Agenda 2020

Milano-Cortina for 2026, and seven years of ... adventure

Milano-Cortina for 2026, and seven years of ... adventure

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — The International Olympic Committee turned 125 on Sunday. It celebrated by opening a new, $145-million headquarters on the shores of Lake Geneva.

In a news release commemorating the occasion, the current IOC president, Thomas Bach, said he saw “direct parallels’ between the IOC then and now.

“When Pierre de Coubertin founded the IOC, his vision and values at the time went against nationalism, against aggressivity among nations. It was about friendship and understanding. It was about bringing people together. It was about making the world less fragile.

“This is somehow a position we are in this moment with regard to the Games. We see this zeitgeist of rising nationalism. We see this zeitgeist of aggression. It is a great opportunity because we can demonstrate how relevant, how important our values are. We have to fight even more for understanding, for dialogue, for respect.”

On Monday, the IOC confronted its most consequential bid-city election in years, choosing the site of the 2026 Winter Games: Stockholm-Åre in Sweden or Milano-Cortina in Italy. A swirl of complicated dynamics framed the vote, including rising nationalism and aggressive anti-immigrant politics in Italy and, within the IOC itself, purported reforms designed not just to bring the organization into the 21st century but to underscore the import of its values. 

In a verdict seemingly at odds with all that lofty rhetoric, one that worldwide could well send taxpayer perceptions of the IOC’s self-proclaimed reforms — dubbed Agenda 2020 and the New Norm — all the way back to the last century, the members picked Milano-Cortina. The vote was not even remotely close: 47-34.

The 2026 election: change or be changed meets put up or shut up

The 2026 election: change or be changed meets put up or shut up

Is Agenda 2020 for real? Or is it really just so much noise?

The 2026 election for the Winter Games, coming right up in just days between Stockholm-Åre and Milano-Cortina, might as well be subtitled: change or be changed meets put up or shut up.

Thomas Bach was elected International Olympic Committee president in September 2013. The next year, in December 2014, the IOC enacted his 40-point reform plan, Agenda 2020, and it has since become – purportedly – the basis of IOC strategic thinking. Layered on top of that came the New Norm in February 2018, 118 more points purportedly designed to effect further change.

Now comes the 2026 election, the first to test the Agenda 2020 blueprint.

The IOC’s difficulty in attracting candidate cities is well known – referendums, anyone? It is enough to note that the IOC almost surely considers it a huge win that for 2026 it has two western European candidates in for a vote. 

That, though, is not enough.

There's only one story here and it's not a horse race

There's only one story here and it's not a horse race

Absent some freaky event between now and then, in late June, at its annual assembly the International Olympic Committee almost surely will award Stockholm the 2026 Winter Olympics. There’s a joke for this 2026 race that’s apropos. In the aftermath of this week’s news of government support in Sweden for the project, there now seems little sense in waiting more than two months to tell it.

So here goes: who does the IOC want to win for 2026?

1. Stockholm

2. Anyplace not named Milan

3. Milan

The problem with pretty much all the journalism on the 2026 Winter Games race is that it totally has missed the blindingly obvious point. Which is — see above. 

'Focus' on 2024, 2026 and Tom and Tammy Taxpayer

'Focus' on 2024, 2026 and Tom and Tammy Taxpayer

Once more, it is time to re-visit Tom and Tammy Taxpayer, this time in Italy, Austria or Sweden and maybe even Canada. (Their kindred souls in Japan are already paying out the nose. Friends in Turkey have an entirely different set of issues.)

At any rate, Tom and Tammy are back to mulling the notion that the International Olympic Committee wants to come to town. The Winter Games! 2026!

Here are three news items, one from Thursday, the others from the past few weeks. 

What impact are these items likely to have on Tom and Tammy, and what common-sense steps can — no, should — the IOC take to help convince Tom and Tammy that a yes vote on the inevitable referendum can make them, their neighbors and their friends feel good about sipping a mountainside espresso the morning after opening ceremony in February 2026?

Meet the 'new norm': same as the old norm

Meet the 'new norm': same as the old norm

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Like a bad itch, the International Olympic Committee has a way of scratching on a recurring basis the in-house fiction that it can conjure up new ways to save astonishing sums of money in the staging of its franchise, the Games.

Here at its annual assembly, its 132nd session, the IOC unveiled its latest, a strategy it immediately dubbed the "new norm,” calling it a "Games changer."

This “new norm” outlines an “ambitious set of 118 reforms that reimagines how the Olympic Games are delivered.”

Buzzkill: this new norm is the same old-same old, at least where it counts: in winning public opinion.

Beep, beep! Another voter anvil hits the IOC

Beep, beep! Another voter anvil hits the IOC

Here is a multiple-choice quiz. When someone says, “No way, dude,” is he or she referring to the odds of success of:

a) That oiled-up guy from Tonga who walked in the opening ceremony at the Rio 2016 Summer Games, Pita Taufatofua, suddenly appearing in the same outfit at the top of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games halfpipe to announce, as he locks himself into snowboard boots, that he will now throw down — watch out, Shaun White — an unprecedented trick involving corks, flips and other head-spinning gyrations;

b) George McGovern running for president of the United States in 1972;

c) Any city in Europe winning a ballot referendum on the notion of staging the Summer or Winter Olympics;

d) All of the above.

In which my mother has (good) advice for the IOC

In which my mother has (good) advice for the IOC

Maybe you have a Jewish mother. Maybe not. I do. I’m the oldest son, of four boys. Let’s be honest. Being a sportswriter? Is this a doctor, or a practicing lawyer, or something else brag-worthy? OK. Does my mother truly, honestly care about sports? Do you have to ask? 

Like me, my mother went to Northwestern. Could she tell you who the Wildcats are playing this weekend? Not if her life depended on it. 

So you might understand further how little sports intrudes into my mother’s life, especially these past few days: last week, my mother, her husband of nearly 20 years (my dad passed away many years ago) and the fugly dog had to be evacuated from their home in south Florida because of Hurricane Irma. (Update: some minor damage to the patio outside, more or less everything OK.) 

Hurricane be damned, a matter of import apparently had been weighing on my mother’s mind. “I want to tell you something,” she said in that tone that when your mother uses you go, uh-oh. Obliging son that I am, I replied, “Yes?”

It has been a long time since, you know, I lived under my mother’s roof. Even so, she likes to keep up, at least in a general sense, with my whereabouts. She knew I was bound for Peru, and the International Olympic Committee session at which Paris would be awarded 2024 and LA 2028.

“These Olympic people,” my mother said, “have a big problem on their hands.”

And now: the latest, greatest IOC corruption scandal

And now: the latest, greatest IOC corruption scandal

The International Olympic Committee is meeting in Peru at what should be a moment of triumph, the awarding of the 2024 and 2028 Summer Olympic Games to Paris and Los Angeles.

Instead, the news cycle is dominated by headlines trumpeting seemingly more of the same: corruption in the Olympic scene.

Is it really so difficult to understand why taxpayers are so fed up?

How is Paris bid like The Rocky Horror Picture Show?

How is Paris bid like The Rocky Horror Picture Show?

PARIS — Taking in the sight of the new French president, Emmanuel Macron, on Tuesday hosting the International Olympic Committee’s evaluation commission along with the Paris 2024 bid team, you could almost hear the soundtrack playing from the 1975 cult classic, The Rocky Horror Picture Show:

Let’s do the time warp again, people.

It’s like the Paris 2024 people think it’s 2005 and they are having a group therapy session over the loss to London for 2012 and re-playing the things their predecessors did wrong and trying, 12 years later, to make it right.

NHL: Agenda 2020, drop dead

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Agenda 2020, International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach's would-be reform proposal, holds 40 points. The IOC members passed all 40, unanimously, in December 2014. Some two and a half years later, with the exception of the launch of the Olympic Channel, Agenda 2020 has proven a lot of aspirational talk and not much else. The NHL's decision to walk away from the 2018 Winter Games offers potent new evidence of the obvious irrelevance with which it views Agenda 2020 and, by extension, the larger Olympic enterprise. There can be no other conclusion. If Agenda 2020 held the power to effect meaningful change, what would the NHL choose when weighing this essential question: is hockey a brand or a sport?

Aspirational talk is swell. But the real world demands far more. And the NHL's move underscores the largely empty gesture that Agenda 2020 is well on its way to becoming.

Most of the focus on Agenda 2020 package has been on the points dealing with the bid-city process. That's understandable. That process needs a wholesale makeover. The 2022 Winter Games race ended with just two cities and now the same for 2024, Paris and Los Angeles.

It's simply not clear whether any of those Agenda 2020 bid-city proposals can ever be meaningful.

Or, for that matter, the rest of the Agenda 2020 package.

Last week, the NHL announced that decision not to take part in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. Assuming no change, that ends a run of five consecutive Winter Games with NHL players.

Now, to Agenda 2020, and Recommendation 8. Here it is, word for word:

"Forge relationships with professional leagues

"Invest in and forge relationships with professional leagues and structures via the respective international federations with the aim of:

"• Ensuring participation by the best athletes

"• Recognizing the different nature and constraints of each of the professional leagues

"• Adopting the most appropriate collaboration model on an ad-hoc basis in cooperation with each relevant international federation."

How would the reasonable person say that's working out?