From the very get-go, it seems, Annecy's bid for the 2018 Winter Games has been missing that certain something. At an introductory news conference at the Vancouver Olympics this past February, there up on the stage appeared a line-up of various French personalities and dignitaries. Except -- Jean-Claude Killy wasn't there.
Within Olympic circles, especially within Winter Games circles, Killy is the man. Not just in France. Worldwide. So for him not to be there -- that wasn't good.
The open secret is that it hasn't gone much better for Annecy ever since, and the resignation Sunday of Edgar Grospiron, the Annecy 2018 chief executive, would seem to threaten to plunge Annecy into thorough disarray -- except "disarray" would seem to assume there was ever "array" in the first instance, and in the case of the Annecy bid that assumption may well be unfounded.
The International Olympic Committee will pick the 2018 site in July. Pyeongchang, South Korea, and Munich, Germany, are also in the race.
It's in the IOC's interest to have as many viable candidates as possible in its bid campaigns. But it has been clear to everyone who knows the Olympic scene that Annecy's viability has always been suspect.
This past June, the IOC criticized Annecy's spread-out venues. The bid scrambled to come up with a new plan centered around Annecy and Chamonix.
Then, a few days ago, Killy and fellow French IOC member Guy Drut said Annecy was still way behind.
Such public criticism from your own country's IOC members is virtually unheard-of. Especially from the likes of Killy -- 1968 Grenoble Games ski gold medalist, co-chair of the 1992 Albertville Games, IOC point man for the 2006 Torino and now 2014 Sochi Winter Games.
This past week, rumors flew that the Annecy bid was actually considering withdrawing from the race itself.
Imagine that. The founder of the modern Olympic movement, the Baron Pierre de Coubertin, is French. The two languages of the movement? English and French, and in case of dispute French wins. A French bid -- withdrawing? Unthinkable.
Strike that, since the only certainty in Olympic bidding is uncertainty, and there are eight long months to go before the IOC vote next July 6.
For that matter, who knows what kind of grades Annecy will get from the IOC's evaluation commission visit? The IOC team is due to visit in early February.
Clearly, the matter of whether to stay in seems like it was up for serious debate. A news release issued Sunday said that "following a very long session" the Annecy 2018 supervisory board "confirmed its ambition" to pursue a campaign "in view of the tremendous contribution it makes to promoting the region and endorsing Olympic values."
Anyone can see the potential in an Annecy campaign. It's a mature resort in one of the world's most beautiful spots, nestled in the Alps. What if Annecy could be transformed, the Games as catalyst, into a 21st-century resort that relies on cutting-edge and sustainable environmental technologies?
That whole global-warming thing? What's that going to do to the ski and snowboard industry? Shouldn't someone somewhere -- say, an already-developed resort such as Annecy -- be thinking out of the box about how to find a new way forward?
On Friday, the new French sports minister, Chantal Jouano, reportedly affirmed her support for the bid. On Sunday, the bid's budget, it was announced, would be increased from 18 million euros, about $23.7 million, to 20 million euros, about $26.4 million.
Bluntly, that's not enough. That's half, maybe a third, of what it might take.
The debate about whether Olympic bids should run to $50 million or more is a reasonable one, and it's worth having. But not if you're in the game. If you're in -- you're in.
The French, though, have tried to go it in what they might call a "modest" or "authentic" way. It makes you wonder who's really running things there, and whether he, she or they understand what it takes to win, and whether they're committed, or can find such a commitment.
It also makes you wonder whether someone in a position of serious responsibility in France is going to look at what is really a pretty modest increase in that bid budget and ask whether -- to use the American expression -- it's nonetheless a case of throwing good money after bad.
Does it serve the president of the French republic -- who, after all, is up for re-election in 2012, a year after the IOC vote -- for Annecy to get thumped?
How does it play for a potential Paris bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics -- a 100th anniversary bid of the 1924 Games -- if Annecy gets whacked?
What's the dynamic if, ultimately, Annecy withdraws? Can there be such a thing as a graceful withdrawal?
To be explicitly clear on one point: This is not about Grospiron, the 1992 Albertville Games moguls champion. He was fully committed. Grospiron has consistently proved the one bright spot in the bid -- a guy that everyone, and I mean everyone, in particular his rivals, not only liked but respected.
He said in a telephone interview late Sunday night, "I have done what I could do. It's like that."
Growing reflective, he said about his decision to step down, "I decided to be honest to myself and to others. Just to be honest. I learned that from sport. First of all, honesty and integrity. And integrity comes first to yourself. You can lie to everybody but if you lie to yourself that causes damage.
"Again, I learned that through sport. If you cheat yourself, it will have consequences. You can cheat others -- well, it doesn't matter. But when you lie to yourself, you cheat yourself, it's not good. And I wanted to be honest to myself and clear with others. And I took my responsibilities. I think this will help each one of us in the team and those on the [supervisory] board to take their responsibilities. We owe that to the Olympic movement."
He also said, "I did my best and it was not enough. It was not enough to have put us in a good position. I know there are probably guys who can do much better."
It says here -- probably not.
Again, this is not about Grospiron. This is about something much bigger. This is about France.