said the same. This was not the responsibility of the location where it happened. It was the responsibility of the international terrorists who attack also in other continents and other countries.

"Especially the Israeli delegation and the Jewish members in other countries said two important things that encouraged us. First, the security standard in Germany is very high now, especially in Bavaria and Munich. About Munich, I say it as a Social Democrat, and the Free State of Bavaria has a conservative government, so it's not self-promoting: I have to accept that the security standard in Bavaria is very high. Munich is the city -- of all cities in Europe with more than one million inhabitants -- with the lowest crime rate. Year to year we get new evidence that the security standard in Munich is the best in all cities of this size.

"The second thing is that in the time of my office," 17 years and counting, "we have a re-birth of Jewish people and the Jewish religion and Jewish life in Munich. Some years ago we opened the new synagogue in the middle of the city. The new Jewish school and the new Jewish center with a restaurant and so on -- it is the biggest new Jewish center in Europe. We have guests from Israel, from the States, from everywhere in the world -- they accept the rebirth of Jewish life and that Jewish people feel in Munich at home. You couldn't imagine it some decades before.

"Therefore we believe it's not only our opinion. We ask the Jewish community worldwide: is it," meaning 1972, "a problem? If it's a problem, we make no bid. They all say it is no problem and they say one sentence more: Munich should get a second chance."