Jean-Claude Killy

Ted Ligety's 'awesome' GS gold

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — A couple years ago, they made a rules change in the giant slalom. Citing the interest of athlete safety, they made the skiers change to longer, straighter skis. Those skis are way harder to turn. Ted Ligety, the American who had ruled the giant slalom, complained bitterly.

And then he figured out a way to ski on those new skis, lower and longer in the turns, that further separated himself from everyone else in the world. He could now win races by astonishing margins.

Ted Ligety in victory after the giant slalom // photo Getty Images

At Wednesday’s men’s super-G at Rosa Khutor, Ted Ligety put on a clinic to win the first American alpine skiing gold of these Olympics. Indeed, he won big. It was one of the great moments of the 2014 Games. Here, for the entire world to bear witness, was sheer excellence — the excellence the sport demands as well as the excellence the man demands of himself.

It was, in a word, awesome.

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Sochi corruption allegation

Gian Franco Kasper, the president of FIS, the influential international ski federation, says one-third of the more than $50-billion cost of the upcoming Sochi 2014 Winter Games has simply been embezzled. A Swiss member of the International Olympic Committee, Kasper made the provocative assertion in an interview Wednesday with Switzerland’s state broadcaster, SRF.

Kasper did not provide details. Instead, speaking in German, he said corruption appeared to be an “every day” matter in Russia.

Ski federation president Gian-Franco Kasper speaking on Swiss TV

The question now — to evoke a famous aphorism in Russian history — is what is to be done with Kasper’s remarks.

And, of course, what, if anything, is behind the timing of such allegations. As of Friday, the Feb. 7 opening ceremony is 28 days away.

In a follow-up interview Friday with Associated Press, Kasper stood by his remarks: “I didn’t say anything which I wouldn’t have said two years ago.”

He said the one-third figure for corrupt spending is “what everybody says in Russia,” not based on inside knowledge or direct evidence.

In Friday’s telephone interview with the AP’s Graham Dunbar, a respected Geneva-based sports correspondent, Kasper said, “One-third is disappearing. It’s not only in Russia that in certain businesses there is always a part disappearing.”

Kasper said money purportedly diverted for illicit reasons involved Russian sources, not the IOC or its commercial partners. He said $13 billion was specifically allocated toward the Games; the rest, he said, was for separate transport or construction projects.

In the SRF interview, Kasper noted that security at the 2014 Games would likely be intense.

He declared, too, that Russian president Vladimir Putin had an “ice-cold” personality. He said the recent release of prisoners — such as two members of the feminist band Pussy Riot, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, as well Greenpeace activists and the former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky — were PR stunts aimed at boosting Russia’s image ahead of the opening ceremony.

Kasper said he feared “heartless Games.”

In speaking Friday with the AP, Kasper said Putin was a passionate sports fan but politically calculating: “He is [a] very strong, ice-cold man. That was not negative.”

Kasper has been an IOC member since 2000. He sits on the Sochi 2014 coordination commission, the IOC’s primary link to the project, a panel led by France’s Jean-Claude Killy, the 1968 triple ski gold medalist, himself an IOC member since 1995.

Again, Kasper leads the ski federation, arguably the most important of the seven winter sports. That lends his remarks a certain gravity.

It was just a little over 15 years ago that another Swiss, Marc Hodler, himself the FIS president from 1951 to 1998, launched the corruption scandal tied to Salt Lake City’s winning bid for the 2002 Winter Olympics. Is this the start of another such episode?

Activists and critics of the Sochi project have for many months now sought to gain the world’s attention about cost overruns connected with the 2014 Games. Examples abound.

It can be very different, however, when a member -- particularly a very senior member -- of the IOC levels such an accusation.

The Christian Science Monitor on Friday reached out to Boris Nemtsov, a former Russian deputy prime minister who has since turned Kremlin critic, the author of a study that alleges up to $30 billion has been stolen in the lead-up to the 2014 Games. He said of the IOC, “They are obliged to pay attention to this.”

In Salt Lake City, it must be noted, accounting was transparent. An open media and the pressure of a vibrant court system helped lead, too, to the truth. Can the same circumstances be said of Russia?

Moreover, of Kasper’s credibility it must be observed he is the gentleman who said in 2005, when women ski jumpers were vying for a place in the Winter Games he was not sure it was suitable for their bodies.

“Don’t forget,” he said then in an interview with NPR, “it’s like jumping down from, let’s say, about two meters on the ground about a thousand times a year, which seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view.”

Women’s ski jumping makes its Olympic debut at the 2014 Sochi Games.


The relay lights the way


ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- Moscow Avenue runs for 10 kilometers. It starts at Victory Square, commemorating the sacrifices of World War II. The street sees the Russian National Library. It carries past the House of Soviets, a major command post during the 900-day siege; out front is a massive statue of Lenin. The boulevard runs over the Fontanka River and then, finally, ends at Sennaya Square. Ten kilometers is roughly six miles. It rained on and off Sunday, the day the Olympic flame relay -- as it is formally known -- came to St. Petersburg. It was cold enough that already winter coats and hats were out. Even so, Moscow Avenue -- in Russian, Moskovksky Prospekt -- was jammed, the street lined on both sides, people everywhere and anywhere, just to get a glimpse of the flame.

They were literally hanging out of second-story windows. They were queueing at gas stations. They came sprinting out of a car dealership. Kids, and there were hundreds upon hundreds of kids,  waved flags and danced and pointed excitedly to their parents and uncles and aunts and teachers and didn't mind the rain and posed for pictures. The children acted -- well, like kids everywhere.

It has been nearly 30 years since Sting suggested in song that the Russians must love their children, too. The relay offers powerful proof of what the Sochi 2014 Games, which this week ticked under 100 days away, mean to this enormous, incredible country -- and, at the same time, an invitation to the rest of the world to find out about Russia beyond the well-worn stereotypes.

The Olympic flame in St. Petersburg, Russia // photo courtesy Sochi 2014

This has always been the power of the relay.

It symbolizes the better urge in the Olympic movement, the powerful impulse toward excellence, friendship and respect that is, in fact, universal.

Kids everywhere know that.

They knew it on my street in Hermosa Beach, California, in 1996 when I took my daughter, who was then 2 years old, out to see the relay go by right our house on its way to Atlanta for the Summer Games and all the neighbor kids were screaming and yelling in excitement.

Just like they did Sunday in St. Petersburg, Russia.

For much of the rest of the world, the onset of the 2014 Winter Games has meant a rash of controversies: a vague new law purporting to ban homosexual "propaganda" to young people, $50 billion and counting in construction, worries over snow or no, concerns over terrorism, all of it overseen by the face of today's Russia, the president himself, Vladimir Putin.

That catalogue underscores a simple truth: the Russians have not done themselves many, if any, PR favors.

Fundamentally, however, the wonder -- after four visits to Russia in not even six months -- is how much of what gets spun up about this country is still rooted all these many years after the end of the Cold War in what can often seem like an enduring dread, if not outright fear, in many quarters of the press.

Of all the stories and all the broadcasts, how many are from reporters who have ever set even one foot in Russia?

Russia takes time and effort. In today's 24/7, what-have-you-got-for-me-now news-cycle, those are resources that can seem most difficult to justify.

Russia is not, in a word, easy. It's not easy to get to; travel visas have traditionally been complicated and expensive. Moreover, once here, the language barrier is often ferocious. Even the alphabet is different.

Sochi itself, way down by the Black Sea,  is hard to get to. Where do you want to transfer through? Moscow? Istanbul? Vienna?

Then there is Putin, who is typically viewed as The Action Man One Dares Not Cross -- for fear he is at all times carrying plutonium-laced sushi, or something, in his pocket. Or, if he is back to riding shirtless on a horse, in his boots. Who knows?

These absurd caricatures are completely at odds with the Putin that the French ski legend Jean-Claude Killy, the International Olympic Committee's primary liaison with Russia and the Sochi 2014 project, described in a recent story in the French weekly Journal du Dimanche.

"The Putin I know is not the one described in the newspapers, where you see real 'Putin-bashing,' " Killy told the paper.

Killy added, "I have no reason to follow the crowd; I trust what I see. When he calls me from Moscow at three in the morning his time to wish me a happy birthday, I find that nice."

It's not that there is an essential misunderstanding in the west of Putin or, more broadly, of Russia.

There seems to be almost no understanding.

This, then, is the opportunity the Sochi 2014 Games present -- if, and this is a big it, the Russians themselves understand it is at hand.

And -- if they care, and want to do something about it.

To be clear:

There is much to criticize about the Sochi project. And there remains the potential for terrorism or other catastrophe that could further re-shape forever the way the 2014 Games are seen or understood.

At the same time, the relay lights the way toward a new understanding, the possibility that -- over time -- things can change. This is the promise and potential of the Olympic movement in every country it touches.

That said, change takes time, especially fundamental change, and especially in a vast and complicated place like Russia.

Consider, for example, this exchange on Monday between Putin and the newly elected IOC president, Thomas Bach, at the Adler Railway Station, one of the infrastructure facilities built for the 2014 Games. Adler is the town immediately next to Sochi.

"Sochi and the entire region have come a long way in their development over these last years, and successfully, too," Bach said. "This makes a deep impression on us. The Olympic sites will contribute to making the Sochi Olympics unique in the movement's history, and the facilities will offer sportspeople the best possible conditions."

Putin, a moment or two later, said, "It seems to me that you liked the railway station, too?"

Bach: "I more than liked it, not just for its functionality, but for its architecture, too. It impresses me very much that you were able to build this railway station in just four years. Aside from the architecture and the unique solutions to link the old and new stations, I was also impressed by the way the facilities have been designed to allow people with disabilities to use them. I learned today, for example, that a special path has been laid in the terminal for the visually impaired. I think this is an optimistic sign for the future, a sign that shows how architecture and construction are developing in general in Russia.

"Of course, this new station will be used after the Olympics, too, and will become part of the Olympic heritage not just for Sochi but for the whole country."

Putin: "Yes, I wanted to say the same words. It will be an important part of the Olympics' legacy."

Is this revolutionary? No.

Is this important stuff? Yes, just like the handicap ramps that were built as a design feature into a nearby hockey arena, also a new idea in Russia.

A recycling program for water bottles -- a new idea.

Another new idea -- the volunteer program that will make the Games go in a country that previously had no volunteer culture.

On a Sunday morning in St. Petersburg, there they were by the dozens in their blue vests, 2014 volunteers, out in the rain, seeing the relay down Moscow Avenue and beyond, bringing the Olympic flame to a part of Russia nearly 1,450 miles away from Sochi. They made lifetime memories for literally thousands of people, and so many kids.

It was not even seven years ago, the summer of 2007, that Sochi was bidding for the 2014 Games. To have imagined such a scene then -- truly, it was unthinkable.


Ligety: first to three

Ted Ligety didn't just win the giant slalom Friday at the alpine skiing world championships. He crushed it. Which means that in the way Lindsey Vonn was the It Girl before the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, Bode Miller the It Dude before Torino in 2006 -- America, you are going to be seeing a lot, and then a lot more, of Ted Ligety before Sochi next February.

Ligety's victory made for his third win at the worlds at Schladming, Austria. He already had won the super-G and the super-combined events.

He became the first man to win three titles in a single worlds since the legendary Jean-Claude Killy of France won four in 1968, when the Olympic Games counted as the worlds.

That's 45 years.

Ted Ligety skiing to victory Friday in the giant slalom at the alpine world championships in Schladming, Austria // photo courtesy Mitchell Gunn ESPA and U.S. Ski Team

Ligety is the first American skier to win three medals at a single worlds. He is the first non-European to do so.

His four career golds match Miller for most by a U.S. skier.

He is the first skier -- male or female -- to win the super-G, super-combined and giant slalom at a single world championship.

He became the seventh man to win the giant slalom at two worlds, and the sixth back-to-back.

All of this means a great deal, and at the same time very little, come Sochi.

It means Ligety, 28, of Park City, Utah, rocks.

Ligety is already an Olympic gold medalist. He won the combined in Torino.

To be hugely obvious, he is now more mature, smarter, better, totally on his game, and barring injury he will be a medal favorite in Sochi in the giant slalom, and perhaps other events as well.

But, because alpine racing is enormously variable, with course conditions, the course set, the light and more, it could all slip away -- literally -- in an instant.

He acknowledged as much Friday, saying, "Ski racing is such a tough sport. In a way -- it's hard to really replicate these kinds of wins. You've seen Lindsey. She was by far the favorite -- won a gold medal, for sure," in the Vancouver downhill.

"She had the ability to win far more. That's just the tough thing about ski racing. It's so far from guaranteed. It's not like running -- all you have to do is run. Or swimming. There are so many more variables than that. It's just so hard to replicate good performances. The hill changes every single guy. So it's not so easy."

Ligety in Schladming on his victory tour // photo courtesy Mitchell Gunn ESPA and U.S. Ski Team

Ligety said he is well aware that, for an American audience, he will now be The Guy heading toward Sochi.

"I don't know what it's going to be like," he said, adding in a reference to Vonn before Vancouver and Miller pre-Torino, "I know they had a lot of external pressures, a lot of things they had to go through for being the favorite -- we'll see how that goes. Hopefully, it doesn't take too much out of my summer. It should be fun."

Sochi will be Ligety's third Games. He said, "I'm always looking forward to the Olympics. It's a really cool experience. This has definitely set the bar high. I don't know if this is repeatable," adding the thing was to "maintain the same level of skiing and give myself good chances there."

Ligety admitted to feeling nerves before Friday's racing.

If so, it didn't show.

The giant slalom is a two-race affair.

In the first piece, Ligety went out and built a lead of 1.31 seconds.

In alpine racing, 1.31 seconds is huge.

In the second run, Ligety's primary rival, Austria's Marcel Hirscher, went out and threw the huge crowd -- more than 35,000 people -- into a roar by moving into contention.

"Running 30th," Ligety said, "it was really bumpy in that second run, and the light was pretty flat," adding, "I had to charge. I was making mistakes," including one that almost sent him, his left ski flying, off the course. "But that's part of ski racing. I had to charge through that. I was glad I had that buffer I did after that first race."

Ligety's combined winning time: 2 minutes, 28.92 seconds.

Hirscher finished 81-hundredths back. At one point, Ligety had increased that 1.31-second lead to 1.68, then slowed to make sure he got to the finish in one piece.

Manfred Moelgg of Italy finished third, 1.75 seconds behind.

Tenth place was another second back. Twelfth place was more than full three seconds back of first. In alpine racing, these sorts of differentials are ridiculous.

"This week has been the best week of ski racing in my life," Ligety told a news conference. "I still don't think I have recognized what I have done so far this week. It has been so phenomenal."


What now, France?

DURBAN, South Africa -- Guy Drut, one of France's two International Olympic Committee members, called it a "very, very cold shower," and that was the headline all over Thursday's editions of the French newspaper Le Monde. L'Équipe, the French sports daily, offered up the "autopsy of a failure."

In the Tribune de Genève, which can be read not just in Geneva but in Annecy, the French town just down the road that got spanked in Wednesday's IOC vote, receiving just seven votes, it was, "Disappointed."

"We console ourselves as we can," L'Équipe said, and with all due respect, that's not it. Now is not the time for consolation.

Now is the time for a wholesale re-think of what is going on over there in France.

That's what's going on in the United States as the U.S. Olympic Committee tries to rebuild its financial and political relationships with the IOC.

And that's what is manifestly called for now in France.

If that's not obvious, every single person in position of leadership in French sport ought to be replaced.

There have now been four French bids for the Olympic Games in the past 14 years -- Lille for 2004, Paris for both 2008 and 2012 and, now, Annecy for 2018. By common reckoning, the French have spent a combined 130 million euros on the four bids, about $185 million at current exchange rates.

What do they have to show for it?

Absolutely nothing.

It's pretty plain that Annecy's performance here in Durban ranks at the bottom of any bid city's effort over the last 20 years. To recap it all is to wonder how a country that has so much going for it can get it all so very wrong:

From the start, the bid proved a complicated tangle between a national Olympic committee and the central government in Paris and the locals in the far-off mountains. Jean-Claude Killy, the French ski legend and acknowledged authority in IOC circles on Winter Games, kept his distance from the campaign; he would ultimately make only three live appearances on behalf of the bid, one here in Durban.

Moreover, and crucially, the bid was under-funded from the get-go.

Because of those funding concerns, bid chief Edgar Grospiron resigned last December. No one wanted the job. Entrepreneur Charles Beigbeder was finally convinced to take it. At that point, the technical plan was a mess. There was no narrative -- that is, no story about why anyone should want to vote for Annecy.

It proved remarkable how many times one heard bid officials mention the name "Annecy" once in a briefing and then go on to mention "the French Alps" thereafter.

A little brand-management, please. Frankly, the bid should always have been called "Chamonix." There's a name that's globally recognized and might have excited people.

For his part, Beigbeder was put in a hugely untenable position. On the one hand, he had to try to keep everyone around him motivated. On the other, he had to confront the reality he had inherited.

Reality check:

If the IOC vote had been held when Beigbeder took over, it's quite possible -- as even bid insiders now acknowledge -- Annecy might have gotten no votes.

From there, things did pick up. Well, some. The technical plan was improved. A creative team -- Lucien Boyer, Andrew Craig, Nick Varley, Dan Connolly -- developed a story and hammered it until journalists could recite it by heart. That's a good thing. It meant the team had done their job. The tagline: "an authentic Games in the heart of the mountains."

Even so, it remained clear Annecy still had no chance to win. The only issue was how many votes it could get. Like, double digits?

The French were counting on African votes -- in particular, Francophone votes -- to get there. As if.

If you know how the game works, it's quite possible the French got no African votes. There were those here who knew Francophone voters were still incredibly angry for promises made in 2005 in the course of the Paris 2012 campaign that they felt had never been fulfilled. No way were they going to be voting for Annecy now.

Here's the bottom line:

In general, as a country, France does have so much going for it. The French Olympic committee is not -- as is the USOC -- locked in a revenue dispute with the IOC. So, at a macro level, what's the problem?

That's what the re-think has to be about.

France has not been able, for instance, to take the momentum of the multiculturalism that was 1998 and the winning World Cup in Paris and translate that into a winning Olympic bid. Why is that?

The Annecy campaign? Not one person of color in any leadership position.

Moreover, France's Olympic bids keep getting stuck in some weird sense of entitlement rooted in the fact that Pierre de Coubertin was French, and de Coubertin is the man who in many ways got the modern Olympic movement going. Our French friends need to get over that. Like, now. Take soccer. Modern-day soccer has its roots in Britain. Did England win the 2018 World Cup because of that? Hardly.

Sorry to say this, too, but while the French did a much better job speaking English in the Annecy presentation Wednesday to the IOC -- about 40 percent of it was in English -- they need to ramp it up even more. They can like that, or not. But they have to accept it, or at least think long and hard about the consequences of not accepting it. The language of international business has become English and the language of the Olympic movement is, practically speaking, English.

Here is indisputable proof:

At every Games, the IOC makes available a database in both English and French to the thousands of writers and broadcasters from around the world. The usage stats from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics: 96.4 percent of the hits were in English, 3.6 percent in French.

In the first of their losing bids eight years ago, Pyeongchang's team spoke almost exclusively in Korean.

What the Koreans have learned and what the French now have to study is how to play to your audience. On Wednesday, Pyeongchang's 45-minute presentation went down almost entirely in English.

You'd like to think that in Beigbeder and in the French sports minister, Chantal Jouanno, the French now might have a team that has endured a brutal learning curve and could put what they've learned to use long-term. Because this has to be a long-term play.

Then again, given the French way, it's not clear how long Jouanno can stay in her position.

Just one more thing for them to think about.

This, too:

L'Équipe's two standout Olympic correspondents, Alain Lunzenfichter and Marc Chevrier, published a lengthy feature Thursday entitled, "Objective Paris 2024!"

It seems almost inevitable. They'll be lusting after those 2024 Games in Paris because they staged the 1924 Games there.

The IOC will pick the 2024 site in 2017. That gives the French six years to get their act together, as the story points out.

Just to be blunt: that 100-year thing is no guarantee of anything. Ask Athens. They lusted for 1996 after staging 1896. The 1996 Games went to Atlanta.

Carlos Nuzman, the 2016 Rio bid leader, now its chief organizer, held a casual briefing Thursday afternoon with some reporters.  Asked what he might suggest to his French friends, he said, "You need to evaluate a lot of things. You need to put on paper or [sit] around a round table. Maybe you will think and some momentum will come.

"It's very important to understand bids nowadays are different from the past. This is one special lesson."

Three bids, 88 members, 49 days to go

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- Two years ago, Rio de Janeiro's bid team came here and put up a map that showed the Summer Games had never been to South America, a remarkably clever piece of stagecraft that separated Rio from four other contenders and, ultimately, made the case for its stunning win for the 2016 Summer Games. The three cities for the 2018 Winter Games came here Wednesday with movies and charts and Olympic medalists by the score, the two perceived chasers, Munich and Annecy, France, looking for a similar breakout moment to make up ground against the favorite, Pyeongchang, South Korea.

The Koreans came Wednesday with the admittedly "nervous" but nonetheless impressive Yuna Kim, the women's 2010 figure skating gold medalist. And they have their own world map.

That map shows that the Winter Games have been held in Asia only twice, and both times in Japan, in Nagano in 1998 and Sapporo in 1972.

This is the underlying dynamic of this 2018 race, and unless the others wield a compelling argument to the contrary, it's why this arguably is -- and always has been -- the Koreans' race to lose. The IOC will vote July 6 by secret ballot in Durban, South Africa.

The essential 2018 question is whether the forces of history, economics and demographics are -- or are not -- on Korea's side.

To frame it another way: Is the sports world still in the expansionist mode of recent years? Or is 2018 the campaign in which the IOC takes a break and opts for a more traditional locale before venturing forth anew in 2020, 2022 and beyond?

To be clear: The Koreans have a lot going for them. Then again, if they could win, of course they could lose. They have bid twice before for the Winter Games, for 2014 and 2010, and lost both times. Moreover, it's an International Olympic Committee election; by definition, the only thing predictable about an IOC campaign is that it's unpredictable.

Indeed, sometimes it's just flat-out unusual.

One such moment:

At the session Wednesday, held at the Olympic Museum, and formally dubbed a "technical briefing," with each city given a 45-minute presentation window followed by a question-and-answer session, Hicham el Guerrouj, the great Moroccan middle-distance runner who since 2004 has been an IOC member, posed a question during Annecy's time about the arrest in New York on sexual assault charges of French financier Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

IOC president Jacques Rogge promptly ruled the question out of order.

Rogge was not asked about that question at an end-of-the day news conference.

He declared the day a big success: "It was a very good day for the International Olympic Committee because whoever wins will definitely be able to stage very good Games."

He also said, and perhaps he's absolutely right about this, perhaps he's just practicing diplomacy: "It's going to be a close race."

The Koreans, with their tagline about taking the Games to "new horizons," would appear in many regards to be driving the campaign. At the least, the other two bids have felt compelled to respond to the Korean narrative.

"When you choose the Olympic host city, it is about more than just geography," Katarina Witt, the chair of the Munich bid, stunning as ever in a low-cut dress by the Berlin designer Michalsky, told the 88 IOC members on hand, stressing that Munich would deliver full stadiums and "the single greatest experience" of each athlete's life.

It's not just about geography, of course.

Even so, the broad theme of the era in which we are living is writ large.

The nations that through the 1990s played host to major sports events have been giving way in recent years to countries and regions that, logically enough, are saying, it's our turn now.

As a for instance, this is why -- despite what is shaping up to be a comparatively weak field for 2020 -- the U.S. Olympic Committee, even if its revenue and marketing issues with the IOC are resolved, ought to give serious, serious pause before considering an entry.

One theory holds that after ranging afield to new locales -- such as Rio for 2016 -- the IOC needs to park in a safe harbor, such as the U.S., for 2020.

Applying that theory now would deliver 2018 to Germany or France -- after 2014 in Sochi, Russia, where they're building a brand-new Winter Games destination from scratch.

The competing theory is that the Olympic and international sports world is still very much in the midst of turning away from what was and toward what's next.

See, for example: Russia 2014; Brazil 2016 (and soccer's World Cup in 2014.)

Russia, again, for the World Cup in 2018. Qatar, for the World Cup in 2022.

Qatar, again, for the men's team handball world championship in 2015 -- chosen this past January over three European bids, from France, Norway and Poland.

Our world is changing all around us. Just a couple days ago, in an event that went virtually unnoticed in the United States but is big stuff in Europe, with more than 100 million people tuned in to watch the final episode, Azerbaijan, one of the former Soviet republics, won the Eurovision song contest.

Germany was 10th; Britain, 11th. Spain and France finished farther still down the list.

Azerbaijan winning Eurovision -- that underscores a major cultural and economic shift.

Here's another huge economic shift in the making, a point the Koreans have underscored time and again during this 2018 campaign:

By 2030, according to an Asian Development Bank Study, Asia will make up 43 percent of worldwide consumption. From 1990 to 2008, the middle class in Asia grew by 30 percent, and spent an average of an additional $1.7 trillion annually. No other region in the world comes close.

Complicating the 2018 Olympic dynamic, though, is the factor of personality politics.

Thomas Bach, the vice president and presumed IOC presidential candidate in 2013, is leading the Munich bid. He observed Wednesday that "there are cycles of life," a time where "you go to new shores" and another "where you cultivate your foundations."

While the presentations Wednesday were important, the behind-the-scenes politicking now begins in earnest.

"This is a marathon race," Bach said at a news conference. "It's of no importance whether you lead at 22k or 35k or 40k. The only thing that counts is to cross the finish line first, on the 6th of July. After today's presentation and the response, which we can feel, we go into this final stretch of this very special Olympic marathon with full confidence and with all the determination and with all the passion we can have for the Olympic Games in Germany and for winter sports in particular."

Asked where Munich stood at this point in the "marathon," Bach answered, "I don't care. This is, as I said, about winning."

For their part, the French team includes Jean-Claude Killy, the triple 1968 Games ski champion turned sports administrator. Arguably no one within the Olympic movement carries more credibility within winter sports circles. "We think we have nothing to envy the other two propositions," he told reporters after the French had briefed the 88 members.

Later, he said that he supported the bid "very strongly." He also, reading from a paper left over from the German news conference, said, "It says here that 'Munich loves you.' So I just want you to know that we love you, too."

The chairman of the Korean bid, Yang Ho Cho, met reporters immediately after the Pyeongchang presentation ended. In keeping with the Korean message of humility, he said, "The decision is up to the IOC members. We did our best," adding a moment later, "We sent a message of new horizons."


A quickie and by no means exhaustive summary of the three bids:

-- Munich: One of the world's great cities. Re-purposed 1972 Summer Games venues. Big crowds. Fantastic guaranteed atmosphere. German business underwrites 50 percent of the revenues of the seven sports on the Winter Games program. Germany hasn't hosted the Winter Games since 1936.

-- Annecy: The IOC has had a penchant for staging recent Winter Games in big cities -- Vancouver, Torino, Salt Lake City. What about the mountains? "Authentic" Annecy, amid the world's most iconic mountain range and with a sustainable development plan in mind, is uniquely positioned to take the Winter Games, and mountain communities worldwide, into a 21st-century future.

-- Pyeongchang: Time is not only ripe but right to go to Asia and South Korea to grow the Winter Games, and in a big way. 87 percent national support for 2018 Games. Major national priority. Two prior bids, spent $1.4 billion to build first-class Alpensia resort in what used to be potato fields. "We are keeping our promises to the IOC," former provincial governor and bid leader Jin Sun Kim stressed at news conference.

Money, geography and a three-horse race

LONDON -- From the moment in December that Edgar Grospiron resigned, throwing Annecy's bid for the 2018 Winter Games into turmoil, it was never quite certain whether the campaign from the French Alps would ever again regain enough balance to again become a credible contender. At times, to be frank, it was like watching a train wreck. The Annecy bid stumbled along for weeks without a leader. Finally, Charles Beigbeder, a French entrepreneur, was convinced to take the job. Budget-wise, they've acknowledged many times since, they are running on the low side. They have struggled to cobble together a narrative.

On Thursday, however, here before the SportAccord convention of influential sports leaders from around the world, it all came together.

For arguably the first time, the Annecy campaign put together a coherent and credible pitch for a village-style Alpine Games: A  "bid from the mountains with the athletes for the future," with an emphasis on what they called an "authentic" Winter Games.

People noticed.

"It is a much better race than many in the IOC thought it would be six months ago," Craig Reedie, the British IOC executive board member who helped lead London's winning 2012 bid, said after watching Annecy's presentation, along with those from rivals Munich and Pyeongchang.

"The two front-runners," he said, "have developed extremely well."

And, Reedie said, "The improvement in Annecy is -- "and here he paused, searching for just the right word -- "marked."

Annecy's chances? There aren't even 100 days to go until the IOC's July 6 vote for 2018 in Durban, South Africa.

Does Annecy have enough on stage and screen to overcome the strong presentations from Munich and Pyeongchang?

The odds remain long, particularly because Annecy was yet again lacking again on Thursday the key element -- the in-person presence of Jean-Claude Killy, the superstar of French and Olympic winter sport, who appeared Thursday only in a short video?

Yet for Annecy -- indeed, for the IOC -- the issue has always been to make this 2018 derby a three-horse race, not just two.

"It's a three bid-city race. That's clear," Beigbeder asserted at a late afternoon news conference, adding a moment later, "They have to choose one, meaning the IOC, "and we have to make a difference."

Annecy went first Thursday. Then Munich. Then Pyeongchang.

No surprise, Munich's presentation proved robust. Following a strong presentation in March to the IOC's evaluation commission, the Munich team proved strong here in London, too.

The chair of the Munich bid, Katarina Witt, in a pinstriped black Strenesse coat-dress and stunningly high Michael Kors pumps, in her best breathy stage voice, kicked things off by unveiling the "vision" of a "festival of friendship in a setting that reveals the full possibilities of Olympic sustainability for all the world to see."

From there, the Munich team talked up money and geography.

Ian Robertson, BMW's head of marketing and sales, noted the Munich-based company now supports not only the bid but London 2012, the U.S Olympic Committee, national Olympic committees in France, Greece, China and several international sports federations. German business, he said, underwrites 50 percent of the revenues of the seven sports on the Winter Games program.

This winter, he said, Germany played host to 12 World Cup events and three world championships that attracted nearly one million spectators and a cumulative German television audience of over one billion viewers. "That's the kind of reach sponsors want," he said.

Back to Katarina for Munich's line of the day, and an unsaid but nonetheless obvious poke at Pyeongchang.

"… When you choose a host city for the Olympic Games -- Summer or Winter -- it is about more than just geography," she said, Pyeongchang touting "new horizons," the promise of taking the Winter Games to new markets in Asia.

She said, "It is about the kind of experience the athletes of the future should have," a suggestion that there might be a livelier place to spend 17 days in February -- say, Munich, one of the world's most interesting cities -- than, oh, Pyeongchang.

Which is why, the Koreans said as part of a powerful performance of their own, they've planned for a "Best of Korea" experience in Pyeongchang. Already, they said, they've signed up 39 companies with 120 brands -- world-class amenities, dining, shopping, entertainment and more.

You want to talk money?

The Koreans clearly had been anticipating the German strategy. Let's put it this way: if 50 percent of your portfolio rested in one stock, wouldn't you kinda want to diversify?

"We believe," Theresa Rah, the Pyeongchang director of communications, said from the stage, "that diversifying the financial support of winter sport from new markets makes sense for the winter sport industry, federations, the athletes and the Olympic and Paralympic movements."

By 2030, according to an Asian Development Bank Study, Asia will comprise 43 percent of worldwide consumption. From 1990 to 2008, the middle class in Asia grew by 30 percent, and spent an average of an additional $1.7 trillion annually. "No other region in the world even comes close," Rah said.

The South Korean sports and culture Minister, Byoung-gug Choung, announced Thursday that the government would invest $500 million to help promote winter sports and groom Korean athletes in a program dubbed "Drive the Dream" from 2012-2018.

Also in the works -- a $1.8 million plan to pay for visits from national Olympic committee officials from 2012-2017, and a $1.05 million plan for trips by international federation experts.

Completed in October, 2009: the Alpensia resort in Pyeongchang, at a cost of $1.4 billion.

You want to talk geography?

"The argument," Rah said, in front of a map of the world that showed the Winter Games having visited Asia only twice, both times in Japan, in 1972 and 1998, "really isn't about 'new versus old' or 'traditional markets versus new markets' or even clever metaphors about 'roots and new horizons.' No.

"The real decision is about maximizing the opportunity for winter sport for as many young people as possible, wherever they may be."

All of which surely made for Pyeongchang's counter-punch of the day.

But not the line of the day.

That went to the French sports minister, Chantal Jouanno, as part of an again-relevant Annecy bid.

"It is a great pleasure to be here in London," she said, "a city that in the sporting context has taught us French two things:

"That favorites don't always win," a reference to the 2012 contest. Paris was heavily favored to win. Instead, London did.

When the laughter in the hall died down, the minister, smiling, finished: "And that any bidding city must understand the challenges sport faces -- and offer a true global vision to resolve them."


Of special note:

The Korean presentation opened with Yang Ho Cho, the Pyeongchang 2018 chairman, saying:

"Before I begin, please allow me to send our deepest sympathies to the people and the [national Olympic committees] of both New Zealand and Japan.

"The world is with you, and we look forward to seeing your great teams in London next year."

Annecy -- it's a French thing

ANNECY, France -- The International Olympic Committee's 2018 evaluation commission headed out of town Saturday after declaring that this alpine town was indeed very pretty. "The International Olympic Committee's 2018 evaluation commission has been very pleased to spend time in this beautiful lakeside city, situated in a region where winter sports are so popular," the commission chairwoman, Sweden's Gunilla Lindberg, said at a news conference early Saturday evening as streaks of pink from a lovely sunset lit the western sky.

That is really what happened. And that is really what Lindberg said. It was masterful.

Anyone expecting substance in this context has never been to one of these evaluation commission news conferences, where it is spelled out early and repeatedly that the IOC discussion from the dais will revolve around matters technical, not political. Platitudes are both perfunctory and expected.

Beyond which -- in this case, it's fully in the IOC's interest to be as bland as possible to ensure that Annecy is depicted as a legitimate contender.

The IOC has had no trouble in recent years attracting Summer Games bids from all over the world. But Winter Games bids have been fewer. So a 2018 two-horse contest -- with only Munich and Pyeongchang, South Korea, remaining -- would ill serve the IOC.

Even so, the reality of Annecy's legitimacy is both far more complex and far more subtle, as France's sports minister, Chantal Jouanno, made clear in a wide-ranging roundtable conversation earlier Saturday with reporters.

To be plain:

The minister asserted emphatically that Annecy is in the race to win.

"What I think is we are now on the same line as the other candidatures," she said after a series of make-overs in recent months that have seen Charles Beigbeder take over for Edgar Grospiron as bid leader, a thorough revamping of the technical plan and other significant moves.

At the same time, she acknowledged the obvious: the Annecy bid has been grappling with any number of structural, cultural, political, financial, story-telling and other challenges.

In other words -- it's French.

There are obviously so many lovely things about France. Too, it is so easy to like being in the French Alps, and especially in Chamonix, one of the main hubs of the Annecy bid. And of course Chamonix is the site of the first Winter Games, in 1924.

At the same time, the whole France thing wasn't so great for the unsuccessful Paris Summer Games bid for 2008, or the unsuccessful Paris Summer Games bid for 2012. And now the Annecy 2018 bid has spotlighted again some of the very same problematic issues.

The Olympic movement, for instance, moves increasingly in English, in some ways almost exclusively in English. You can understand why the French would want to speak French. But if you have a message you want to communicate, wouldn't it make more sense to do so in a way that people hear you in the way you want -- indeed, need -- to be heard?

The Olympic bid process now runs to more than $50 million per campaign. If you're going to throw yourself into the game, why get in for $25 million? That's roughly the announced Annecy budget. Bluntly, that's just not enough, and that's what caused Grospiron to get out in December,  and Jean-Claude Killy to note here Friday -- unprompted -- that Grospiron had done a great job under the circumstances.

The bid process now relies heavily on international consultants. Admittedly, they are expensive. Are they worth it? Just to name two: Mike Lee helped Rio win the 2016 Summer Games. Jon Tibbs helped Sochi win the 2014 Winter Games.  Lee is working now for Pyeongchang, Tibbs for Munich. But Annecy went for long months without any international consultant, either to save money or on the belief that the French could surely figure out a French way to run a French campaign, or both.

"To a certain extent, what you're seeing with Annecy is these [French] institutions that are intelligent and well-meaning but there's so little space for some pushing out of the old and incorporating of the new," said Laurent Dubois, a Duke University professor and author of the recent book, Soccer Empire: The World Cup and the Future of France.

"The solution is going to have to be some French solution," Dubois said. "There's no reason to think they can't think of one. That's not to think they are going to have to accept what the U.S. or the British are doing. But the only way is for the younger generation to have a way in shaping what's going on."

Jouanno, who is among other things a 12-time French karate champion, took over as sports minister just last November. She is 41 years old.

Asked if she believed institutional issues were at the root of the ups and downs of Annecy's bid, she said, "This is just French character. We just like to have drama in what we are doing."

Even so, last month, she announced the formation of an "Assemblee du Sport" to review and develop French policy going forward, saying it would include representatives of the state, municipalities, business and sport. "One must admit that while society has changed, the organization of sport has changed very little," she was quoted as saying in the newspaper Le Monde.

Granted, the minister is new to her job -- but perhaps that marks the sort of smart thinking that should have been done well in advance of an Olympic campaign, not smack-dab in the middle of one.

Jouanno acknowledged serious thought was given late last year to withdrawing Annecy from the 2018 campaign. But millions of euros had already been spent. And, she said, "We would have been the only country resigning just six months before the end. This is not the sport spirit."

So now several changes have been made.

Beigbeder is on board. The technical plan has been re-worked. A number of Olympic athletes now play leadership roles on the Annecy 2018 team. Several key Annecy leaders move easily in English; Jouanno spoke mostly Saturday in English. A veteran international consultant, Andrew Craig, has been retained.

The budget, Jouanno said, still needs more cash.

Craig said, "Although there has been much talk about the Annecy bid being under-budgeted and so forth, the reality is it's human capital that wins bids and the human capital in the Annecy bid is now very, very strong."

As the IOC commission moves on -- next week to Pyeongchang, to Munich the first week in March -- the task in Annecy would now seem to be to figure out what story to tell, and how to tell it.

"We are not trying to put flash in your eyes, put stars in your eyes. We just want to show you our mountains," the minister said.

So simple, right?

As ever, though, this is France, so it gets made more complex and subtle. Perhaps the task is also to convince the voters that in fact the Annecy 2018 bid is not -- as some have suspected all along -- merely a stalking horse for the big prize, another Summer Games bid from Paris, or another French city.

Paris played host to the 1924 Summer Games. A bid to commemorate the 100th anniversary of those Games would be so very French, wouldn't it?

The minister was asked Saturday whether France would bid for the Summer Games if Annecy doesn't win out. Such an easy question to answer with a simple, "I don't know," or a, "We'll see." But this is France. Commend the minister at least her honesty:

"If we win the Winter Games of 2018 we won't be a candidate," she said. "If we don't win, probably.

"Because it has been too many times France didn't organize the Olympic Games."

Jean-Claude Killy meets the press

ANNECY, France -- Jean-Claude Killy met the press here Friday night, about 10 writers, most international reporters, a few locals. "We have come a long way," Killy said, referring to the Annecy bid for the 2018 Winter Games. To be emphatic: There is still a long way to go.

Indeed, perhaps a long, long way to go for Annecy, which by virtually all accounts started the International Olympic Committee's visit here this week in third place in a three-city race and almost surely ends the visit still looking up.

There are still five months to go before the IOC picks the 2018 site; Pyeongchang, South Korea, and Munich are the other two cities in the contest.

"I would say Annecy is back in the race," Killy asserted, and it's true: in five months anything can happen.

Now the question for the next five months: can Annecy 2018 make something happen?

Killy's comments late Friday capped a day of enormous symbolism that highlighted both the opportunity here and the real-world challenges the Annecy campaign must confront.

The opportunity:

The countryside is, in a word, magnificent. To see Mont Blanc and Chamonix on a day like Friday, when the sun was shining and there wasn't a cloud in the brilliant blue sky, is to be reminded of a simple truth: it can be spectacular here.

The skiing is great. The food is great. The wine is great. The cheese -- it may well have been made by the gentleman standing behind the counter himself and he can tell you which cow you ought to thank.

Where else in the world do you find that combination?

Killy, at ease, penciled in for 20 minutes with the press, stayed for 30, the last couple devoted to the reading of a quote he attributed to the artist Paul Cézanne, the great 19th-century French post-impressionist, about the beauty of Lake Annecy, Killy saying he intends to read the words Saturday to the IOC committee as they prepare to depart:

"It is a temperate area. The surrounding hills are of a reasonable height, the lake, narrowed at this spot by two gorges, seems to lend itself to the linear exercises of young ladies."

"See," Killy said, letting the words settle, laughing, "everything in France ends with the love."

If only the Annecy 2018 bid committee could count on the IOC to be so tender.

To paraphrase the more modern American artist Bruce Springsteen -- the French had better start working harder for the IOC's love.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, flew down to this part of the country Friday to meet with the IOC commission. Sarkozy did not meet with reporters covering the IOC's visit.

But, according to an Associated Press account of a tourism and economics conference in La Clusaz, the proposed venue for the cross-country and Nordic combined events, Sarkozy said it would be tough to overcome Annecy's "extremely powerful" rivals.

Sarkozy said, "You have got a very good bid book. Your region is absolutely beautiful. You want to host those games. We are going to fight together to have them."

On the one hand, it's imperative for the bid that Sarkozy make his manners with the IOC over lunch and stump for Annecy 2018 at such conferences.

The IOC demands unqualified support from national governments. It wants to know, reasonably enough, if something goes wrong that the government -- of whatever country it is -- stands ready to guarantee the Olympic project's finances.

"Whether it's a plus or not it's a disaster if it doesn't happen," Killy observed later in the day, referring to such guarantees, which France has emphatically offered, adding, "It's going to happen in Korea, heavily, and in Germany, I am sure."

The challenge with Sarkozy may well be -- Sarkozy.

It is hardly forgotten within the IOC that in late March 2008 Sarkozy became the first world leader to suggest he might boycott the Beijing Olympics as a means of ratcheting up pressure on China over Tibet.

Ultimately, Sarkozy relented. He attended the epic ceremony.

Also not forgotten within the IOC: the tortured path the Beijing torch relay took through Paris in April, 2008, when the flame was extinguished several times, Chinese organizers canceling the last leg through the French capital as well as a stop at City Hall where a banner read, "Paris Defends Human Rights Everywhere in the World."

If it seems unfair to conflate free speech in Paris in 2008 with a bid in Annecy in 2011 for the Winter Games in the mountains in 2018 -- well, c'est la vie, right?

Which had to have been -- or surely should have been -- evident to anyone and everyone in France when the subject of an Annecy bid was undertaken in the first instance.

Compounding the challenge was the way the bid was initially drawn up, with way too many venues.

This past June, the IOC said, no, that's way too many venues. Come back with a different plan. A "black eye," Killy said, adding a moment later, "The bid started very poorly."

The new plan, centered on Annecy and Chamonix with the sliding sports at La Plagne, is better, he said. Credit for that, he said, is due Edgar Grospiron, the then-bid leader who resigned in December amid concerns the project was under-funded.

Killy said of Grospiron: "He did a wonderful job."

Such comments from Killy are powerful, indeed. Killy is not only a French ski legend but arguably the single most important winter-sports figure within Olympic circles, co-chair of the 1992 Albertville Games, the IOC's link to the 2006 Torino and 2014 Sochi Games. He knows sports, politics, business. He knows real when he sees it, and when he doesn't.

So his distance from the Annecy 2018 bid over the past months had been thoroughly obvious.

What, then, to read into his meeting Friday with the press? A rapprochement of sorts, certainly, with the 2018 effort.

But read into this what you will, Killy saying of Charles Beigbeder, the new bid leader, "I don't know him very well, I have seen him two days -- that's all."

Or this, Killy asked how much he expects to pitch in from here on in and answering, "I have my own business. I have Sochi for fun," laughing and adding, "I'm choosing my words properly. And I will help Annecy as much as I can, as much as I can, because I am from this region."

It will be spring soon, and the linear exercises of young ladies will commence in earnest along lovely Lake Annecy. And then summer, and an IOC vote July 6.

"There is no perfect bid," Killy said. "I have been in this business for 30 years.

"There is no perfect bid," he repeated. "The outcome is not known to no one."

Annecy 2018 -- now what?

From the very get-go, it seems, Annecy's bid for the 2018 Winter Games has been missing that certain something. At an introductory news conference at the Vancouver Olympics this past February, there up on the stage appeared a line-up of various French personalities and dignitaries. Except -- Jean-Claude Killy wasn't there.

Within Olympic circles, especially within Winter Games circles, Killy is the man. Not just in France. Worldwide. So for him not to be there -- that wasn't good.

The open secret is that it hasn't gone much better for Annecy ever since, and the resignation Sunday of Edgar Grospiron, the Annecy 2018 chief executive, would seem to threaten to plunge Annecy into thorough disarray -- except "disarray" would seem to assume there was ever "array" in the first instance, and in the case of the Annecy bid that assumption may well be unfounded.

The International Olympic Committee will pick the 2018 site in July. Pyeongchang, South Korea, and Munich, Germany, are also in the race.

It's in the IOC's interest to have as many viable candidates as possible in its bid campaigns. But it has been clear to everyone who knows the Olympic scene that Annecy's viability has always been suspect.

This past June, the IOC criticized Annecy's spread-out venues. The bid scrambled to come up with a new plan centered around Annecy and Chamonix.

Then, a few days ago, Killy and fellow French IOC member Guy Drut said Annecy was still way behind.

Such public criticism from your own country's IOC members is virtually unheard-of.  Especially from the likes of Killy -- 1968 Grenoble Games ski gold medalist, co-chair of the 1992 Albertville Games, IOC point man for the 2006 Torino and now 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

This past week, rumors flew that the Annecy bid was actually considering withdrawing from the race itself.

Imagine that. The founder of the modern Olympic movement, the Baron Pierre de Coubertin, is French. The two languages of the movement? English and French, and in case of dispute French wins. A French bid -- withdrawing? Unthinkable.

Strike that, since the only certainty in Olympic bidding is uncertainty, and there are eight long months to go before the IOC vote next July 6.

For that matter, who knows what kind of grades Annecy will get from the IOC's evaluation commission visit? The IOC team is due to visit in early February.

Clearly, the matter of whether to stay in seems like it was up for serious debate. A news release issued Sunday said that "following a very long session" the Annecy 2018 supervisory board "confirmed its ambition" to pursue a campaign "in view of the tremendous contribution it makes to promoting the region and endorsing Olympic values."

Anyone can see the potential in an Annecy campaign. It's a mature resort in one of the world's most beautiful spots, nestled in the Alps. What if Annecy could be transformed, the Games as catalyst, into a 21st-century resort that relies on cutting-edge and sustainable environmental technologies?

That whole global-warming thing? What's that going to do to the ski and snowboard industry? Shouldn't someone somewhere -- say, an already-developed resort such as Annecy -- be thinking out of the box about how to find a new way forward?

On Friday, the new French sports minister, Chantal Jouano, reportedly affirmed her support for the bid. On Sunday, the bid's budget, it was announced, would be increased from 18 million euros, about $23.7 million, to 20 million euros, about $26.4 million.

Bluntly, that's not enough. That's half, maybe a third, of what it might take.

The debate about whether Olympic bids should run to $50 million or more is a reasonable one, and it's worth having. But not if you're in the game. If you're in -- you're in.

The French, though, have tried to go it in what they might call a "modest" or "authentic" way. It makes you wonder who's really running things there, and whether he, she or they understand what it takes to win, and whether they're committed, or can find such a commitment.

It also makes you wonder whether someone in a position of serious responsibility in France is going to look at what is really a pretty modest increase in that bid budget and ask whether -- to use the American expression -- it's nonetheless a case of throwing good money after bad.

Does it serve the president of the French republic -- who, after all, is up for re-election in 2012, a year after the IOC vote -- for Annecy to get thumped?

How does it play for a potential Paris bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics -- a 100th anniversary bid of the 1924 Games -- if Annecy gets whacked?

What's the dynamic if, ultimately, Annecy withdraws? Can there be such a thing as a graceful withdrawal?

To be explicitly clear on one point: This is not about Grospiron, the 1992 Albertville Games moguls champion. He was fully committed. Grospiron has consistently proved the one bright spot in the bid -- a guy that everyone, and I mean everyone, in particular his rivals, not only liked but respected.

He said in a telephone interview late Sunday night, "I have done what I could do. It's like that."

Growing reflective, he said about his decision to step down, "I decided to be honest to myself and to others. Just to be honest. I learned that from sport. First of all, honesty and integrity. And integrity comes first to yourself. You can lie to everybody but if you lie to yourself that causes damage.

"Again, I learned that through sport. If you cheat yourself, it will have consequences. You can cheat others -- well, it doesn't matter. But when you lie to yourself, you cheat yourself, it's not good. And I wanted to be honest to myself and clear with others. And I took my responsibilities. I think this will help each one of us in the team and those on the [supervisory] board to take their responsibilities. We owe that to the Olympic movement."

He also said, "I did my best and it was not enough. It was not enough to have put us in a good position. I know there are probably guys who can do much better."

It says here -- probably not.

Again, this is not about Grospiron. This is about something much bigger. This is about France.