LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- The International Olympic Committee here this week announced a series of seemingly benign rules designed to guide the process by which it will, in 2013, select the city that will stage the 2020 Summer Games. If 2013 seems a long time away, 2020 seems almost silly. A first-grader would be just about to start his or her junior year in high school by the time the opening ceremony of those 2020 Games rolls around.
That's how far ahead the IOC works. It has to. The Games, particularly the Summer Games, are a multi-faceted event that involves government, business, volunteers, fans and, of course, athletes. It is further noting the obvious to observe that a Games also requires billions of dollars, among considerable other resources.
The IOC is thus only being practical, indeed judicious, to promulgate rules. The issue at hand is whether these rules, announced on the occasion of the IOC's first policy-making executive board meeting of 2011, will indeed prove benign.
Without question, the 2020 rules illustrate just how incredibly differently the IOC can move in the bid and campaign spheres than does FIFA, international soccer's governing body.
At first glance, the IOC rules would seem innocuous enough.
By the end of this month, the IOC is due to send a letter with the 2020 timelines to the more than 200 national Olympic committees.
A letter is supposed to then go out on May 16 asking for the names of interested cities. Already, the Italian National Olympic Committee has said it will nominate Rome. Other cities that may yet be in the mix: Durban, South Africa; Tokyo; Madrid; Istanbul; Doha, Qatar; Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
A bid from the United States seems unlikely. Not impossible but, at this moment, improbable.
For the first time, a prospective bid city must comply with World Anti-Doping Agency rules and accept the jurisdiction of the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Then comes the kicker.
Let's say a prospective bidder wants to stage the 2020 Games outside what the IOC now calls the "normal Olympic Games period," meaning between July 15 through August 31.
That would-be bid has until July 29, 2011, to tell the IOC it wants to go outside the normal dates.
In turn, the IOC will come back a month later -- by Aug. 29 -- "regarding WADA compliance, CAS and the proposed dates."
This is where things might very well get very interesting, a long, long way before the Sept. 7, 2013, vote itself -- in Buenos Aires -- for the 2020 winner.
In the 2016 bid contest, the IOC allowed Doha to stay in the race for months and gave it solid technical scores but then declined to pass it through to the final round -- the so-called "candidature" phase, where cities ultimately go before the voters. The alleged reason: it's too hot in Qatar.
That didn't seem to bother FIFA, particularly once the Qataris proved they could cool the stadiums down to temperatures in the high 70s with new technology. And of course Qatar won the 2022 World Cup.
For 2020, these new rules give the IOC the flexibility -- that is, if it were so inclined -- to cut Doha (or any place, for that matter) much earlier in the process than was the case in the 2016 campaign.
Asked by a Brazilian journalist Thursday about how FIFA and the IOC assess temperatures in Doha, Rogge said at a news conference,
"On the issue of temperature, I think you have to compare apples with apples and pears with pears.
"When Doha, when Qatar was bidding [for 2016], they made the proposal to organize the games at the end of October, beginning of November. The temperature then was much too high. The proposal of FIFA is one of December [and] January, when the temperature is lower, so there is no discrepancy between the two. I don't think that FIFA would consider to organize the games in October, November …"
Well, not really. The Qatar proposal was, like all the other 2022 proposals, for mid-summer. Which the IOC president was gently reminded of a few moments later.
To his credit, he immediately acknowledged he had misspoken:
"It is true … that the original foreseen dates of the FIFA World Cup for 2022 was mid-June, end of July, something like that, which is the traditional date of the FIFA World Cup. That is what is in the documents. FIFA followed it on the basis of this period with air-conditioned venues.
Then I think it was started with Franz Beckenbauer, who spoke first about the winter, and the whole discussion came about the winter. More I can not say. This is definitely not an issue for the IOC. I will not intervene into that. The issue for the IOC was different.
"The  dates were end of October, November, which were still considered as being too hot for the athletes but also being also some type of hindrance for the international sporting calendar, and then ultimately we said no.
"The situation might be reviewed by an exception granted by the executive committee but ultimately the IOC will always want to have the Games to be organized in ideal climactic conditions. There's no way we are going to jeopardize the health of the athletes."
It's far from clear that the IOC is truly after "ideal" climactic conditions. I don't remember that being the case in hot and steamy Athens or Beijing. For that matter, I don't remember the weather in Vancouver being "ideal."
The issue is whether Doha, Dubai and other non-traditional bid candidates that are technically capable of staging the Games are going to get the chance to make their case -- to get the opportunity to go before the voters. That's what's at stake.
Time will tell.
As the Associated Press reported, the U.S. Olympic Committee and IOC opened talks here Tuesday in Lausanne in a bid to resolve a long-running dispute over the USOC's share of certain revenue shares.
The USOC delegation went home almost immediately afterward. At Thursday's news conference, Rogge called Tuesday's meetings "very constructive," and said, emphasizing that he was not giving a deadline, "I expect this to be solved much faster than was originally anticipated."
All that is to the good. The sooner the better, frankly.
On Thursday, as far as the AP's Steve Wilson and I could tell, he and I were the only Americans in or around the Chateau de Vidy, the IOC headquarters. Steve, who has been a good friend for a dozen years, is based overseas. So, apparently, the only American who actually lives in the United States and who was here at Vidy on Thursday was me.
Which is surely some sort of sad comment on the scope and nature of the relationship the United States of America has at this moment in time with the International Olympic Committee.