Bjorn Daehlie

The Phelps suspension: why the rush to judgment?


Cross-country ski champion Petter Northug was sentenced last Thursday in court in Norway to 50 days behind bars after being convicted of drunk driving. Which brings us to Michael Phelps, the 24/7 media spin cycle we live in and the rush to judgment that led to the significant suspension USA Swimming levied against Phelps for his recent DUI arrest in Baltimore. What was to be gained by USA Swimming rushing to this judgment? More — what was lost by waiting?

Clearly, USA Swimming did what it felt like it needed to do. In some quarters, it is getting kudos for taking decisive action. But was it appropriate — or, better, right?

Norway's Petter Northug at the Sochi Games // photo Getty Images

At issue are several thoroughly basic principles.

One, the media is not running anything. We can’t even run ourselves. Who cares if we are shouting? Or tweeting? Seriously. This is what is called a diversity of opinion. The counterpoint to that is called calm leadership.

Two, bad facts make for bad law. This is elemental. Phelps’ case is not one on which to make, or rest, broad-based policy.

Three, as everyone who has read Orwell knows, all the animals on the farm are not equal. Or are they? Which is it going to be?

To recap:

Phelps, 29, is charged with DUI, excessive speed and crossing double lane lines. Police stopped him outside the Fort McHenry tunnel at 1:40 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 30, saying he was going 84 in a 45 zone; he had spent the hours before at the Horseshoe Casino. Police say his blood alcohol level was 0.14; the state’s legal limit is 0.08. Phelps is due to appear in court on Nov. 19.

The arrest is Phelps’ second for drunk driving. He pleaded guilty to driving while impaired in 2004.

USA Swimming did not suspend him after the 2004 case.

Five years ago, British tabloids published a photo of Phelps with his face in a bong.

USA Swimming suspended him in 2009 for three months.

For those unfamiliar with cross-country skiing, Northug won four medals, two gold, at the Vancouver 2010 Games. When you include medals won at world championships, he is right up there with the legendary Bjorn Daehlie.

Northug, 28, crashed his Audi while driving the first week of May. His blood alcohol level was more than eight times the Norwegian legal limit, according to Reuters. Norway’s limit is 0.02. A friend who was in the car was slightly hurt. Northug was not injured.

Northug was also fined $30,000 and banned from driving for life; Associated Press said that “normally means a minimum of five years.”

The accident and aftermath have been front-page news for months in winter sports-crazed Norway. Northug said, according to reports, that the episode would “follow me throughout my whole life.”

Here is the kicker:

The Norwegian Ski Assn., according to AP, said it would not punish Northug because his accident “had nothing to do with competition or training.”

The association president, Erik Roeste, told the Norwegian news agency NTB, “It’s not in sports regulations to punish him from our side in any way.”

So how did USA Swimming come to sanction Phelps?

Through Section 304.3.19 of its rule book.

It allows sanctions for “any other material and intentional act, conduct or omission not provided for above, which is detrimental to the image or reputation of USA Swimming, a LSC (local swimming committee) or the sport of swimming.”

Six days after Phelps’ arrest, USA Swimming announced it had suspended him for six months and he had withdrawn, by mutual agreement with the federation, from the U.S. team for the 2015 world championships in Kazan Russia. He also agreed to forfeit a $1,750 USA Swimming stipend for six months.

Phelps’ arrest came amid the controversies that have enveloped the NFL and stirred headlines since the video surfaced — on Sept. 8 — of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee in a casino elevator. You can be sure that played a part in the decision-making at USA Swimming.

The hammer came the day after Phelps announced he was headed to a six-week, in-patient treatment program.

Even if you decide that this arrest warrants sanction — that’s an entire column in and of itself — what was the goal here?

To penalize Phelps? Deter him or others? Rehabilitate him? Make sure he doesn’t drive drunk again? Send a message — to him, others on the national team or other swimmers in clubs across the United States?

Why was it so important to suspend Phelps when not even a week had passed?

Did acting so quickly make it more — or less — likely to achieve the objective? Which, again, was what?

Isn’t it more likely that we were all left with one obvious reality? That USA Swimming acted get itself out of the spotlight -- or, more precisely, to cover its backside amid media pressure?

So, now what?

Did anyone watch Ryan Lochte’s reality TV show? In the realm of possibility: were there off-camera escapades that might now bring embarrassment to USA Swimming? Do you think TMZ is asleep at that switch? Really?

Further, are we all willing to believe there isn’t even one coach affiliated with USA Swimming, or one athlete anywhere in the United States with a DUI that has yet to come to light? Truly? How soon before one such case emerges? Would any such case bring embarrassment to the federation? How much embarrassment?

You see how problematic this is?

What about this: reasonable people can agree to disagree about whether USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus should or should not have drawn so much criticism earlier this year when he was nominated for the International Swimming Hall of Fame amid concern the federation should have done more to prevent sexual abuse by coaches.

In June, Wielgus formally apologized — four years after saying on national TV that he had nothing to apologize for.

Phelps apologized, too, and in short order after arrest.

These two scenarios admittedly are in many ways apples and oranges. However, the question is nonetheless worth posing, especially if you're asking forthright questions: big-picture, which of the two holds the greater potential to embarrass USA Swimming -- Phelps' situation, or Wielgus'?

The federation, it must be acknowledged, has taken undeniably constructive steps in reordering its safe sport policies. At the same time, right or not, fair or not, Wielgus found himself this summer in an uncomfortable spot.

So why is Phelps getting six months plus the Worlds?

The problem is there is no spelled-out policy here. A catch-all is not good enough.

Another problem: there is inconsistency in the broader U.S. Olympic sphere.


Rule 4 of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Assn.’s code says: “USSA members shall maintain high standards of moral and ethical conduct, which includes self-control and responsible behavior, consideration for the physical and emotional well-being of others, and courtesy and good manners.”

In 2010, when then-USSA chief Bill Marolt was arrested for DUI — he took responsibility and apologized, just like Phelps — was he suspended? Hardly.

More current: Hope Solo, U.S. Soccer’s goaltender, is facing two counts of misdemeanor domestic violence linked to a June incident at Solo’s sister’s home in Kirkland, Washington.

In a September 23 Facebook post, Solo declared: “… I continue to maintain my innocence against these charges. And, once all the facts come to light and the legal process is concluded, I am confident that I will be fully exonerated.”

Not only has U.S. Soccer not suspended Solo, she has continued to play and, indeed, has once been honored with the captain’s armband.

USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun last month told USA Today, “Abuse in all forms is unacceptable. The allegations involving Ms. Solo are disturbing and are inconsistent with our expectations of Olympians. We have had discussions with U.S. Soccer and fully expect them to take action if it is determined that the allegations are true.”

Three things:

The reason U.S. Soccer hasn’t moved is because you can bet there would be a counter-move rooted in the 1978 Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act.

Solo’s case is yet to be decided in the courts. Yet USA Swimming took action even though Phelps’ matter is only at the arrest stage. He, just like Solo, is due the presumption of innocence.

Finally, this suspension was pushed through when Phelps was on his way to treatment. The skeptic might say Phelps is going to treatment in a bid to prove to the courts that he’s being proactive. Or maybe he is, genuinely, recognizing that, at 29, he needs help, and now is the time to get it.

The difference between the Solo and Phelps cases is that Phelps accepted the suspension. Query: on his way to six weeks away, did he really have any choice? Was he really going to fight that fight? Right then and there?

Now that it’s all said and done, maybe everyone ought to take a deep breath.


At the least, USA Swimming has gone one step too far with Phelps.

On the one hand, six months is arguably thoroughly arbitrary. For legal purposes, the first DUI is absolutely, totally irrelevant. (To show you further how arbitrary: what if Phelps were photographed now with his face in a bong pipe in Colorado, where -- along with Washington state -- pot is legal? Colorado, of all places, home of USA Swimming and the USOC. Things evolve.)

On the other, you can make a pretty strong argument for six months. Let’s be plain: there’s no excusing drunk driving and Phelps is profoundly lucky no one got hurt, or worse. Phelps’ blood-alcohol level was, again, 0.14, and that was not in the field — that was after he had been taken to the police station. He likely had to have been doing some serious drinking. A 200-pound male, about what Phelps weighs, would had to have had 12 drinks to blow a 0.152 after four hours of drinking, according to this chart.

Assuming there’s no wiggle room with the six months, the crux of what really ought to be at issue is the Worlds. Why beat Phelps up over the Worlds? It’s not at all clear that, after six weeks away from the pool, he would even be ready. But it’s just as easy to make the argument that he would be an asset post-treatment to the American team as not — after all, he was a veteran leader in London two years ago, and has increasingly related to younger swimmers.

Here’s one proposal:

After Phelps is done with his six-week, in-patient treatment program, and his court date is through, assuming a conviction but no custody time, he might consider moving to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. He could eat, sleep, train and focus on nothing but himself and swimming — under the watch of USA Swimming and the USOC and, perhaps most important, the longtime "mom" at the training center, an old friend, Sherry Von Riesen.

If he proved himself a model citizen, then the ban on the Worlds could be rescinded.

Phelps has had only one coach, Bob Bowman. Bowman is in Baltimore. There would have to be some workarounds. Bowman could perhaps come to Colorado every couple weeks. There could be Skype sessions.

All this — Phelps as resident at the USOC training center, with no driving privileges for some period of time — could even be part of a court-ordered probationary term. Creative minds, you know, and all that.

Of course, this all assumes Phelps wants to keep swimming competitively. That is a big if. Post-treatment, who knows?


USA Swimming should strongly consider re-framing its policy for what is “detrimental to the image or reputation” of the federation. That is way, way, way too vague, and likely susceptible to serious legal challenge.

The other NGBs should take a look at what's going down here, too.

Arbitrary policy-making done in a rush is not constructive strategy. It may get you out of a jam. Or make it feel like you’re out. But not really. Life is way too complex. There’s always another turn, and it’s always unexpected.


$51 billion, and now these three


LAUSANNE, Switzerland — As the Rolling Stones so memorably put it, you can’t always get what you want, and that’s worth keeping in mind as the International Olympic Committee announced Monday that it was passing the only three cities remaining through as finalists for the 2022 Winter Games — Oslo, Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan. The Stones also said you get what you need. Is this, really, what the IOC needs? Just three cities in the entire world want the Winter Games, and only one in western Europe, the IOC’s traditional home — and that one, Oslo, is not yet a solid bet to even make it to the finish line next July?

This much is entirely clear: this situation is entirely of the IOC’s making.

It ought to offer cause for deep reflection and much soul-searching.

IOC President Thomas Bach announcing the three 2022 candidate cities

There are two central challenges confronting the IOC.

One: the perception of how much the Games cost. The other: the way the IOC itself is too often seen.

It's also the case that Thomas Bach, the IOC president, understands these matters, and acutely. It's clear from his language and his signals over the past weeks and months that he knows three things: one, that perception has become reality; two, that in confronting perception, he is also confronting the realities of a communication challenge; and, three, that it may well take time to turn things around.

At issue, first and foremost, is the $51 billion figure associated with the 2014 Sochi Games. That figure has severely affected potential Winter Games hosts in established economies and markets. Whether that figure is real or not, whether it is misinformation or misinterpreted or not — it does not matter. For now, for all the amazing performances on the ice and snow, a primacy legacy of Sochi is $51 billion.

Beijing 2008 cost $40 billion, it is believed. London 2012 cost $14 billion. Rio 2016 is now on track to cost at least $17 billion, and climbing.

To put it in a context that’s easily understandable, the collection of these numbers have voters and governments freaked out.

The very first warning sign surfaced in the 2020 Summer Games campaign. In February, 2012, Rome withdrew, the then-premier, Mario Monti, saying that a projected $12.5 billion budget was too much.

Then, though, came London. Those Games rocked. You’d think that would spur massive interest across western Europe, right?

Instead, in March, 2013, voters in Switzerland ended a 2022 bid for St. Moritz and Davos. It’s not as if they don’t love the Games there, either: St. Moritz staged the Winter Games in 1928 and 1948.

A few days later, voters in Austria rejected a 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, German voters killed a Munich 2022 bid. Munich probably would have won for 2022 easily. The city played host to the 1972 Summer Games. It had bid for and lost (to Pyeongchang, South Korea) for 2018; Garmisch-Partenkirchen, about an hour south, had staged the 1936 Winter Games.

This January, Stockholm pulled out of the 2022 campaign, the City Council saying it was too expensive. Stockholm staged the 1912 Summer Games.

In May, voters in Krakow, Poland, voted no on 2022. Too expensive, they said by a whopping margin.

Oslo put on the 1952 Winter Games. Lillehammer staged the 1994 Winter Games; the IOC will go back to Lillehammer for the 2016 Winter Youth Games.

The Oslo bid is hanging on, if barely, waiting to see if the Norwegian government will — later this year — put up certain financial guarantees.

An opinion poll commission by the Oslo 2022 bid committee at the beginning of 2014 showed 36 percent support in all of Norway for the idea of hosting the Games. That is, in a word, dreadful. The IOC likes to see 70 percent or better.

An IOC poll in Oslo and the surrounding municipal areas, released Monday as part of its 2022 working group report, again came back with 36 percent support. A full 50 percent were against the Games.

Compare and contrast: 65 percent support in Almaty (not fantastic but edging toward tolerable) and 77 percent in Beijing.

The reason for the 36 percent figure in Oslo is easy: $51 billion.

In the abstract, it makes perfect sense that Russia, in the aftermath of the breakup of the Soviet Union, had to create new winter sports facilities. Seriously: it had to to go other countries just to hold its own national championships.

This was one of the primary reasons why the Russians, in 2007, bid for 2014.

The disconnect is why $51 billion.

The Russians didn’t just build sports facilities. They built two new cities from scratch — Adler, for the ice venues, and Krasnaya Polyana, up in the mountains. All that took massive infrastructure.

Whether or not there was corruption that went with all that construction is of course a question open for potentially considerable discussion. The books in Russia are not open in the same way they might be in, say, the United States.

The 2014 Games — that is, the operating budget — cost nowhere near $51 billion. It was roughly $2 billion.  The Sochi 2014 committee two weeks ago put out a news release touting a $261 million profit — though government subsidies given to the committee totaled at least $420 million.

If you’re counting, that “profit” amounted to roughly 0.5 percent of $51 billion.

This leads into the next challenge.

Basic math.

Any Olympics features two separate budgets.

The IOC has, seemingly forever, not been able to explain the difference between operational and capital budgets.

This, though, is the conundrum, and the IOC kinda sorta wants to have it both ways. It is absolutely the case that one of the reasons so many mayors, governors and prime ministers want an Olympics is elemental public policy. A Games imposes a fixed deadline: you can get done in seven years what would otherwise take 20, 30 or more.

It’s most helpful to the IOC for it to focus on the “operational” side, so that if Country X wants to spend like mad on metro lines, roads, airports and more, that is a matter for the people and government of Country X.

The problem here is the tipping point of $51 billion. If $40 billion in 2008 didn’t do it, $51 billion in 2014 for sure did. That creates a perception problem worldwide for — the IOC.

Which leads directly more broadly to the next challenge.

The IOC has long dealt in crisis communication. Think, for instance: are the Games in Rio going to happen?

One of the reasons the IOC is in the fix it is in now is plain: its communication strategy, day-to-day, is almost non-existent.

The IOC, over the past 15-plus years, has launched winning campaigns such as “celebrate humanity.” It has touted the Olympic values: “friendship, excellence, respect.” But if I were to walk out of the classroom where I teach at the University of Southern California and cross Exposition Boulevard to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, center of the 1932 and 1984 Games, and ask 10 people what the IOC stands for, the bet here is I would get a blank stare.

That has to change.

The more than 100 IOC members frequently get rapped for being fat cats who care only about five-star hotels and limousines. Maybe. Or maybe they are, for the most part, exceptionally smart people who are hugely qualified, volunteering of their time and energy, giving up weekends, holidays and family time to try, little by little, to make the world a better place through sport. Why isn’t that story being told?

In their countries, the IOC members can and should be incredible resources. Yet for the most part they aren’t being used. Why not?

It’s not like they are lacking for ideas. When they got together for their meeting in February in Sochi, they flooded the president, Thomas Bach, with 211 “interventions,” as comments and questions from the floor are called in IOC lingo.

In the public perception, though, the members are seen as distant and remote. And you wonder why the IOC has an image problem?

Bjorn Daehlie, the Norwegian cross-country ski champion who is now a businessman, in Lausanne Monday as part of the Oslo 2022 team, said of the talks underway now in his country relating to the bid and, ultimately, the financial guarantees, “I’m confident these discussions which are taking place now are important discussions. We needed these discussions. They thought all this money went into a big sack in Lausanne and these guys were driving in these black cars spending this money. So this is, I think — this is, huge, positive.”

He added, “I think a lot of other countries need to learn more about the work the IOC does for sport in general.”

Bach visited Norway a few weeks back, ostensibly to review Lillehammer's 2016 preparations.

"If you listen to Mr. Bach between the lines, he wants all countries to be able to host the Olympic Games," Daehlie said Monday.

Which, as the IOC moved the three cities on to become 2022 finalists, should lead in a straight line to the next issue.

The IOC must reinstate bid visits by the members.

As a reaction to the late 1990s Salt Lake City scandal, the IOC banned such visits. That was understandable then. The time has come now to allow the members to see the cities.

For one, it’s patently absurd that reporters — who are allowed to follow the IOC evaluation commission around — can know more about the cities than the members. The stakes are too high.

For another, now that NBC and the IOC have struck a $7.75 billion deal through 2032, it’s not as if there isn’t money available for the IOC to fund such visits. Take the financial incentive away from the cities.

Most importantly, however, there is no way that Bach can travel the world and hold out the IOC as a paragon of good governance and credibility if his own members can not be trusted to visit the cities bidding for the right to stage the Games.

It’s that simple -- though whether the members themselves will, ultimately, see it that way is entirely uncertain.

The bid-city issue is part of Bach's far-reaching “Agenda 2020” program, which is working its way toward an all-members review in December in Monaco.

In his comments Monday, the president said the IOC’s policy-making executive board was “impressed by the legacy plans” of each of the cities and noted that “it is good to see” that, at the outset, each understood the key difference between operating and capital budgets.

He also said the IOC sought to "encourage sustainability and the feasibility of the organization of the Olympic Games."

He said, “So we have a very good choice.”


The Oslo 2022 conundrum

The International Olympic Committee finds itself early this week in Oslo in a conundrum of its own making. On the one hand, it is assuredly the IOC’s responsibility to encourage strong bids to come forward. Thus Oslo 2022. On the other, in politics – even, perhaps especially, sports politics – perceptions can matter as much as reality. Thus, again, Oslo 2022.

A high-powered IOC delegation, led by the president himself, Thomas Bach, visits Norway Monday and Tuesday for a series of meetings revolving primarily – there are other sessions – around preparations for the 2016 Winter Youth Games in Lillehammer.

Norway's Anette Sagen during a 2013 FIS World Cup ski jump event at the famed Holmenkollen venue // photo Getty Images

The timing comes at a fraught juncture for the Oslo 2022 bid, which all involved are keenly aware.

Thus the dilemma:

Is this good for the IOC? For Oslo 2022? Or, owing to layers of complexities, is this trip ultimately not likely to prove helpful for an Oslo 2022 campaign?

To set the stage:

The IOC agreed to these series of meetings in Norway weeks if not months ago.

As the longtime Olympic British journalist David Miller spelled out in the newsletter Sport Intern in a column published Saturday, the two-day itinerary begins Monday with meetings at the Olympic Sports Center and the Norwegian School of Sports Science.

The IOC president is due thereafter to take lunch with Norway’s King Harald at the Royal Castle along with Norway IOC member, Gerhard Heiberg. After that, Miller reports, the IOC delegation – which includes the likes of senior IOC member Ser Miang Ng, who is the new finance commission chair as well as Singapore’s ambassador to Norway for many years, and Angela Ruggiero, chair of the Lillehammer 2016 coordination commission – is due to “exchange ideas” with Norway’s culture minister, Thorhild Wedvey, and Oslo’s mayor, Stian Berger Rosland.

More meetings Monday are due to follow, with three NGOs, with four labor groups and, finally, with members of parliament.

On Tuesday, the scene shifts to Lillehammer itself, Miller reports, for a series of meetings, including with Ottavio Cinquanta (head of the skating federation), Rene Fasel (hockey federation chief) and Gian-Franco Kasper (ski and snowboard federation No. 1).

Also due to be on-hand from the IOC side, according to Miller: the outgoing Olympic Games executive director, Gilbert Felli, and the IOC director general, Christophe de Kepper.


Assuming, indeed, that everyone shows up -- that is some serious IOC star power.

A bit more background:

There are five applicant cities in the 2022 bid race: Oslo; Almaty, Kazakhstan; Beijing; Lviv, Ukraine; and Krakow, Poland.

It’s not clear Krakow will make it past a May 25 referendum.

Lviv, of course, is struggling with enormous turbulence in the eastern part of the country. The IOC last week gave Ukraine’s national Olympic committee $300,000 just so its athletes could make it to training camps and meets this year.

The IOC’s policy-making executive board is due in early July to decide which of the five “applicants” will become “candidate” finalists. The IOC will pick the 2022 winner in July, 2015.

Almaty and Beijing would seem to be shoo-ins. They are both, of course, from Asia.

So who is going to make it from Europe?

It’s not exactly a secret that Norwegians love winter sports, indeed the Winter Games. The 1994 Lillehammer Games are often cited as the “best-ever.” Norway leads the overall Winter Games medal count, with 329, and the gold count, too, with 118 (the U.S. is second in both categories, 282 and 96).

The athlete who has won the most Winter Games medals? Biathlon king Ole Einar Bjorndalen of Norway, the new IOC member, with 13. He won two gold medals in Sochi in February -- just a couple weeks after turning 40.

Next? Cross-country ski god Bjorn Daehlie of Norway, with 12, eight gold.

Next, three athletes, one of whom is female Norwegian cross-country ski legend Marit Bjorgen, with 10 Olympic medals, six gold. In Sochi, age 33, she won three gold medals, among them the grueling 30-kilometer event.

Look, any Oslo bid for the Games would understandably be taken very seriously. For obvious reasons.

Two weeks ago, however, one of two Norwegian government parties voted against supporting Oslo’s 2022 bid. At issue now is whether the government will offer the needed financial guarantees.

The imperative – at least for now – is that the IOC would seem to need Oslo for the 2022 race more than Oslo needs the Winter Games. That is the box. And everyone in Olympic circles knows it.

At the same time, while Norwegians may love the Winter Games, it’s pretty clear there are some strong feelings about the bid, and they may be directly tied to the IOC. And those feelings may not be so positive.

A new poll conducted by the research firm Norstat for NRK, the Norwegian Broadcast Corporation, suggests that 60 percent of the Norwegian public is against an Oslo 2022 bid – with only 35 percent in favor.

“No, it is a considerable skepticism, and I think a lot of the information that has been around the IOC has increased that skepticism,” Christian Democratic Party leader Knut Arild Hareide said.

Bach has been in office for about nine months. He has shown an inclination to lead in a style that evokes some of the ways of Juan Antonio Samaranch, the IOC president from 1980-2001, who understood – appropriately – that the IOC is not just a sports institution but one that moves with nation-states and with influential political leaders.

Thus, for instance, the lunch with the Norwegian king as well as the exchanges with, for instance, the culture minister.

Too, Bach is possessed – this is meant to be a compliment – of first-rate confidence. You have to have such confidence to direct the IOC, a global institution with a multibillion-dollar budget. By definition, the position lends itself to high-pressure decision making. Bach took a decision to have this two-day meeting, and it is on.

He is also riding a wave of can-do. Sochi is in the rear-view mirror. The IOC and NBC just struck a $7.75 billion deal through 2032.

Even so, does the IOC president himself need to assess what’s going on in Lillehammer with regard to the 2016 Youth Games, when those Games are nearly two years away -- Feb. 12-21, 2016 -- and, besides, it’s well-known the Youth Games are way down the IOC priority list?

For this purpose, doesn’t he already have a coordination commission? And the chair of that commission is, you know, in Norway for this trip?

If this trip were just about Lillehammer, why meet with the mayor of Oslo?

It is also the case that the Norwegians doubtlessly would have some interesting – perhaps even some constructively provocative – ideas to offer regarding Olympic Agenda 2020, the far-reaching IOC study program the IOC president has launched that is now working its way toward the all-members session in Monaco in December. That would explain the sessions with the NGOs and the other Monday afternoon meetings, for instance.

But are the Norwegians the only ones in the entire world with suggestions so potentially clever that the president has to hear them in person?

And, this, coincidentally enough, before the July meeting at which the 2022 applicants are going to be passed through?

Earlier this year – the deadline was April 15 – the IOC took email submissions from anyone, anywhere who wanted to weigh in relating to Olympic Agenda 2020. Yet the Norwegians get an in-person audience with the IOC president himself?

Over the years, the IOC has gone to great – some would say extraordinary – lengths, particularly in the aftermath of the late 1990s Salt Lake City scandal, to keep its distance from anything that sniffed of even the hint of the appearance of conflict of interest in the bid cycle.

For instance, the IOC would not entertain sponsorship discussions from the Russian concern Gazprom while Sochi was bidding for the 2014 Games. Similarly, when Doha was trying, it would not entertain an approach from Qatar Airways even between bid cycles.

No one has suggested misconduct or wrongdoing in the slightest by either the Norwegians or the IOC. To repeat: nobody has said anybody is doing anything wrong.

And nobody is likely to.

The only people who would be likely to complain would be rival bid teams, in this instance most likely Almaty or Beijing.

How do you think it is going to go over when they read that the IOC president is in Oslo, and before the July executive board pass-through meeting?

If you were them, how would you react?

In private?

Now – what would you do about it?


Isn’t this, too, the dilemma?