Anita DeFrantz

Anita DeFrantz's Olympic life

Anita DeFrantz's Olympic life

Anita DeFrantz grew up near Indianapolis. If your perception of Indiana is all “Hoosiers” basketball and corn fields swaying in the midwestern summer sun, know, too, that Indiana was once a Ku Klux Klan mainstay. And that when she was just 3 — this was in the 1950s — Anita’s parents took her and her brother out for a drive just outside Greeenwood, Indiana, where, after walking through the snow, her father read them this sign:

“Don’t be here after dark — nigger.”

This story opens “My Olympic Life,” Anita DeFrantz’s forthcoming memoir, written with Josh Young, and what she says about that experience when she was just a little girl explains almost everything.

'Like, my parents are already saying they want to buy tickets!'

'Like, my parents are already saying they want to buy tickets!'

In blue shading to purple, the big sign to the left of the cauldron read, “The Games are Back.” To the right, purple back to blue, “LA 2028.”

With International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach, LA mayor Eric Garcetti and LA 2028 chairman Casey Wasserman looking on, Rafer Johnson — the Rome 1960 decathlon champion who so memorably lit the cauldron at the 1984 Games — lit the cauldron again.

The Games are back.

Paris will stage the 2024 Games and Los Angeles 2028. Last Wednesday, at an assembly in Lima, Peru, the IOC ratified this historic double allocation.

In keeping with the approach that brought the Summer Games back to the United States for the first time in a generation, since Atlanta in 1996, Sunday’s moments at the Coliseum were — yet again — low-key and marked not by any of the excess, entitlement or pompsity too often associated with the Olympic scene but by a genuine display of what the Olympics is supposed to be about:

Friendship, excellence and respect.

Plus, most of all, and this cannot be stressed enough, especially from and for Americans, and from and for Americans especially now: humility.

An imperfect compromise: IOC mostly gets it right

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When history writes the story of the drama that enveloped the question of what to do about the Russians for the 2016 Rio Games, the imperfect compromise issued Sunday by the International Olympic Committee will come to be seen for what it truly is: a marker for the ongoing vitality and relevance of the Olympic movement in every corner of the world. Make no mistake. The IOC made — mostly — the right call in seeking to balance individual rights against collective responsibility.

If this decision had gone the other way, if the IOC had imposed a wide-ranging ban on the Russians, there very well may have erupted an existential threat to the Olympic movement.

This is not to layer exaggeration or extra intrigue onto a situation that already has generated enormous controversy.

Rather, the mob that has largely looked past the precious value of individual justice in calling for collective responsibility failed, and hugely, to account for the peril inherent in such a decision for the present and the future of the Olympic enterprise.

Russian president Vladimir Putin and IOC president Thomas Bach at the opening last June of the European Games in Azerbaijan // Getty Images

The Russians, however, keenly understood. And they kept saying so — no matter the smugly furious, self-righteous echo chamber banging for wide-ranging sanction.

The IOC listened. It understood, and keenly.

To emphasize:

There is nothing wrong with that. Indeed, there is a lot that is right.

In ruling that the international sports federations hold the responsibility to decide whether the Russians could come for each of the roughly two dozen sports on the Olympic program, the IOC underscored not only the place of each and every person in the world but, as well, the possibilities inherent in empowering humanity to effect one-to-one change.

When everything else is stripped away, that is what the Olympics are all about. That is why the modern Olympic movement, a project born in the late 19th century, can still matter in our 21st-century lives.

“Every human being is entitled to individual justice,” IOC president Thomas Bach said after Sunday’s meeting of its policy-making executive board.

Almost immediately, the tennis and equestrian federations released announcements saying to the Russians, see you soon in Brazil. The judo federation put out numbers that made plaln a rigorous testing program aimed at each and every one of the 389 athletes from 136 countries who have qualified for Rio 2016.

Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah, head of the Assn. of National Olympic Committees, said the  organization “commends the IOC for favoring individual justice over collective responsibility and giving international federations responsibility to ensure clean competitions in their sports at Rio 2016.”

Life is not binary. It is not black and white, yes or no, a collection of 1s and 0s. Life is made up of shades of grey, and nuance, and compromise — especially in the pursuit of both a practical reality and a noble ideal.

Life is better when we — the collective we — are not implementing blanket action against a group of people. This is a basic of history. And the Olympic movement is, at its essence and at its best, not about being moralistic or sanctimonious. It appeals to our better selves.

As Anita DeFrantz, the long-serving IOC representative to the United States who sits on the executive board, said Sunday afternoon, “It takes courage to do the right thing.”

Even if it is imperfect.

Life is imperfect, you know? The Olympic scene is an imperfect vessel for our hopes and dreams.

The important part: the IOC action likely paves the way for most Russian athletes to march behind the Russian flag at the opening ceremony on August 5.

At the same time:

The IOC said the whistleblower Yulia Stepanova —  a middle-distance runner who along with her husband, Vitaly Stepanov, sparked the controversy by alleging state ties to doping — is not eligible to run in Rio. There simply isn’t a vehicle to permit a “neutral” athlete to take part, the IOC said, and that’s true. It’s a fundamental that athletes compete as national representatives at a Games.

Except that there will be a “refugee team” in Rio made up of athletes from different countries.

And, perhaps more important, the symbolism of having Stepanova on the Rio track would have gone far in promoting the notion that anyone and everyone has to speak up when something might be amiss; overcoming the culture of keeping silent has proven a significant challenge in the anti-doping campaign.

Yulia Stepanova at the European championships earlier in July // Getty Images

Also, the IOC said that any Russian athlete who has ever done time for doping is ineligible for Rio. This misplaced notion is the 2016 version of what in Olympic jargon is called the “Osaka rule,” a notion advanced by none other than Bach nine years ago, when he was IOC vice president. It sought to ban a doper from the next edition of the Games on top of however many years he or she got in sanction.

The Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport said, no dice — the Osaka rule amounted to double punishment.

The IOC, and the president, know all of this. A recent reminder: the case of South Korean swimmer Park Tae Hwan, a 2008 and 2012 medalist who tested positive in 2014 for testosterone and got 18 months. The Korean Olympic committee tried to tack on another three years. No go.

The Osaka rule could have been incorporated in the version of the World Anti-Doping Code that took effect this past January 1. But no. Instead, the code now calls for a standard doping ban of four years instead of two.

It’s now up to an individual Russian, if he or she wants, to go to CAS to challenge the IOC move regarding eligibility after a prior ban. There should be a rush to the proverbial courthouse steps; any such case would be a slam-dunk winner; all the IOC is trying to do is effect an end-around a play that already has been shut down.

More: the assertion that no already-served Russians can go — even though athletes from other countries who have served doping bans can, and will, be in Rio — cuts directly against the very thing the IOC sought Sunday to preserve: in Bach’s words, “individual justice.”

The remaining problematic element is the ban imposed on Russia’s track and field team by the IAAF, track’s governing body. It stands.

As Alexander Zhukov, the president of the Russian Olympic Committee, noted as part of a lengthy presentation Sunday to the IOC board:

“… We can never accept a decision that allows any international federation to legally force athletes to move from their native country in order to train abroad, so they can participate in international competitions. This contradicts basic human rights and essential freedoms. And it strays very far from the real anti-doping fight.”

Russia'Olympic committee president Alexander Zhukov at a meeting last week in Moscow // Getty Images

This will be part of the historical legacy. And it won’t be pretty.

Sergey Shubenkov, the Russian champion in the 110-meter hurdles at last year’s world championships — “an absolutely clean one,” Zhukov asserted — can’t run in Rio. His mother, heptathlete Natalya Shubenkova, missed the 1984 Los Angeles Games because of the Soviet-led boycott, reprisal for the U.S.-led action against the 1980 Moscow Games.

“Now his dream is ruined and this ruin is dismissed,” Zhukov said, “simply as an ‘unfortunate consequence.’ ”

Hurdles gold medal-winner Sergey Shubenkov at last year's track world championships in Beijing // Getty Images

This, of course, is a  reference to the answer given last Monday by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren when, in making public his World Anti-Doping Agency-commissioned inquiry into accusation of state-sanctioned doping in Russia, he was asked about guilt by association.

In 1980, the Australian IOC member R. Kevan Gosper supported the U.S.-led Moscow boycott. He says now he “wouldn’t have made that decision.” A silver medalist in track and field, Gosper served as an IOC member from 1977 to 2013 and retains considerable influence.

The McLaren Report allegations, Gosper said, make for a “very, very serious problem.” Even so, given the IOC’s turbulent history, in partiular the 1980 and 1984 Los Angeles Games boycotts, Gosper said, “To take a collective decision against Russia in a world that is very uncertain, I think, would be very wrong.”

This is what the Russians kept saying.

The president of Russia, Vladimir Putin himself, in a statement released last week by the Kremlin:

“Today, we see a dangerous return to this policy of letting politics interfere with sport. Yes, this intervention takes different forms today, but the essence remains the same; to make sport an instrument for geopolitical pressure and use it to form a negative image of countries and peoples. The Olympic movement, which is a tremendous force for uniting humanity, once again could find itself on the brink of division.”

The former Russian leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, who wrote a letter last week to Bach that said, in part:

“The principle of collective punishment is unacceptable for me. I am convinced that it contradicts the very culture of the Olympic movement based on universal values, humanism and principles of law.”

Zhukov’s presentation to the IOC board cautioned against what he called a “rush to judgment.” He said:

“Please allow me to begin by saying that I understand you will make today a fateful decision, which will determine the fate of not only Russian sport, but also of the international Olympic movement, of our Olympic family.

“The recent events have caused a significant split to open in the world of sport. We must remain united in our efforts to ensure integrity, united against the pressures that aim to replace constructive unity with destructive confrontation.”

Nearing the close of his remarks, he said:

“I urge you to consider this case independently of the mounting pressure from certain nations to issue a collective ban in relation to Olympic Team Russia.

“The calls for Russia to be banned from Rio 2016, before the McLaren Report was even published, clearly demonstrate that this goes beyond sport.

“I therefore urge you not to fall victim to geopolitical pressure.

“You can all be confident that Russia will change for the better and Russian sport will emerge cleaner.

“But that can only happen through engagement.”

Precisely.

Not through a far-reaching ban.

In noting “certain nations,” make no mistake about which nations those might be.

The calls for a ban, spun up by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in particular, beg fundamental questions about its role: Is USADA supposed to engage in such lobbying? Or Is it merely a provider of services — if you will, a contractor?

Too, the hypocrisy of certain political leaders in reacting to the IOC’s decision Sunday could not be more evident. The U.K. sports minister, Tracey Couch, said the “scale of the evidence arguably pointed to the need for stronger sanctions.”

This makes for empty rhetoric if not unintentional comedy — coming from a country where the government announced earlier this year it was cutting its 2016-17 contribution to WADA by roughly $725,000.

As for no-question irresponsibility — the Daily Mail reported late Saturday that the entire Russian team would be banned.

For a while, that Daily Mail story was the No. 1 story sweeping Reddit.

Oops.

And then there was the New York Times, in its reporting Sunday, saying the IOC move “tarnished the reputations and performance of all Russian Olympic athletes” while serving as a “strong affirmation” that Russia had cheated “under government orders.”

History will tell if that’s anything more than journalistic bravado — if ever the allegations delivered by Mr. McLaren lead to testimony under oath and thorough cross-examination of all the principal actors.

In the meantime:

No matter the circumstance, and especially in this one, groupthink can prove very, very dangerous. Turning toward reason and away from emotion, the way the IOC did Sunday, is almost always a way better option.

As Bach put it, “An athlete should not suffer and should not be sanctioned for a system in which he was not implicated,” adding, “This is not about expectations. This is about doing justice to clean athletes all over the world.”

Even if justice is, as history teaches, often imperfect.

Ten deep (sort of, maybe) thoughts

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Not everything that happens is itself worth a stand-alone column, even on the space-aplenty internet.

To that end, some recent news nuggets:

-- U.S. Olympic athletes send letter asking for other Russian sports to be investigated. Reaction: 1. There’s obviously a huge difference between state-sponsored or -sanctioned doping, and what has gone on, and for sure absolutely is going on, here. (If you think there are zero U.S. athletes engaged in the use of performance-enhancing substances, please send me a bank draft for a bridge in Brooklyn I would be delighted to sell you.) 2. The First Amendment says you can say almost anything you want. Have at it. 3. The risk, of course, is that such a letter — in the international sphere — appears completely, thoroughly sanctimonious. Lance Armstrong? Marion Jones? BALCO? Major League Baseball and the steroid era (probably the primary reason baseball is not back in the Olympic Games)? 4. With Los Angeles bidding for 2024, with every IOC member’s vote at issue, does it ever work for Americans to assume a position of such seeming moral superiority?

-- Premise: doping in Russia is bad and something has to be done. Not just in Russia. Everywhere. Reaction: 1. Obviously. 2. Seriously. 3. Now -- who's going to pay to put together a worldwide system that can really be way more effective? Let's start with $25-30 million, enough to more or less double the World Anti-Doping Agency's annual budget to the ballpark of $50-55 million. Where's that coming from? If you are an international sports federation, you don't have that kind of scratch. 4. Not even combined, the federations don't have it. 5. Governments? In virtually every country but the United States, funding for sport is a federal government function. 6. The IOC?

-- LA 2024 drops plans for an Olympic village near downtown, says if it’s picked that UCLA dorms would serve as athlete housing and USC would play host to a media village. Reaction: 1. This saves LA 2024 lots of money and removes an element of uncertainty from the bid file. 2. The biggest knock on LA is that it has played host twice to the Summer Games, in 1932 and 1984. In 1984, athletes stayed in the dorms at UCLA and USC. 3. Sure, the dorms at UCLA are better than you would find at universities in Europe. 4. The trick is convincing the European-dominated International Olympic Committee that 2024 is not a been-there, done-that. Going back to UCLA elevates that risk and is, frankly, going to require a major sales job. 5. The housing at USC is going to be really nice. Like, really excellent. The university is in the midst of a huge construction project that promises a thorough gentrification in its near-downtown neighborhood. But no one cares about the media. Clarification: none of the IOC members do, at least enough to swing a vote one way or the other.

UCLA dorm life // photo LA24

-- LA 2024 gets a $2 billion stadium for the NFL Rams (and maybe another team). For free. Also, pretty much all major venues, and all hotels, are in place. And there’s a multibillion dollar-transit plan in the works that’s going to happen regardless of the Olympics. Reaction: 1. Is any city anywhere better-suited for the Summer Games? 2. Is the IOC ready — finally? — to embrace the Americans again? 3. If IOC president Thomas Bach really wants Agenda 2020 to be relevant, here is a world city that, as he has put it, not only talks the talk but walks the walk. 4. This is the most-important host city election in the modern era, determining the course of future bids. If the IOC keeps rewarding stupidity and waste, you have to ask, seriously, about its direction.

The Rams might -- stress, might -- play temporarily at the Coliseum. This is an artist's rendering of the new Inglewood facility // HKS

-- A Danish survey, measuring and comparing national representation from 2013 to 2015 in international sport, declares the United States is far and away the most influential nation in the world. Reaction: 1. Is this a cosmic joke? 2. No U.S. Olympic bids for 2020 or 2022. Why? 3. Chicago 2016. 4. New York 2012. 5. That soccer World Cup bid for 2022? How'd that work out? 6. The United States is seriously lacking in top-level representation. Everyone in the Olympic world knows this. You've got the newly elected head of the International Tennis Federation, and one member of the IOC executive board -- and a handful of others who are, say, technical directors or even a secretary general. Because of the way IOC rules work, the chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee board of directors, Larry Probst, is hugely unlikely to himself ever be on the IOC board. 7. The survey methodology: "The data behind the index consists of a total of 1673 positions across 120 international federations. Each position is weighed between 1 and 10 based on the level of sports political power. As an example, the president of the IOC scores 10, whereas a board member in a non-Olympic European federation receives the minimum score of 1." 8. There's an enormous difference between quantity of influence, which this survey purports to measure, and quality. To reiterate, see No. 3 and 4, which is why the USOC, with Probst and chief executive Scott Blackmun in particular, has spent the past six years rebuilding relationships internationally, including the resolution of a revenue-sharing deal with the IOC that had made it all but impossible for the U.S. to consider a bid.

-- Voters in Iowa due to caucus in the next few days, followed by balloting in New Hampshire, and we're off to the races. Reaction: 1. If you want the Olympic Games back in the United States in 2024, you want Hillary Clinton to win in November. 2. Say what? 3. Yep. 4. You really think that Donald Trump, who advocates walls and bans, is remotely on the same page as the Olympic spirit? 5. Hillary Clinton, when she was senator from New York, went to Singapore in 2005 to lobby for New York City’s 2012 bid. In 1996, President and Mrs. Clinton led the U.S. delegation to the Atlanta Games, and Bill Clinton formally opened those Olympics. In 1994, Hillary Clinton led the U.S. delegation to the Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway. 6. Bill and Hillary Clinton have a longstanding relationship with LA 2024 bid chairman Casey Wasserman.

From February 1994: First Lady Hillary Clinton, right, and daughter Chelsea at the Lillehammer Games' opening ceremony // Getty Images

-- Five days in Cuba for the first Olympic sports event there since President Obama’s announcement of a new normal between the U.S. and the island nation. Reaction: 1. You can see how Havana was once lovely. 2. Now it’s just mostly crumbling. Dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of concrete buildings are literally falling apart in the salt air. 3. You want potholes? You have maybe never seen roads so torn-up. It’s a wonder all those classic cars don’t fall into some of these potholes, which resemble nothing so much as sinkholes, never to plow forward again. 4. Big cars with fins are awesome. No seat belts — not so much. 5. My room at the Hotel Nacional was once the site of a mafia meeting. A plaque on the wall said so. 6. Frank Sinatra once stayed in the room next door. Another plaque. 7. If you get the chance, go to Havana now, before the flood of Americans — and all the corporate investment dollars — show up. It’s incredible in 2016 to go someplace and find no McDonald’s, no Starbucks, no Walmart. Not saying those brands are the zenith of American culture. But, you know, they're almost everywhere. Not Cuba. 8. It rained cats and dogs one night and seawater washed up nearly five blocks inland. Cuba is rich with potential but the infrastructure needs — the basics — are almost staggering: water, sewage, electricity, telephone, internet, roads, bridges and more. 9. U.S. mobile phones work pretty much everywhere in the world now. Not Cuba.

Not-uncommon Havana street scene

George Washington slept here? No, Frank Sinatra

Cuba's Alberto Juantorena // Getty Images

-- Alberto Juantorena, the track and field legend (gold medals, Montreal 1976, 400 and 800 meters), has for years now been a senior figure in Cuban sport. As of last August, he is also one of four vice presidents of track's international governing body, the IAAF, now headed by Sebastian Coe. (Historical footnote: it was Coe who, in 1979, broke Juantorena's world record in the 800, lowering it from 1:43.44 to 1:42.33. David Rudisha of Kenya now owns the record, 1:40.91, set at the London 2012 Games.) Two events in the next few weeks require Juantorena to pass through U.S. customs, one a meeting in Puerto Rico of what's called NACAC, an area track and field group, the other the indoor world championships in mid-March in Portland, Oregon. Juantorena has been granted one (1) visa by the U.S. authorities. That's good for one entry, not two. Reaction: 1. Someone in the U.S. government has to fix this. 2. And, like, immediately. 3. Juantorena or Antonio Castro, one of Fidel's sons, an activist in seeking the return of baseball to the Games, figure to be in the mix when the IOC gets around to naming a new member from Cuba. 4. Nothing will destroy the LA 2024 bid faster than word that it is difficult -- still, 14-plus years after 9/11 -- to get into the United States.

Nick Symmonds at last June's US championships in Eugene, Oregon // Getty Images

-- Run Gum, owned in part by U.S. 800-meter runner Nick Symmonds, files suit against the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Track & Field, alleging an antitrust claim in connection with logo and uniform advertising rules at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Reaction: 1. Run Gum is a great product. The new cinnamon flavor is excellent. Recommendation: the gum is also great for people with migraines for whom caffeine is, as doctors like to say, medically indicated. Take it from someone who knows. 2. Why, though, the headache of a lawsuit? 3. The antitrust issues are nominally interesting but in the sphere of the Olympics the IOC's rules and, as well, the 1978 Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act almost always control. 4. So why a lawsuit? You file lawsuits when a) you profoundly disagree about something, b) you negotiate but can't reach agreement and/or or c) maybe you're just looking for publicity. 5. USATF, under the direction of chief executive Max Siegel, has made tremendous efforts in recent months to not only reduce friction at all levels but to actively promote collegiality. The annual meeting in December was all but a love-fest. Last September, USATF and its athletes advisory council agreed on a revenue distribution plan that will deliver $9 million in cash to athletes over the coming five years. 6. It's all good to make a living at track and field. Every athlete should be able to do so. That's not the issue. 7. Again: it's why a lawsuit and what's the motive? Symmonds, asked about that Thursday, said with a laugh,"I think Nick Symmonds going on a date with Paris Hilton -- that's a publicity play," adding, "Engaging in litigation -- engaging in litigation with the people putting on the freaking Olympic Trials that I have to compete at -- all that pressure on my shoulders, why would I want to do that, unless I care about the sport?" 8. No question Symmonds cares about the sport. Even so, whatever disagreement you might have, you couldn't talk it out? It's January. The Trials run July 1-10. That's more or less six months away. 9. Symmonds, asked whether there had been an in-person meeting or extensive negotiation on the issue before the filing of the case, said, no. He said he had sought via email only to "engage in dialogue" with Siegel and with USOC marketing guy Chester Wheeler but that was "months ago." He asserted, "The goal is to level the playing field. Whether that's done through [pre-trial] resolution or ultimately to trial, I’m not sure. I just know it seems so unfair that only apparel manufacturers, only registered apparel manufacturers, are allowed to bid on that space. It just seems so grossly unfair. We are just trying to level the playing field." At the same time, he said, referring to litigation, "This option allows me to stay in Seattle and focus on training and and focus on making my third Olympic team, and allows lawyers to have that conversation for me. That's a conversation I don't have the time or energy or resources to have. I know my limitations. I'm not equipped to have that conversation." 9. It's intriguing that the case includes the same lawyers that pursued the O'Bannon antitrust matter against the NCAA. Because you're going for scorched-earth or because you're trying to reach a just result? 10. Symmonds likes to say that he is all for advancing athlete interests. Taking him at face value, because he assuredly has great passion about a great many things, it's also the case that lawsuits cost money. This particular lawsuit asks for triple damages and attorney's fees. As for damages -- who would that benefit? As for attorney's fees -- same question. In the meantime, the dollars it's going to take to defend this case -- whose pocket, ultimately, is that money going to come out of? Big-time lawyers don't come cheap. Try $600 an hour, and up. If you were on the USATF athletes' board, wouldn't you want to ask about that element -- in the guise of finding out who, ultimately, is being served?

-- Kuwait appeals court acquits Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah of charges, overturning six-month jail sentence. The sheikh is a major powerbroker in Olympic and FIFA circles. Reaction: 1. What's going on in Kuwait, with various twists and turns, can all be tied to friction between Sheikh Ahmad and the Kuwaiti sports minister, Sheikh Salman al-Sabah. Sheikh Salman ran in 2014 for the presidency of the international shooting federation. He lost. 2. Never bet against Sheikh Ahmad.

The Olympic scene drops in on the USA

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WASHINGTON — What got done here this week at the Assn. of National Olympic Committees meeting was not nearly as noteworthy as two other essentials: the fact that the meeting was held in the first place in the United States and that delegates from 204 entities were on hand.

As the session gaveled to order on Thursday, there in their place in the rows of seats were, for instance, representatives from North Korea.

From Syria.

Russia.

Everywhere in the world, including two new national Olympic committees, Kosovo and South Sudan.

There are actually 206 national Olympic committees. The Republic of Congo didn't make it. And elements of the government of Kuwait are involved in a fight with the IOC, meaning the national Olympic committee is now suspended, for the second time in five years, amid political interference; moreover, on Thursday, the IOC announced it had revoked the Olympic qualifying status of a shooting championship in Kuwait, due to begin next week, because an Israeli official was denied a visa for the event.

The North Korean delegation Thursday at ANOC, perusing the magazine from the Olympic publisher Around the Rings

The assembly marked the first time the ANOC session has been held in the United States since 1994, two years before the Atlanta 1996 Summer Games.

With Los Angeles now bidding for the 2024 Games, the stakes were high here for the U.S. Olympic Committee.

As the familiar saying goes, LA surely could not win anything here -- but a poor performance could cost it and the USOC, even though the 2024 race is still in its early stages.

The International Olympic Committee won’t pick the 2024 winner until September 2017. Five cities have declared for the 2024 race: LA, Paris, Rome, Budapest and Hamburg, Germany.

The tentative verdict: no major missteps. All good.

"No problem with [U.S. entry] visas. It was fantastic," the ANOC general secretary, Gunilla Lindberg of Sweden, said Friday, adding of the assembly and related events, "The organization went really well. I heard only positive comments."

Does that mean LA is on course to a sure victory?

Hardly.

Indeed, by most accounts, Paris is considered the 2024 front-runner.

"Two years is a long time," Paris 2024 chief executive Etienne Thobois said. "It's a long journey ahead. 'Favorite' doesn't mean anything."

The calm here simply mean it's on to whatever the future holds, with both the strengths and the challenges underscoring the American effort here this week on full display.

A clear and undisputed strength: Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti.

Garcetti, bid chairman Casey Wasserman and Janet Evans, the 1980s and 1990s Olympic swimming champ, make up the public face of the LA 2024 bid. The Olympic movement in recent years has rarely seen a personality like Garcetti: a mayor who leads from the front and in a style that is both fully American and decidedly international.

LA 2024 bid chief Casey Wasserman, Olympic swim gold medalist and LA 2024 vice chair Janet Evans, ANOC president Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah and LA mayor Eric Garcetti as the ANOC meetings got underway on Tuesday // Getty Images

Garcetti got to welcome to the United States, among others, Tsunekazu Takeda, the Japanese IOC member and Tokyo 2020 leader who for the past year has also been the IOC’s global marketing commission chair.

Takeda speaks English. But no. Garcetti spoke with him in Japanese. When they parted, the mayor passed to Takeda a business card — in Japanese.

Meeting Julio Maglione, the IOC member from Uruguay who is president of both the international swimming federation, FINA, and PASO, the Pan-American Sports Organization, Garcetti spoke in Spanish.

South Sudan? Garcetti, a Rhodes Scholar some 20 years ago, knows the region; he said he lived in East Africa, studying Eritrean nationalism, in the mid-‘90s.

The mayor’s back story — which surely will become ever more widely known — is, truly, remarkable.

Garcetti served for years on the LA city council before becoming mayor. As LA Times columnist Steve Lopez wrote the week before that 2013 mayoral election:

“[Garcetti] seems to have done everything in his 42 years except pitch for the Dodgers and kayak to Borneo,” adding later in the column, ”He’s George Plimpton, Bono and Seinfeld’s Mr. Peterman all rolled into one. When he says: ‘And then there was the time I commandeered a snowmobile at the North Pole while on a climate-change fact-finding mission and located Salma Hayek’s lost purse in the frozen tundra,’ he’s not kidding. He actually did that. And Hayek said he’s a great dancer.”

It was salsa dancing, for the record. And one small correction: the dancing took part in Iqaluit, the provincial capital of Nunavut, Canada.

More from Lopez on Garcetti:

"He was a cheerleader, led his Columbia U. literary society, headed a discussion group on gender and sexuality and served the homeless while composing musicals. He went on to conduct research or serve humanitarian causes in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Burma, worked for Amnesty International and became a university instructor. And did I mention that he speaks fluent Spanish and currently serves as a Naval Reserve officer?"

At Wednesday evening's USOC-hosted reception, left to right: USOC board chair Larry Probst, USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun, IOC president Thomas Bach, LA mayor Eric Garcetti, LA 2024 bid chief Casey Wasserman

Larry Probst, the USOC board chair, said of Garcetti, "That guy is our secret weapon." After this week, "He's no secret anymore."

Some 1200 people were accredited for the ANOC assembly, filling a huge hall on the lower level of the Washington Hilton. Garcetti called it “breathtaking” to see such global diversity on display.

Throughout his several days here, Garcetti played it very low-key, saying repeatedly he was here to listen and learn.

After the failures of Chicago 2016 and New York 2012, it’s abundantly plain that any American bid must walk a fine line between boldness and, probably even more important, humility.

As Garcetti told Associated Press, ”People want us to be assertive and brave about the Olympic movement but not to tip over to being arrogant. It’s like, 'Win it on your merits, be a good team player. We already know how big you are, how many athletes and medals you have. Just be one of us.' "

The USOC has in recent years been oft-criticized for not playing a role commensurate with its standing — or its expected standing — in the movement. To that end, Probst said at a Wednesday night welcome gala, no fewer than 10 world championships have been or will be staged in the United States this year alone.

Upcoming: the international weightlifting championships in Houston next month. Just past: the world road cycling championships in Richmond, Virginia, which attracted 640,000 people over nine days.

The USOC, Probst said, was “delighted” to play host to the ANOC meeting, part of a plan to “become a full partner in the Olympic family and appropriately engage everywhere we thought we could make a positive difference.”

ANOC president Sheik Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah of Kuwait, a major Olympic power-broker, said time and again this week how important it was to gather on American soil.

At a Tuesday dinner, he said, “I just want to [emphasize] that we are back in the United States,” he said. At Wednesday’s gala, he said, referring to the Americans, “You are a main stakeholder in the Olympic movement,” adding, “Come back,” and, “You are most welcome and a big part of this family.”

ANOC president Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah speaks at Wednesday's USOC welcome reception at the National Building Museum // Getty Images

A key ANOC initiative: the development and staging of the so-called Beach Games, a bid to reach out to and more actively engage with teens and 20-somethings, arguably the key demographic in the Olympic sphere. The full ANOC assembly on Friday approved the awarding of a first Beach Games, to be held in 2017, to San Diego, at a projected cost in the range of $150 million; some 20 sports are to be on the program, including surfing, volleyball and triathlon.

Just two hours, maybe less, from Los Angeles?

To avoid conflict with the IOC rule that bars members from visiting bid cities, the San Diego event is due to be held in the days after the 2024 vote.

Like that is going to stop site visits by influence-makers in the Olympic world.

What? If someone is in San Diego, are they going to be fitted with five-ringed ankle-monitors to track them from making the short drive north to LA? Are trips to Disneyland, in Orange County, halfway between San Diego and LA, off-limits?

Silly, and, again, another reason why the no-visits rule ought to be dropped, even acknowledging all IOC paranoia about sport corruption, a topic that IOC president Thomas Bach visited at length from the dais Thursday in remarks about the FIFA scandal in which he did not even once mention the acronym “FIFA.”

“Follow the news,” Bach said, adding, “Think about what it means for you: it means for you that if you do not follow these basic principles of good governance, your credibility is at risk, that the credibility of all you may have done in the past and all the good things you are doing is at risk.”

The FIFA matter, sparked by a criminal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, clearly poses an uncertainty for any American 2024 effort. What will the status of that matter be by September 2017? And the status of would-be systemic FIFA reconstruction?

The sheikh, who also serves on the FIFA executive committee, sought here to strike a light tone. “FIFA — we believe FIFA needs a lot of reforms,” he said at Tuesday night’s dinner to laughter.

Also a U.S. challenge: how effective can any American delegation prove at lobbying the IOC for the big prize? There are three U.S. IOC members: Probst, Anita DeFrantz, Angela Ruggiero.

USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun and Probst have worked diligently for six years at relationship-building, and Blackmun is likely to assume an ever-wider role as the bid goes on. He struck exactly the right tone at Wednesday’s gala in exceedingly brief remarks: “It’s great to have you here in the United States.”

Meanwhile, the scene at that gala, and indeed for most of the week, highlighted a significant American challenge.

It’s typical at a large-scale Olympic gathering such as an ANOC assembly for a senior federal official from the host country, typically the rank of a president or prime minister, to make -- at the least -- an appearance at which all are welcomed to wherever and wished a good time.

Russian president Vladimir Putin, for instance, opened last week's World Olympians Forum in Moscow, with Bach and Monaco's Prince Albert on hand, calling for the "de-politicization of sports under international law."

Roughly half the 100 or so IOC members were here for the ANOC proceedings -- "almost ... a quorum," as the sheikh quipped. Thus: a major opportunity.

Tuesday? Wednesday? Thursday? No senior U.S. officials.

The mayor of Washington, Muriel Bowser, offered Thursday’s welcoming remarks. Washington and San Francisco were also in the U.S. mix for 2024 along with, of course, Boston.

"As you consider future sports event, please consider Washington, D.C., a worthy option,'' Bowser said, adding later, "See you in 2028."

Talk about off-message.

President Obama, of course, made a trip to the IOC session in Copenhagen in October 2009 to pitch for Chicago, which got booted in the first round of voting. Since then, the Obama White House has played it decidedly cool with the Olympic scene.

Within the IOC, Obama is typically mentioned in discussion either with the security-related logistics of that 2009 Copenhagen visit or his decision to politicize the U.S. delegation to the 2014 Sochi Games opening ceremony as a response to the Russian law banning gay “propaganda” to minors. He selected the tennis star Billie Jean King and two other openly gay athletes for the U.S. effort. (King ultimately made it to the closing ceremony; she was unable to attend the opening ceremony because of her mother’s death.)

In just over two years as IOC president, Bach has met with roughly 100 heads of government or state. Obama? No.

On Wednesday, while ANOC delegates gathered in DC, the First Lady, Michelle Obama, and Jill Biden, the vice president's wife, met with Britain's Prince Harry in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, not far away, to promote the 2016 Invictus Games. The Paralympic-style event, to be held next May in Orlando, Florida, is intended to raise awareness for wounded service members.

“OK, ladies, Prince Harry is here. Don’t act like you don’t notice!” Mrs. Obama said, adding at another point to laughs, “I’d like to apologize for all the gold medals we will win in Orlando.” The prince said in response, “You better bring it, USA!”

Later Wednesday, the prince met President Obama in the Oval Office, again to promote the Invictus project.

Jill Biden, Prince Harry, Michelle Obama Wednesday at Fort Belvoir, Virginia // Getty Images

Prince Harry and President Obama Wednesday at the White House // Getty Images

U.S. vice president Joe Biden on the final day of the ANOC session, with Bach and the sheikh looking on // Getty Images

So -- on Friday morning, while the Rio 2016 delegation was already in the midst of its presentation to the assembly, what was this? A surprise appearance from vice president Joe Biden, the Olympic equivalent of a protocol drive-by.

The sheikh literally had to ask producers to stop a Rio 2016 beauty video as Biden stepped up to the microphone. There, flanked by the sheikh, Bach and Probst, Biden said he'd had breakfast earlier in the week with Garcetti, who had said it was an "oversight" that "no one from the administration has been here."

"He was right," Biden said. "It was an oversight. For that, I apologize. I am a poor substitute, and I am delighted to be here." He also called the Olympics the "single unifying principle in the world.''

More Biden: "I will be the captain of the U.S. Olympic team. I'm running 100 meters. Don't I wish I could! I bet every one of you here wish you could, too."

And this: "I am not here lobbying for any city. Though I do love Los Angeles. All kidding aside, Garcetti is my friend and he won't let me back in LA unless I say something nice."

Biden closed with a note that he intended to attend the Summer Games and that when he did, "I hope when I come up to you and say, 'Hello,' you won't say, 'Joe who?' "

And then he was gone, out of the big hall.

In all, just over seven minutes.

Did Biden -- like Putin -- say anything substantive? No.

Then again, the vice-president did show up. So, ultimately, the big-picture argument can be made, Probst calling Biden's appearance "incredibly important," adding, "The message is our government at the very highest levels cares about the Olympic movement, and I hope that's a message that will resonate."

Patrick Hickey, the IOC executive board member who is also head of the European Olympic Committees, called Biden's remarks "most charming" and his appearance a "superb move," observing that "lots of people" had remarked about the prior absence of a ranking administration official.

And security? This was not Copenhagen in 2009. No disruptions. The room wasn't suddenly cleared and swept. There were no -- there have not been all week -- airport-style metal detectors.

This, then, is perhaps the ultimate take-away of this week, one likely to emerge as a key talking point for LA24 and the USOC: the United States is different. Yes, there are 206 national Olympic committees. The way stuff gets done in the U.S. can often be different than anywhere else. Not better, not worse. Just different. But, for sure, it gets done.

For emphasis: different does not mean better or worse. It's just -- different.

Come January 2017, meantime, the issue of U.S. federal involvement may prove a minor footnote in the 2024 Olympic story. That's eight months before the IOC election. That's when a new U.S. president takes office. Maybe even sooner -- whenever it will be in 2016 that the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees assume their roles.

For now, Probst said, referring to Garcetti, "We're thrilled this guy is here."

Five for 2024 -- how many make it to 2017?

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The International Olympic Committee on Wednesday celebrated the announcement that five cities are now formally in the race for the 2024 Summer Games: Paris, Los Angeles, Rome, Budapest and Hamburg, Germany.

After the debacle that was the 2022 Winter Games race, which ended up with only two finalists, Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan, Beijing in July elected the winner, you can see why this list of 2024 possibilities would be cause for IOC festivity.

"We can really look at the very diverse and creative field," IOC president Thomas Bach said in a Wednesday teleconference with reporters, "and we are looking forward to a fascinating and fair competition among these five outstanding and highly qualified candidate cities."

At another moment in the call, Bach said, "This competition is about quality, not quantity. What we see are five really highly qualified candidate cities. This is why we welcome really each and every one of these cities to this competition, which will be a very, very strong and fascinating one."

But wait. If "fascinating" is the word of the moment:

A view last month of the LA Memorial Coliseum // Getty Images

A view earlier this year of the Stade de France // Getty Images

Would anyone be surprised, really, if as soon as six months from now, this 2024 race is already down to three?

Or, when it comes to legitimate contenders, practically speaking, two?

That’s the first thing to keep in focus as Campaign 2024 gets underway.

For all the talk about Agenda 2020, the 40-point would-be reform plan the IOC approved last December, there’s a more than reasonable chance the IOC could find itself right back in a 2022-like situation.

This, even though the IOC announced last month, as an obvious result of the 2022 process, that it would no longer be trimming a bigger list of “applicant,” or first-stage, cities, to a shortlist of “candidate” cities, or finalists. That cut used to come about halfway through the roughly two-year bid cycle. Now, from the start, everyone will be a finalist, a "candidate," as Bach noted Wednesday. The reason: the IOC gets a bigger field of cities.

If, that is, they can stay viable.

Big-picture, 2024:

Search the globe for the cities that ultimately decided not to bid.

Toronto, which this summer staged the Pan Am Games? Nope. Too much money, not enough political support, the mayor announced.

Durban, Cape Town or Johannesburg, South Africa? Not ready for prime time.

Baku, site earlier this year of the European Games? Ditto.

Doha? Which ran for 2016 and 2020? Not this time. Politics. Bach noted without further comment that Doha "obviously decided not to take part in this invitation phase."

What's obvious is that it is far easier for Bach -- 2024 is his first Summer Games bid cycle as IOC president -- without Baku or Doha.

So that leaves, for now, five.

Hamburg, though, is facing a November referendum. No one can muster any degree of confidence that voters will give it the go-ahead to keep on until the IOC decides the 2024 race, in September 2017; the $51-billion figure associated with the 2014 Sochi Games scared numerous western European cities out of the 2022 race.

As Bach noted without comment on Hamburg itself, the IOC is interested in a "culture of welcome," a city where "the population is clearly supporting the Olympic Games and is welcoming the athletes."

Rome bid for the 2020 Games, for a short while, until the national government said, uh, wait, this Olympic thing costs entirely too much. Now Rome is back. With a campaign budget, announced last month, of 10 million euros, about $11 million. That is laughably low. Paris is figuring about 60 million euros, $63 million, and that’s probably not enough.

Budapest? Great city. Fantastic to visit. Not a realistic chance of winning, and indeed this 2024 effort might well be seen as a trial run for 2028 or beyond. It states the obvious to note that the migrant crisis enveloping Hungary, and for that matter a great deal of Europe, with seemingly no solution in sight, has made Budapest’s already dim chance for victory that much more remote.

How the migrant crisis affects Hamburg, if it gets past the referendum, as well as Rome? No one knows.

"This humanitarian challenge is going beyond Olympic candidatures," Bach said. "While we speak, political leaders in Europe and in the world are discussing how to address this great humanitarian challenge. I hope they will come together to a solution which in the end does not only address this challenge with a solution for this very moment but that, together, they are looking to a solution which allows these refugees to live at home in peace and prosperity. I think this is the real challenge."

With all that, and this is hardly a secret in select Olympic circles, that leaves Paris and LA.

It is fact that the Summer Games have never been away from Europe for more than 12 years. The most recent Olympics in Europe? 2012, London. The 2016 Games will be in Rio de Janeiro, 2020 in Tokyo.

Does that suggest Paris will be the slam-dunk winner?

It might be logical enough, indeed, except for what is really the central point about 2024 to keep in sight:

This race is, from the get-go, all about the United States.

Though the IOC will go to Asia for three straight Games after Rio -- Pyeongchang 2018, Tokyo 2020, Beijing 2022 -- there are no 2024 Asian bids. Over the next two years, expect many, many reports -- they started already Wednesday -- about how this is actually Europe versus the United States: that is, LA against the other four.

That is not it.

This 2024 race is, plain and simple, a referendum on the state of the United States within the International Olympic Committee.

By 2024, it will have been 28 years since the Summer Games were staged in the United States — in Atlanta, in 1996 — and 22 years since the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

The IOC doesn't subscribe to a rigid rotation. At least in theory. In practice, it's apparent the United States is due. Overdue, actually.

Plus, there is the simple matter of NBC’s $7.65 billion investment in the Games, from 2021 through 2032. To be clear: the network does not get into the bid game. But it's also the case that at appropriate moments the IOC acknowledges the American contribution to the Eurocentric movement.

New York lost in 2005 for 2012. Chicago lost in 2009 for 2016. If Los Angeles loses in 2017 for 2024, the IOC will have burned through the three biggest cities in the United States.

Boston is not going to bid again, perhaps ever, and certainly not in any of our lifetimes. San Francisco can’t win; if it could, you can be sure San Francisco would be the 2024 entry. Washington is often perceived, right or wrong, as the seat of American imperial power; no way.

That would leave the likes of Dallas or Houston. Or joke bids such as Tulsa, Oklahoma. Again, not a chance.

If Paris doesn’t win for 2024, it can — and will — bid again.

Forget about Paris winning in 2024 as solely a way-back machine shout-out to the 1924 Paris Games. That actually might well be a point against Paris, which becomes super-evident if thought about for more than a second. If the IOC starts awarding Games because it’s the 100th anniversary of this or that, no other city in whatever race would stand a chance against the 100th anniversary candidate from Country X.

That 100th anniversary thing? Didn’t work for Athens for 1996. See Atlanta.

If LA does not win for 2024, there is no certainty of any sort the U.S. Olympic Committee would have the will, or be able to summon the cash, for another run.

So it’s Los Angeles, right?

Except: if LA puts forward a compelling case, you can be sure Paris will, too.

Even at the outset, however, it’s apparent both face intriguing challenges.

The Paris bid? Tony Estanguet, the triple gold medalist in canoeing who is an IOC member, is the newly anointed Paris 2024 co-president, along with Bernard Lapasset, the chairman of World Rugby. Etienne Thobois, the bid's chief executive, said Tuesday, apparently in a reference to the failed Paris 2012 and Annecy 2018 bids, “Politicians should not lead an Olympic bid and that’s a lesson to [be] learned.”

OK.

So who, now, is in charge of this Paris campaign? Estanguet? Lapasset? Thobois? The French Olympic Committee? Or, despite protestations that this is really a sports-led bid, is it the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo? The president of France, Francois Hollande?

In June, when the bid was declared, Hollande issued this statement: “The state will do everything to see this sports movement through and to support this bid, which will serve as a model in terms of the environment, economy and social protections.”

Hmm.

Further, with all due respect to the longstanding Olympic consultant Mike Lee and his London-based Verocom agency, how is it that the Paris announcement Tuesday came from Verocom instead of, from, you know, Paris?

As for LA?

The facile thing would be to go round and round about whether LA got put forward as a second choice.

LA is not a second choice. Instead, LA is the product of the Agenda 2020 reforms, which allows a national Olympic committee to figure stuff out before the formal submission date to the IOC, which in this instance was Tuesday. That's the "invitation phase" Bach was talking about.

The three real issues facing the LA bid, at least at this early juncture, are easy:

— One, the Olympic Village plan is not locked down.

Expect a lot of chatter about how it is going to cost a lot of money: $1 billion, according to the bid book.

That’s going to be, in large measure, third-party money, $925 million of it; the developer is not yet identified.

Are these problems?

Hardly. That's the sort of opportunity a shrewd business person would like to have.

The rules of the journalism business preclude us jackals of the press from getting in on the deals we report on. That’s an obvious conflict of interest. It’s also the case that journalists do not often make good business people. Nevertheless: you’d have to be an idiot not to see the extraordinary upside in a deal for new housing in housing-starved downtown LA, which even the New York Times has this year anointed the cool capital of the very people the IOC is so eager to attract, the younger-shading demographic.

Meanwhile, the IOC announced Wednesday it will contribute $1.7 billion to the winning 2024 committee for the organization of the Games. The LA bid had forecast $1.5 billion, the level of the IOC contribution to the Rio 2016 Games.

So the LA bid is already -- without doing a thing -- ahead on the organizing committee ledger by $200 million.

Bach said any of the five 2024 efforts "can be very confident" to "have a profit in their organizing budget."

 — Two, Bach has in the two years he has been IOC president visited roughly 100 heads of government or state. President Obama? A noteworthy no.

Within the IOC, Obama is remembered for a logistics-bending visit to the 2009 assembly in Copenhagen at which Chicago got booted, and his decision to politicize the U.S. delegation to the 2014 Sochi Games opening ceremony as a response to the Russian law banning gay “propaganda” to minors — selecting the tennis star Billie Jean King and two other openly gay athletes for the U.S. effort. (King ultimately made it to the closing ceremony; she was unable to attend the opening ceremony because of her mother’s death.)

Next month the Assn. of National Olympic Committees meets in Washington. This marks a major event on the Olympic calendar. It's unclear if the occasion will see Obama meet with Bach.

This, though, is clear: there will be a new U.S. president in January 2017, eight months before the 2024 IOC election.

— Three, Anita DeFrantz lives in Los Angeles. She, like her colleague Claudia Bokel from Germany, serves on the IOC’s 15-person, policy-making executive board.

It’s a clear conflict of interest for both to be involved in 2024, the kind of point the Agenda 2020 reforms should have addressed but don’t.

Bach, who is German, has made it expressly clear he will be studiously neutral in regard to Hamburg.

It’s thus straightforward logic that DeFrantz and Bokel ought to be made neutral as well.

At the same time, it’s unrealistic to expect that DeFrantz, and her wealth of experience — she has been an IOC member since the mid-1980s and is herself a bronze medalist, in rowing at the Montreal 1976 Games — ought to be sidelined completely.

Same for Bokel, a fencing silver medalist at the Athens 2004 Games and since 2012 chair of the IOC’s athletes’ commission.

For DeFrantz, who for more than two decades oversaw what is now called the LA84 Foundation, awarding millions in grants for youth sports in Southern California, the answer is simple: the creation of another legacy institution, patterned perhaps after World Sport Chicago, that she can chair or otherwise serve in a significant capacity. It can — should — be nationwide. That means she could — should — be freed to extol the virtues of the Olympic movement throughout the United States.

What to do about Bokel? That’s a Germany problem. If Hamburg sticks around that long.

Boston 2024 is doomed: be done with it

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The U.S. Olympic Committee should yank the 2024 Olympic bid from Boston, and now. This is a bad situation. It's almost guaranteed to get worse. The damage to the USOC’s brand and its future is verging toward grave, and that would be intolerable to anyone who thinks reasonably and cares about the Olympic movement in the United States of America. Doubling down on Boston would be a very, very bad bet.

The USOC has spent the past five-plus years, since getting kicked in the pants in October, 2009, when Chicago was booted in voting for the 2016 Summer Games, tirelessly working to rebuild its brand, particularly internationally, working on person-to-person relationships and building goodwill. Now, in the space of not even three months, the whole thing is devolving perilously.

Since picking Boston for 2024, it has become abundantly plain to everyone behind the scenes that the Boston bid seemingly sold the USOC a bill of goods; that it has become all but impossible for the bid to recover from the hole in which it now finds itself; and that the only way out for the USOC, despite the pain, is to admit it made a mistake, dump Boston 2024 and assess its options.

Boston 2024 chair John Fish, left, along with Rich Davey, center, and David Manfredi, right, appear before a hearing at Boston City Hall earlier this month // photo Boston Globe via Getty Images

One option is to sit out 2024 entirely.

Again, the hole is deep. This has to be acknowledged.

At the same time, it’s still early in the 2024 process, and 2024, for a variety of reasons, should be the Americans’ time. Emphasis: should.

That’s why the better option would be to take a cooling-off period, say 60 to 90 days. After that, the sensible thing would be to do what the USOC should have done in January: make Los Angeles the bid city.

The only way that works, however, is to declare Los Angeles — which it rightfully is — “America’s Olympic city,” and to make it plain now, in 2015, that LA will be the bid city for 2024, and if a 2024 bid falls short, for 2028.

The International Olympic Committee tends to like humble second-time bids, a strategy that has not been the American way.

A cooling-off period, meanwhile, would give the USOC and LA leaders a chance to strategize — about everything from communications to finance to finding an entirely appropriate role in the bid for Anita DeFrantz, the senior IOC member to the United States.

If Agenda 2020, IOC president Thomas Bach’s purported reform plan, means anything, it means creativity and flexibility — the right to implement change to protect your brand and, most importantly, your athletes.

Right now, you’ve got a majority of the people of the city of Boston saying, in essence, we do not want the athletes of the world to come to our city. They may not know that’s what they’re saying. But in Olympic-speak, loud and clear, that is what they are saying.

If I am the USOC, that is not who I want as my partner.

Starting place in assessing 2024: there are big-picture, and conflicting, data points.

One, the Summer Games have not been been in the United States since 1996. Also, NBC just paid $7.65 billion for the U.S. TV rights from 2021 to 2032. The first Summer Games? 2024.

Two, Bach is German. During his term as IOC president, which will almost assuredly stretch from 2013 until 2025, the IOC members will get one chance — and one chance only — to give him a German city for the 2024 Games.

Incredibly, the German Olympic confederation for 2024 selected Hamburg instead of Berlin.

Berlin — what an amazing city — could have upset everyone’s calculus.

Hamburg — assuming it passes a referendum, and there’s no guarantee —  would still be a strong candidate, for the obvious reason.

Then there’s Paris. Paris is Paris.

And Rome. Same.

And this: the Summer Games have never been away from Europe, the IOC’s traditional base, for more than 12 years. Never, ever. The Games were in London in 2012. In 2016 they will go to Rio de Janeiro. In 2020, Tokyo.

In 2024 — hello, Europe?

Always be mindful that one of the jobs of the IOC president is to cobble together the strongest field possible. This has special resonance for 2024, after the disaster that is the 2022 Winter Games race, now down to just two, Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan.

There’s a school of thought that Bach wanted Boston all along to ensure a stronger international field. This argument goes that Los Angeles, with its glitter, celebrities, perfect weather, 17 days of beach and Hollywood parties and technical merit that connects powerfully with Agenda 2020, might be so killer attractive that it could break that 12-years-back-to-Europe cycle.

Just to be super-obvious about this: Los Angeles has an Olympic stadium proven (1984, 1932) for ceremonies and track and field. Boston? It’s got no suitable stadium. There is no such thing as a pop-up Olympic stadium. Why has the IOC never voted for such a proposal? Because it is ridiculous.

What is Boston proposing? A pop-up stadium. Thanks.

Rome, Paris, Hamburg — maybe even, as time may tell, Budapest and Baku, Azerbaijan.

So, Boston is the one that got named by the USOC in January. To the surprise of many.

Even though — and this must be stressed — insiders knew all along that key USOC players wanted Los Angeles.

There were, in January, multiple failures at the USOC board meeting.

There were failures of leadership.

The board should have been lined up behind LA from the get-go. That is the way it works in the Olympic world — see Bach’s performance orchestrating the full IOC in Monaco in December, when he rammed through all 40 points of Agenda 2020, scheduled for two days, in one.

There were USOC staff failures in January — you can read the board minutes and intuit who swayed the board.

As March turns to April, It’s naive to think the USOC isn’t already asking hard questions about what ought to be done.

It’s not going to be fun when this goes down but it has to be done.

And, again, now.

Why?

First, timing.

Almost every article that has been written about the proposed referendum has missed the basic point.

It’s not that the Boston people have suddenly been touched by Olympic lightning and want to have a referendum. It’s that they want to have it in November, 2016.

That is 14 months past the decision date.

The USOC has to submit an "applicant" in September, 2015.

A ballot measure in November, 2016, that tanks — and this one almost surely would tank — does the USOC no good. All it would do is leave the USOC in the worst of all positions.

Why would the measure tank?

Because anyone who works in politics — or covered it for years — knows it is a basic rule that a referendum’s chance of success is abysmally low when polling starts out under 50 percent.

As Kriston Capps writes in Citylab, the referendum “narrows the chance that Boston will host a Summer Olympics from unlikely to vanishingly small. Boston voters are bound to turn it down.”

A recap of the polling numbers from January to March: 51 percent to 44 percent to 36 percent in favor of the bid.

The numbers opposing the bid have gone the other way: 33 percent to 46 to 52.

The margin of error for the poll is 4.9 percent.

Boston 2024 has said time and again that no public funds would be used to stage the Olympics. But 65 percent of people there believe public funds will be needed.

“I don’t know a single person who believes that — that they’re going to build a soccer stadium and all these other facilities at no cost to the taxpayer,” Mike Barnicle, the former Boston newspaper columnist who is now an MSNBC contributor, told the Washington Post. “No one believes that.”

Just for comparison: before the USOC decision, the poll numbers in LA, depending on whether you wanted the LA city or USOC poll, were 77 or 78 percent in favor of the Games. You want higher numbers? Poll a group of golden retrievers and ask if they like bacon.

Big whoop if a November, 2016, referendum in favor of Boston 2024 is 50 percent plus one. To be credible, the IOC wants mid-60s. To be honest: it really wants 70 percent or better.

It’s virtually unheard-of to move up from the 30s to the 60s in a year, and Boston 2024 doesn’t have a year. The old political saying is that it would take Elvis and Jesus to make that happen, and — as the saying also goes — neither is available.

Let’s look at other Olympic measures around the world, just to see how they have been received recently:

St. Moritz/Davos 2022: (In March 2013): fail, 52.7 against. Vienna 2028 (March 2013): fail, 72 percent against. Munich 2022 (November, 2013): fail, 51-59 percent against in four localities. Krakow 2022 (May 2014): fail, 69.7 percent against.

Note that only one of these four took place after the 2014 Sochi Games, with its associated $51 billion price tag.

Obvious question: if these four have gone down in flames, why would Boston be different? American exceptionalism?

We haven’t even gotten to what a Boston referendum might say, or the wording, or any of that. Frankly, for this conversation, it’s a moot point — immaterial.

More real talk:

The ‘no’ side in Boston can go so ‘no’ in a campaign. What is the ‘yes’ side supposed to say? It can’t run a vigorous anti-‘no’ campaign. That’s what normal campaigns do. Not in this context, though. That would not be in keeping with the Olympic values.

Beyond which, as this space has pointed out previously, the Boston bid has virtually no communications strategy.

One small point to illustrate how awful their communications have been, and then the larger point.

Small: the weekend before this one, the bid sent out a tweet — since deleted — of Top 10 Olympic-related movies with this message: “Get inspired. On your couch. #LazySunday #Boston2024”

No. 1 on the list: “Olympia,” by Leni Riefenstahl, the German filmmaker who had a close association with Adolf Hitler. Another feel-good flick on the list: “Munich,” No. 7 on the list, the 2005 Steven Spielberg-directed thriller about the hunt for the Black September terrorists responsible for the abduction and murders of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches at the 1972 Munich Games.

One can hardly find words to describe how tone-deaf, and off-message, this tweet could possibly be for a bid committee.

Good thing it has hardly been seen internationally. Well, until now.

Larger point:

All along, the Boston bid’s message has been diametrically opposite from what it should be.

It is: bring the Games to Boston so we can improve Boston.

It should be: let us in Boston show how via the Games we can make the world better.

This is fundamental bid messaging 101. Just incredible that it's so backward.

More real talk:

Whatever the Boston bid team said to the USOC in December that then became the focus of the board debate in January, this is the case now:

The plan is far from finalized.

Because of that, the budgets can’t be. That’s just logic.

Because of that, no one knows what needs to be built, who’s going to pay for it and why they need it. Or, elementally, should want it.

Just as a for instance: did anyone bother to ask the folks in and around Franklin Park, the planned site of equestrian and pentathlon, if the Olympic agenda met community needs?

Beyond all of that, the would-be Olympic enterprise in Boston is met time and again with suspicion because of widespread memory about the Big Dig, the highway mega-project that for almost everyone in the area screams cost overruns and more. With that, you're supposed to sell an Olympics? In the aftermath of Sochi?

Following on from that:

How is Boston 2024 supposed to raise money for a referendum? And who would then be working on a bid when so much time and energy would be focused on that existential referendum?

The Boston bid committee is a 501 (c)(3). That means it is allowed to raise money for charitable purposes but broadly speaking may not participate in political campaigns. A 501 (c)(3) can engage in limited lobbying with respect to a ballot initiative but lobbying must be an “insubstantial part” of its overall activities — say, 3 to 5 percent.

Obviously, Boston 2024 would need to do way more than that.

That means any real political activity relating to a ballot initiative would have to be done by a separate entity. That could not be a 501 (c)(3).

Which would you rather donate to? The one you can get a tax-deduction for? Or not?

Let’s say that Boston 2024 chair John Fish does the work-around and creates a political action committee to raise funds. That may solve the logistical challenge. But that just feeds right into the very essence of the communication problem confronting the Boston 2024 group as it is already —right or wrong, fair or not, that it’s a group of elites who only are looking out for themselves and don’t really care about the best interests of the public.

Already, there is talk in European newspapers — in Italy a few days ago — of how Boston is on a slippery slope.

Coming up soon, there’s a big meeting in Miami of what’s called PASO, the Pan-American Sports Organization. There will be maybe a dozen and a half IOC members there.

Better for the USOC to cut its losses now. Because what is the USOC supposed to go to Miami and say?

“The Games fit into Boston’s long-term planning?”

Ugh.

It’s hard to admit a mistake but worse when the mistake metastasizes.

The USOC is the steward of the Olympic movement in the United States. It has a responsibility, and now it must do what must be done.

Sustainability? Legacy? LA 1984 revisited

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No one likes I-told-you-so’s, and if there is a good lord up above, he — or she — knows full well that others find it tiresome, indeed, to hear Americans boasting about anything. So this is not — repeat, not — that column. There’s no point. At the same time, it’s just plain dumb to ignore reality. So, now, with International Olympic Committee extolling a renewed commitment to “sustainability” and “legacy,” and with the true believers this week celebrating the 30th anniversary of the 1984 Games that changed everything, it’s entirely reasonable to look anew at those Los Angeles Olympics. Because they didn’t just save the modern Olympic movement — they set the standard for sustainability and legacy, too.

Also this: if in more recent Olympic bid campaigns, U.S. efforts have gotten knocked down in part because American cities are different — the whole notion of 50 states means the federal government itself won’t underwrite a bid the way national governments in other countries will — it’s only fair now to note for the record that the LA Games, while often touted as privately run, absolutely included significant public monies.

Rafer Johnson with the torch at the 1984 30th anniversary party. That's Mary Lou Retton at the right // photo courtesy LA84 Foundation

It’s easy, perhaps even understandable, for others elsewhere to want to beat up on the United States, the world’s only superpower.

However, when it comes to the Olympics, and issues of sustainability, legacy and public-private partnership, the question — as the historical record proves without a shadow of a doubt — is, why the knock on the USA?

You’d think the American way would be celebrated as a model.

The planning that went into the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games, for instance, was always meant to transform the U.S. into a winter-sports nation — with major universities in and around town and world-class venues just up Interstate 80 in Park City, Deer Valley and a few minutes beyond in Soldier Hollow. The proof has come in the medals count in Vancouver and Sochi.

If in Olympic circles no one much likes to talk loudly about Atlanta — the main Olympic Stadium, when all is said and done in two years, will have served as the home for the baseball Braves for nearly 20 years. There's a legitimate argument about whether 20 years is enough -- but compare 20 years of day-in, day-out baseball to, for instance, the Bird's Nest in Beijing or the Olympic Stadium in Athens.

And then, of course, there is Los Angeles — where on Monday evening, at the LA84 Foundation grounds, they held a low-key party to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the opening ceremony.

Just as he did on July 28, 1984, Rafer Johnson carried the torch. This time, though, it wasn’t up the steeply angled staircase that had been built at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. It was only a few easy, level steps.

“Tonight was fantastic,” Johnson said as he posed for photos with Peter Ueberroth, who oversaw those 1984 Games. “No stairs.”

The gymnast Mary Lou Retton was on hand. The hurdler Edwin Moses. Dozens more athletes from 1984. Anita DeFrantz, the senior IOC member to the United States and the foundation president, herself a bronze medalist from the 1976 Montreal Games.

Even Sammy Lee, the gold medal-winning diver from 1948 and 1952.

It was a celebration — and there was, upon reflection, much to celebrate.

Peter Ueberroth at the 1984 30th anniversary celebration // photo courtesy LA84 Foundation

The foundation was created with 40 percent of the $232.5 million 1984 surplus.

Since 1985, the foundation has invested $220 million into Southern California youth sports. This includes $103.3 million in direct grants, plus spending on foundation-initiated youth sports programs, coaching education, research projects, youth sports conferences.

The foundation has developed a major sports library and digital collection, and has published reports on, among other topics, the prevention of ACL injuries, the educational benefits of youth sports, increasing Latina sports participation and tackling in youth football.

The foundation’s grants have served three million young people (under age 17). Some 1,100 organizations have received grants. About 80,000 youth sports coaches have been trained.

Simply put, is there another institution in the world, anywhere, that has done anything like the LA84 Foundation?

Remarkably, it has done even more — its definition of “legacy” incredibly expansive.

LA84 has made over $20 million in infrastructure grants. That investment, in turn, has leveraged another $100 million from other funders. That money has meant nearly 100 facilities have been refurbished or built from the ground up.

Among the most notable projects: the John Argue Swim Stadium at Exposition Park across from the University of Southern California, in which the 1932 Olympic Swim Stadium was refurbished, and the construction of the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center in Pasadena, California.

LA84 has an ongoing partnership with the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation. To date, 30 baseball fields have been built.

That $232.5 million figure has long been a source of fascination, if not more.

In 1978, Los Angeles voters, by a wide margin, voted against public funding for the Games. And as the official report of the 1984 Games notes, the federal government turned down a $200 million grant request from the LA84 organizing committee in the "early" planning stages.

Even so, there absolutely was public spending on the Games.

For instance:

-- The federal government spent $30 to $35 million for security; other federal agencies projected another $38 million in spending, which was accounted for through additional appropriations or by reduced spending in non-Olympic areas. The LA84 organizing committee budgets do not account for these federal funds.

-- The state of California would claim $14.3 million in unreimbursed Olympic costs but only $3.6 million represented a special appropriation.

-- The organizing committee paid for policing in Los Angeles and other Southern California cities.

Overall, the $232.5 million surplus is, as it should be, strictly a reflection of the organizing committee's budget. Even so, if you were to figure in federal, state and local spending, there's still no question the organizing committee would have finished the 1984 Olympics way into the black.

Finally, this:

On November 1, 1984, the LA Times published a story whose headline declared, “Giant Olympic Surplus Spills Over Into Anger.” At that point, the surplus was being estimated at perhaps $150 million — the $232.5 million figure would not yet be known — and the city attorney in Fullerton, California, was bemoaning the money it had paid out to hold the Olympic team handball events at the Cal State campus there.

It would be a fascinating measure of legacy, indeed, to weigh the costs to taxpayers in or before 1984 against LA84 Foundation grants to public entities in the 30 years since.

 

LA 2024's new bid team, many rivers to cross

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EUGENE, Oregon -- When the four American cities still in the would-be race for the 2024 Summer Olympics head to Colorado Springs, Colorado, for a U.S. Olympic Committee workshop later this week, the Los Angeles bid will have a new face. Casey Wasserman, 40, one of Southern California’s leading businessmen, has over the past few weeks quietly — in keeping with his style — assumed leadership of the bid.

Wasserman’s arrival onto the public Olympic stage, in tandem with 43-year-old Mayor Eric Garcetti, is a strong signal on many levels, the emergence of a new generation of Los Angeles leadership that for 2024 could bring new energy and new thinking, one that can obviously pay homage to the power of the 1984 Games but would no longer be beholden to them.

The mayor, who is fluent in Spanish, keeps a 1984 torch in his downtown office.

Casey Wasserman // photo courtesy Wasserman Media Group

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti // photo courtesy office of the mayor

At the same time, this must be emphasized: strong signals guarantee no one and no city anything.

San Francisco, Boston and Washington already had strong business leaders aligned with their bids, San Francisco with Giants president and chief executive officer Larry Baer, Boston with construction magnate John Fish, Washington with financier and philanthropist Russ Ramsey.

Moreover, it’s far from clear the USOC is even going to launch an American bid.

USOC chairman Larry Probst and chief executive Scott Blackmun have said many times they are on a holding pattern through 2014, waiting until the International Olympic Committee and president Thomas Bach complete their review and potentially far-reaching reform process, dubbed "Olympic Agenda 2020."

An all-members IOC assembly has been called for Monaco in early December. The USOC is due to make a 2024 go-or-no-go decision in early 2015. The IOC will pick a 2024 city in 2017.

The list of potential international contenders is fluid, indeed. Paris, Berlin, Doha and others routinely surface on most rumor lists.

Making matters more complicated for Los Angeles, everyone tied to the USOC process is well aware that LA played host to the 1932 and 1984 Summer Games and, moreover, that Anita DeFrantz is the senior IOC member to the United States, with offices at the LA 84 Foundation, just west of the University of Southern California, and that Jim Easton, another IOC member, has a place near UCLA. Their IOC membership makes them USOC board members as well.

Thus, the USOC has gone out of its way — as board minutes make explicitly clear — to kick DeFrantz and Easton out of the room whenever 2024 discussions come up.

Los Angeles sought the 2016 Games, losing out to Chicago, which of course ended up coming up way short in October, 2009, to Rio de Janeiro.

The USOC stayed out of the 2020 contest, which went last September to Tokyo, Probst and Blackmun intent on building relationships rather than running through another expensive bid cycle.

Recent LA Olympic strategies have been overseen by Barry Sanders, now a retired lawyer who since 2002 has been chairman of what is called the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games.

In Los Angeles, the figurative passing of the torch, if you will, could hardly seem more symbolic: Wasserman is off Thursday to Colorado even as final preparations are being made for a party next Monday, at the stately LA 84 Foundation grounds, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the 1984 Games. Peter Ueberroth, who ran those LA Games and then served as USOC chairman from 2004 to 2008, which included the 2005 campaign that saw New York bid, losing to London for the 2012 Games, is expected at the party.

Ueberroth, since stepping down from the USOC post, has discretely stayed out of the Olympic spotlight.

Meanwhile, in the fabric of civic life in Los Angeles, there is always a connection to be found to the Olympics and to 1984.

For Wasserman, the connections are many and layered. He has been powerfully tied his entire life to the city, business, the media, sports and the Olympic scene. Everyone in Los Angeles who mattered, it seemed, knew Casey’s grandfather, Lew, of MCA fame; one of Lew’s closest friends was Paul Ziffren, one of the big-time lawyers in town who helped bring the 1984 Games to LA; Casey is married to Paul’s granddaughter.

Casey Wasserman is chairman and chief executive of Wasserman Media Group, the company he founded 12 years ago. Its now-global practice ranges across fields as diverse as athlete management, corporate consulting, sponsorships, media rights and corporate consulting.

As just one example of the company’s got-done list: in 2011, it brokered naming rights to MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, site of the 2014 Super Bowl, in a 25-year arrangement for a reported $400 million, among the biggest stadium-rights deals in U.S. sports.

Wasserman is also president and CEO of an active private family charitable trust, the Wasserman Foundation; among other boards, he is also a trustee of the William J. Clinton Foundation.

In the Olympic sphere, relationships matter, and Wasserman’s Rolodex — to use a term that might have been more celebrated in 1984 — is formidable.

With disclosure of what was afoot in Los Angeles circulating this week among the in-the-know here in Eugene at the 2014 world juniors, speculation immediately ignited about the possibility of a track and field world championships -- 2021? 2023? -- at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

What, if anything, that might mean for Eugene's 2019 world championships bid -- it's up against Doha and Barcelona in a contest to be decided this fall -- is entirely uncertain.

Earlier this year, USA Track and Field announced LA would play host to the men's and women's U.S. marathon Trials for the 2016 U.S. Olympic team, on Feb. 13, 2016.

Of course, at this point all this is -- to reiterate -- sheer conjecture. To quote from the ballad the great Jimmy Cliff wrote in 1969: many rivers to cross.

"Casey Wasserman is one of our city's most creative and innovative business leaders, and he has built one of the world's leading sports companies here in LA because our city is the worldwide capital of the sports industry," Garcetti said. “And Casey is at the heart of thoughtful, focused philanthropy, determined to make our city even greater.

“It is only natural that Casey is my partner in leading LA's efforts to explore an American bid for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. I look forward to working closely with him."

For his part, Wasserman said, “The USOC is committed to putting forward the best of our U.S. cities, so it is a real privilege to join forces with Mayor Garcetti to steer Los Angeles’ bid for the 2024 Olympics and Paralympics. I hope our ideas, partnership and involvement can contribute to the committee’s greater mission.”

The IOC's big bid problem

One of two Norwegian government parties voted Sunday against supporting Oslo’s bid for the 2022 Winter Games, Associated Press reported, in a three-paragraph story likely to be buried in the back pages of newspapers and de-emphasized by analytics monkeys at websites around the world. It’s 2014. It’s eight years until 2022. The International Olympic Committee isn’t even going to vote for the 2022 city until next year. Who could possibly care?

Everyone should care.

IOC president Thomas Bach leading the session in Sochi two days before the start of the 2014 Games // photo Getty Images

To put it another way — if you have even the most remote interest in the ongoing vitality of the Olympic movement, you should care.

To put it yet another way — the IOC has an enormous problem on its hands.

One notion here is to use the connotatively more neutral word “challenge” — as in,  the IOC has had a huge challenge for the last few bid cycles, and in particular Winter Games bid cycles, attracting enough interested and qualified cities.

Let’s be real, and the language has to reflect that reality.

The IOC has an enormous problem.

This big problem is of its doing, and is many, many years in the making.

The problem is complex.

It is various parts finance, governance, perception and (lack of, by the IOC) communication — with cities, states and nations saying the Games have become way, way, way too expensive; or they don’t like or don’t trust the IOC; or both.

Indeed, a 2008 survey by the British think tank One World Trust found that when looking at 30 corporations, inter-governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations, the IOC ranked 30th in what it called “accountability indicators,” suggesting it was the least accountable and transparent.

Ahead of the IOC on this ranking were such institutions as the International Atomic Energy Agency (29), NATO (28), Halliburton (26), Goldman Sachs (20) and Royal Dutch Shell (12).

In South Korea last Monday, at a good governance forum sponsored by the International Sport Cooperation Center, a Seoul National University professor, Min-Gyo Koo, reminded the audience of that survey, which in Olympic circles strangely has gotten little attention.

One of the panelists at the conference, Anita DeFrantz of the United States, now on the IOC executive board, a member since 1986, told the audience, “I cannot accept that we were behind Halliburton and Shell. That is not acceptable.”

Another panelist, Ivan Dibos of Peru, an IOC member since 1982, said, “”That No. 30 ranking could be looked at positively or negatively,” adding a moment later, “I take it as something positive and I rather prefer it that way.”

In the IOC’s defense, Koo said, at least the IOC made the top 30. Soccer governing body FIFA, he observed, didn’t.

This, then, is what it has come to — at least the IOC is on the list.

What it should be is this, as Koo also pointed out, the new IOC president, Thomas Bach, reminding one and all last December, albeit in the context of a dispute involving India’s national Olympic committee, “It’s about the principles … good governance for the IOC is a key issue. We need to be strict and to make sure the rules of good governance are applied.”

Governance is not sexy. But it is essential. And this should be a key focus of the IOC’s “Olympic Agenda 2020” process now working its way toward Monaco and the extraordinary session in December.

So should PR. The members of the IOC know it is a pass-through that keeps some percent of the money it takes in. Can they all say immediately what percent, to refute the perception the IOC is not some avaricious money-sucking beast? (It keeps roughly 10 percent, perhaps a touch less.) How many know the quadrennial Solidarity budget, which sends dollars back to developing countries for athlete development? (It’s $438 million for 2013-16.)

The same goes for finance — and the issue of how much the Games should cost.

The Sochi Games were, in hindsight, a success — but.

The $51 billion price tag for those Games is, in significant measure, its primary legacy, at least when it comes to the next couple bid cycles.

It does not matter — again and for emphasis, it does not matter one bit — whether that figure is true or not.

That is the number that is out there, and so that is the number everyone around the world believes.

It also does not matter — again, it simply does not matter — that the Games’ organizing budget was roughly a couple billion dollars and the rest went toward infrastructure.

The general public does not understand the difference between operating and infrastructure budgets. They don’t want to hear it. It’s all just money.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia had no winter sports facilities. Russia bid for the Games, and won. To get the job done, the Russians had to start from nothing. The short story of Sochi 2014 is that the Russians built two new cities, Adler and Krasnaya Polyana, from scratch.

That cost $51 billion.

The $51 billion question: who besides Russia has that kind of money?

China does. The 2008 Summer Games in Beijing purportedly cost roughly $40 billion.

This, then, is the problem.

Who in the world besides Russia or China has $40 or $51 billion just lying around? For a sports event that lasts 17 days -- even if, as the IOC consistently says, and virtually no one hears, most of that money is going toward roads, airports, metro lines, that kind of thing?

Big money. Big issues. Big problem.

It for sure does not help that Rio for 2016 is a hot mess.

Rio, too, is way, way, way over the initial infrastructure projections.

And despite the backtracking that IOC vice president John Coates engaged in after his initial comments last week — he’s now saying that, sure, Rio can “indeed deliver excellent Games” — it’s worth noting that in law school, they teach you in evidence class to pay attention to what people say when their message isn’t at risk for being shaped.

Coates, being an excellent lawyer, would surely know this.

What he said initially, of course, was that preparations for Rio — which he has visited six times as part of the IOC’s inspection team — were the “worst I have ever experienced.”

Sochi and Rio are the triggers.

The big problem facing the IOC, however, has been simmering for a long, long time. It is now finding increasing expression not just in Oslo but across western Europe, the IOC’s once and forever soul, which makes it all the more problematic.

In February, 2012, Rome withdrew from the 2020 campaign, the then-premier, Mario Monti, saying that a projected $12.5 billion was too much. Rome put on the 1960 Games.

In the afterglow of a European Summer Games in 2012, in London, arguably the best-ever Summer Olympics, voters in four -- and, now, maybe five -- separate countries have shot down Games bids:

In March, 2013, voters in Switzerland ended a 2022 bid for St. Moritz and Davos. St. Moritz staged the Winter Games in 1928 and 1948.

A few days later, voters in Austria rejected a Vienna 2028 plan. Innsbruck put on the 2012 Winter Youth Games; it staged the 1976 and 1964 Winter Games. And Salzburg bid for the 2014 and 2010 Winter Games.

Last November, balloting in Germany killed a Munich 2022 bid.

Munich would have been the presumptive 2022 favorite. The city played host to the 1972 Summer Games; it had bid for and lost (to Pyeongchang) for 2018; Garmisch-Partenkirchen, about an hour south, had staged the 1936 Winter Games.

Ludwig Hartmann, a Greens Party lawmaker and a leader of the movement, called “NOlympia,” that led the opposition to the plan, said, “The vote is not a signal against the sport but against the non-transparency and the greed for profit of the IOC.”

Meanwhile, a leading German newspaper, Süddeutschen Zeitung, had run a column comparing the IOC to the mafia and the “North Korean regime.”

This past January, Stockholm pulled the plug on a 2022 bid, the City Council saying the project was too expensive. Stockholm staged the 1912 Summer Games.

Now, Oslo.

Nearby Lillehammer staged the 1994 Winter Games, lauded by many as the best-ever. And Oslo itself put on the 1952 Winter Games.

The global economic situation has already affected the 2024 Summer Games race, too: Mexico City, Toronto and two Russian cities, Kazan and St. Petersburg, have already pulled back for a variety of finance-related reasons.

This is not just an Olympic Games problem. This is an Olympic movement problem. Last month, Hanoi dropped out of staging the 2019 Asian Games, the once-every-four-years event attracting thousands of athletes, citing financial concerns.

In theory, there are five applicants still in the 2022 Winter Games contest: Oslo; Beijing; Almaty, Kazakhstan; Lviv, Ukraine; and Krakow, Poland.

Polish voters are due to vote later this month about the Krakow bid. Polls suggest a difficult situation.

Lviv is in western Ukraine; the eastern sector of that country is being ripped by armed conflict and the fate of the bid is highly uncertain.

That might leaves only three for 2022. Or would it be two?

AP reported the Progress Party vote Sunday against supporting Oslo’s bid is “likely” to put the city out of the race. In Norway, the Conservative and Progress parties rule in a coalition government; Progress Party members said the Games would affect the government’s ability to fund infrastructure projects, education, health care and tax cuts.

For 2018, the IOC managed only three Winter Games candidates: Pyeongchang, Munich and Annecy, France. And in the end, Annecy managed only seven votes.

For 2014, the IOC deemed only three bids worthwhile enough to pass along for a vote: Sochi, Pyeongchang and Salzburg, Austria.

The Oslo bid’s immediate future depends perhaps on whether it can still get the government to underwrite the needed financial guarantees, and whether those guarantees can be offered before the IOC’s July 8-9 executive board meeting. That’s when the 2022 list will be cut to the finalists — the cities that will actually go to a vote in July, 2015.

The IOC — and let’s also be clear about this — has a huge interest in seeing Oslo stay in the race. If the Polish referendum goes badly and if the situation in Ukraine continues to deteriorate, Oslo would be it for Europe for 2022.

For now, though, there’s this, from Atle Simonsen, the head of the youth wing of the Progress Party, speaking to Norwegian public broadcaster NRK: “Believing that the Oslo Olympics would cost under 50 billion kroner,” about $8.4 billion, ”is like believing in Santa Claus, when the Sochi Olympics cost 500 billion.”