You know that feeling you have in the morning when you wake up and, groggy, you’re fumbling in the darkness, and you grab a pair of socks from your drawer, and you think — you think — you have a pair that matches but you’re not sure because one might be navy blue and one might be black? Like, you are pretty sure they’re the same but, hmm? You turn on the iPhone light. Whatever. Close enough.
You rush out of the house. Later, in the light of day, it’s super-obvious: they’re not even remotely the same. One is blue. The other is black.
That’s how to read the International Olympic Committee “evaluation” report made public Wednesday on the two remaining candidates for the 2024 Summer Games, Paris and Los Angeles.
The IOC’s PR blather would have you believe that the “new and innovative” report “tells a tale of two great Olympic cities, Los Angeles and Paris.”
This is nonsense.
This is the IOC trying to make mismatched socks go together because, for its own reasons, it decided long ago that there could be no “losers” in the race for 2024 (and, probably, 2028, too) — only “winners.”
The report purports to inform the members ahead of next week's assembly in Lausanne, Switzerland. On the agenda: the merits if not the practicalities of a 2024/2028 double allocation.
Here is the one thing this report gets right. LA is innovative and Paris historic.
The two cities are not equals.
They are not the same.
The IOC has a choice, a very distinct choice, and to pretend otherwise is to ignore reality.
In the end, the IOC and president Thomas Bach are going to do what they are going to do. But history is also going to record that these were the facts, and that these facts were publicly available for all to see:
Look, for instance, at the IOC poll results — conveniently buried in Annex F, at the next-to-last pages, 177-79, of the 180-page report.
Paris: 63 percent support in France, 63 percent in the region, 63 percent in France.
If you’re at 63 and a referendum hasn’t even started yet — you’re in danger of losing that referendum.
In 20 years of covering the Olympics, here is the blunt truth that has come up time and again, and this is why these numbers are buried at the back of the report: the IOC wants a bid at 70 percent in the host city.
Anything less is at risk of being deemed a flat-out loser — the stress that accompanied London’s 68 percent figure for 2012 was considerable, indeed, and Tokyo struggled for 2020 to get to 70 as well.
Paris ran for the 2012 Games. The Paris 2012 poll numbers: 85 percent.
That poll was taken in 2005. So in 12 years, support in the French capital has dropped 22 percent. That is a devastating trend line.
The LA numbers: 64 percent across the United States, 72 in California, 78 percent in LA.
New York ran for the 2012 Games, won of course by London.
The USA 2012 numbers: 54 percent. So support for the Olympic Games across the United States over the past 12 years has climbed 10 percent. That is a positive trend line.
Let’s do some more math, friends.
A 15 percent LA-to-Paris city-to-city difference — 78 to 63 — drives ticket sales, sponsorships and more.
Here is another key number.
In LA, the IOC poll fixed the opposition at 8 percent.
In Paris, 23.
In 2012, the opposition number in Paris totaled 7 percent.
If I’m the IOC, I am scared to death — given the exits of Budapest and Hamburg along the 2024 trail, along with others for 2022 and 2026, and mindful of Bach's recent wary observations on this very topic — of 23 percent in and of itself and, worse, a move from 7 to 23 percent. Once more: can you say “referendum”?
To be clear:
Even if Paris were to be awarded a Games, that would not in any way deter the notion of a referendum, because an Olympics there would be a government project, just like the bids from Hamburg and Budapest, which ran into precisely that sort of opposition.
LA is different. It is a privately funded entity, like 1984.
Let’s move along — security.
Turn to page 79.
This report gives Paris a pass, and without explanation. This is not only unjustifiable. It is inexplicable. France is under a state of emergency — the sort the United States has not been under since the Civil War.
“Paris 2024 has proposed comprehensive safety and security measures,” the report says, adding that the French government has “committed to provide all necessary support to deliver safe and peaceful Games.”
A few lines down:
“The current security threat level across the Paris region is classified as ‘high’ by French authorities. The proposed security measures for 2024 would reduce the risk level in Olympic Venues to ‘very low’ and the Olympic Route Network to ‘low,’ thereby providing a safe environment for Games’ constituents. Concurrently, the authorities estimate the risk in the public domain would be ‘medium’ …”
Here is an inconvenient truth: security is an uncomfortable topic. But these unsupported pronouncements in a report meant to seriously “evaluate” risk are wholly unacceptable.
If the suicide attacks in November 2015 had gone off inside the Stade de France instead of outside — we likely are not having a discussion in any fashion about Paris bidding for the 2024 Games.
Yes, France staged the 2016 Euro soccer championships without significant incident. But just four days later came the Nice truck terror attack.
If Paris stages the rugby World Cup in 2023, the Olympics in 2024 and then the World Expo in 2025 — what of security issues, concerns and costs? Three events of such magnitude in a row?
Turning to another issue:
Page 69, “sustainability and legacy,” referring to the planned construction of the Olympic village, swim arena and media village.
Nowhere on this page — nowhere — does it say how much these three projects would cost. OK: $2 billion, per the Paris project. History has shown that such estimates are laughably low.
At any rate: it is totally, wholly disingenuous not to tell the members right there and then how much these projects cost.
It’s also absurd to declare that the swim arena “fulfills a need for such a competition venue in Paris and the local community.” There is no such “need.” Nowhere in the world is there such a “need.” Not Paris, not anywhere. This is why, for instance, when USA Swimming holds its hugely successful Olympic Trials it plunks a pool inside an already-existing basketball arena.
A few lines later, same page, there’s this, on the media village, the report noting that Paris already has plenty enough hotel rooms, so there’s really no need to build such a village, but the Paris 2024 people are going to go ahead with it anyway — sustainability, what?!
“If Paris is elected as Host City,” the report says, “a detailed financial and operational model would need to be established.”
That kind of sentence, flat out, is an abdication of responsibility.
Once more, big picture:
The point of the evaluation commission is to evaluate exactly these sorts of risks.
Unless, of course, the IOC has already come to its own conclusion, for its own purposes, no matter how likely black and blue the result.