Marius Vizer

Historic breakthrough: Iran judo to end boycott against Israel

Historic breakthrough: Iran judo to end boycott against Israel

For decades, Iran’s athletes have refused to compete against Israelis. No matter the sport, no matter the situation.  

In a historic breakthrough, on Saturday the International Judo Federation announced that for Iran’s judo athletes the boycotts would be no more.

Iran’s Olympic committee and its national judo federation, in a letter dated Thursday and made public Saturday, agreed to “fully respect the Olympic Charter and its non-discrimination principle.” 

In a statement posted on its website, the IJF said the letter came after talks that followed the “disturbing phenomenon” involving the “sudden ‘injury’ or failure of weigh-in of Iranian athletes,” a “phenomenon which is linked by many observers to the possible obligation of the given athletes to compete against certain countries.” 

The IJF, it said, “decided to step up in order to protect the right of athletes to fair competition.” 

Playing soon in Tel Aviv: an extraordinarily normal tour stop

Playing soon in Tel Aviv: an extraordinarily normal tour stop

The prime minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, has declared that the two Israeli swimmers who have applied for visas for the World Paralympic Swimming Championships scheduled for the island of Borneo this summer cannot compete there: “We will not allow them to enter. If they come, then it is an offense.”

Meanwhile, the International Judo Federation next week kicks off its 2019 world tour in Tel Aviv. It’s a big meet, a Grand Prix with more than 50 nations and over 400 athletes, as well as the start to a key season aiming toward the world championships in late August in Tokyo, at the legendary Nippon Budokan, site of the first Olympic judo tournament in 1964.

The contrast could not be more obvious, nor more vivid.

The contrast comes after developments in 2018 that again saw judo, under the steady direction of the IJF president, Marius Vizer, take a lead in doing what sport should be doing: make sure the door is open, the rules are equal and nobody gets turned away simply because of who they are or what the flag on his or her uniform looks like. 

This double standard: judo federation says, enough

This double standard: judo federation says, enough

What if they held an Olympic-sanctioned swim meet and a white kid from Canada or the United States or Germany or Norway decided he would not even come near the pool because one of the other competitors was a black racer from South Africa? Imagine the uproar — that’s totally not OK!

What if they held an Olympic-sanctioned track meet and a Hindu runner from India said, no, not even gonna go onto the track because the young woman in the next lane is a Muslim from Pakistan. People would go, what — you can’t do that?!

What if they held an Olympic-sanctioned gymnastics meet and a teenage American girl said, no, not going anywhere near that balance beam because the teen whose feet touched it just before me was North Korean? The mob would be on fire, saying that’s not the Olympic spirit and, besides, what does such geopolitical tension have to do with a sports competition, especially one primarily involving teenage girls?

The three key Olympic values are respect, excellence and friendship. The entire Olympic notion is premised on fair play: no discrimination on grounds of race, religion, gender or politics. When the athletes of the world come together and connect, the ignorance and prejudice that too often fuels stereotype and misconception can fade away, yielding to the essential truth that we — human beings, each and every one of us — are more alike than we are different.

Yet for years, there has been one double standard that has emerged time and again. It is applied, and ferociously, to Israel and Israeli athletes.

A new normal: Israel and the business of Olympic sport

A new normal: Israel and the business of Olympic sport

TEL AVIV — One of my brothers lives in Northern California, a few miles away from Apple’s new circular spaceship-like campus. A few days ago, hanging out, we ate one of his favorite spots, Falafel Stop.

First, the falafel was amazing. If you’re ever there, seriously — awesome.

Second, Falafel Stop is the sort of place that would make Trump World supporters go berserk. Here was America in the 21st century for real: two Iranian-American couples who’d driven down from San Mateo on a double date because the Yelp reviews made Falafel Stop out to be so good; a pair of Indian-American families at one of the tables, each with a 3-year-old boy; a couple of gearhead car dudes wrapped up in a discussion over whether a 2004 Lexus i300 is the best used-car buy, like, maybe ever. 

Third, all this was because the Israelis had made it very cool to eat — and hang out — there. For anyone and everyone. 

Which is the point. 

In tech, medicine, beauty and skin care, food, all kinds of things, Israel is increasingly one of the world’s cool brands.

Now — what about sports?

'The story is to make it -- step by step'

'The story is to make it -- step by step'

MARRAKECH, Morocco — A couple weeks ago, it made headlines worldwide when the Israeli judo team was singled out at an International Judo Federation Grand Slam stop in Abu Dhabi.

The United Arab Emirates banned Israeli athletes from wearing their nation’s symbols, the blue and white colors and the Star of David, on their uniforms; the Israeli flag was not displayed; the Israeli national anthem was not to be played.

What drew comparatively little attention, meanwhile, were the gestures and photos, published on the IJF website, that wrapped up the tournament: Israeli under-100 kilo bronze medalist Peter Paltchik with the UAE Judo Federation president, His Excellency Mohammad Bin Thaloub Al Darei, and Aref Al-Awani, general secretary of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, the three of them arm in arm; and Israel Judo Association president Moshe Ponte, IJF president Marius Vizer, Al Darei and Naser Al-Tameemi, general secretary of the UAE Judo, Wrestling and Kickboxing Federation, all four hand-to-hand, as if they were breaking a huddle, U.S.-football style.

Along with the photos, there were also apologies — that a UAE athlete, after a loss, had not shaken hands with an Israeli on the tatami, as a judo mat is called.

And congratulations, too — to the Israelis for winning five medals.

Day One, two golds, Ledecky is ... 'incredible'

Day One, two golds, Ledecky is ... 'incredible'

BUDAPEST — It’s only Day One of the swim action of these 2017 FINA world championships, and here is the dilemma.

How many different ways are there to say Katie Ledecky is great?

In the first final in a meet she is expected to — strike that, absent something freaky, will — dominate, Ledecky set a new championship record in the women’s 400 freestyle, winning by more than three seconds.

Reform the IOC bid process -- this doesn't work

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The campaign for the 2024 (and, maybe, 2028) Summer Olympic Games moves this coming week into its next phase. It’s a carefully structured, overly programmed, International Olympic Committee-directed 10-minute road show. That is, both Los Angeles and Paris officials get 10 minutes (apiece) to present to the 20 or so IOC members due to be in attendance at a sports convention on the eastern coast of Denmark’s Jutland peninsula.

That far to travel for that little time and, moreover, to an audience that isn’t even one-quarter of the voting IOC membership? That is not anywhere near, to use a favorite IOC phrase, best practice.

Indeed, the whole IOC bid and campaign machinery — theory, structure, implementation — needs a thorough re-do.

For years, the IOC has sought to use the “evaluation” process as a means to have cities sell the IOC on their (that is, the cities’) merits.

That process needs to be flipped.

The IOC ought — better yet, needs, and better still, needs right now — to be asking, what are our (that is, the IOC’s) needs and what city can best fulfill our (again, IOC) needs?

It is patently clear to a significant cohort of Olympic watchers -- and some insiders, too -- that the bid process is broken and thus the IOC has arrived at a junction that spells crisis. Change must be effected.

The $51 billion questions on the table are whether senior IOC leadership as well as the rank-and-file members a) recognize the gravity of the problem and b) will respond.

It is worth noting that it was in the bid context -- see Salt Lake City, late 1990s -- that the IOC suffered its most existential threat. Until, perhaps and again, now.

As a result of the Salt Lake scandal, the IOC enacted a 50-point reform program.

Fast forward to a conference a few days ago in London. There, the former IOC marketing director Michael Payne called the bid process — as it is now — “toxic.”

Here, in a nutshell, is why:

The Barcelona 1992 Summer Games made presidents, prime ministers, governors and mayors everywhere believe that the glow from an Olympics could similarly jump-start their own government-funded infrastructure projects.

The Games come with a fixed seven-year deadline. That means stuff has to get done — airports, metro, light rail and sewer lines and more.

That deadline, in practice, has also produced ridiculous cost overruns.

Sochi: that reported $51 billion. Beijing: $40 billion. Rio: probably $20 billion. London: $15 billion. Tokyo: bid projected at $7.8 billion, now maybe $15 billion, who knows. Athens: $11-15 billion.

Over the past two, maybe three, years, the spiral of media— and in particular social media— reports have come back to bite the IOC in the backside.

As this space pointed out in a March 3 column and as Payne noted in his speech last Wednesday, the ever-increasing import of social media means community activists can leverage virtually any local grievance and turn it into as, he said, a debate “about whether to stage an event” such as the Olympics.

That’s what brought down the Budapest 2024 bid just weeks ago. And before that the Hamburg 2024 bid.

The Los Angeles 2024 effort — the bid and, if it succeeds, a Games — is privately financed. Just like 1984. This is the key difference between the LA effort and just about every other Summer Olympics since the IOC got itself into the jam it now finds itself in.

And it unequivocally is in that jam.

The irrefutable evidence:

For public consumption, the IOC is essentially just letting the road show and evaluation process play itself out. Behind the curtains, it is trying to figure out how to cut a 2024/2028 deal between the last two cities standing, LA and Paris.

When the history of all this gets formally written, this note: this space was the first to suggest this very thing — the 24/28 LA/Paris double-double. Look it up: September 15, 2016. (Also predicted in that very column: Budapest would fall out via referendum.)

The Denmark road show is being held for the benefit of the international sports federations. Two years ago, this very same sports convention was under the leadership of the judo federation president, Marius Vizer, who was at odds with IOC president Thomas Bach, and no 2022 Winter Games bid-city presentations were allowed, purportedly to cut the cost of bidding as part of Bach's Agenda 2020 would-be reform push.

For the past year, the federations have had a new guy in charge, Patrick Baumann, from basketball. Now Paris and LA get to present. It also happens that as of a few weeks ago Baumann is also the head of the 2024 IOC evaluation team. No criticism should be implied or inferred of Baumann (like Vizer, a very smart guy) or the way he ended up leading that evaluation team (long back story) — the point is, how can the Agenda 2020 reforms look anything like but what real life has proven them to be, hollow?

Back, of course, to the point of the bid process: personality politics cannot be the basis for a billion-dollar decision. That’s just basic.

Similarly, it makes little or no sense to cater to the sports federation officials. Unless he or she is also an IOC member -- they don't vote.

The IOC has a distinct credibility problem. A key reason is that it is perceived, appropriately, as the establishment, particularly in Europe, where taxpayers are mightily angered at the spending of their euros on what they perceive, rightly or wrongly, as Olympic waste.

So: essentially forcing a bunch of folks to jet into Denmark for  two 10-minute presentations? Just to feed the egos of international sports federation leaders? And then everyone goes out to the lobby for snacks and cocktails?

There is a much better way.

The IOC needs to reverse the paradigm.

The IOC should not be asking whether (pick one, A, B or C) the archery or badminton or canoeing president likes city x's pretty video.

Again, no vote unless an IOC member and, besides, that's in line with this theme — which city can impress us most?

In turn, that leads to this kind of question: city x, why is it important to your redevelopment strategy to build an athletes’ village that you have already budgeted at some billion-dollar obscenity that we nonetheless know, because history says so, is laughably low?

The IOC is not a redevelopment agency. It is not an urban planner. It is about sport. That is what the Olympic Charter makes plain, time and again. Sport. In the service of humankind.

To that end, the IOC should be asking, what is your detailed strategy to connect with athletes and other young people, and not just in your country? Don’t bore us to death with school programs. Tell us about connection and engagement. Tell us something innovative, creative and exciting.

More:

Right now, the IOC produces a fat evaluation report filled with answers to questions such as the number of hotel rooms in city x or its airport capacity. These questions are relevant. But they are relevant mostly to IOC staff. This next sentence is critical: the staff does not vote.

This logically produces a huge disconnect in the evaluation and thus the bid and the election process. Why?

Because the members largely do not care.

Again, on issues such as the whether it's the Westin or the Hyatt or runway 26-left or 18-right, the members mostly do not read these reports. So this entire evaluation process, which after Salt Lake is supposed to form the underpinning for the most important decision the members make, is a colossal waste of time, money and resource.

Better:

The IOC should lead a focused inquiry that determines which city is most likely to:

— engage young people, with a detailed plan for how, and in particular on mobile platforms and across social media

— produce not just moments but heroes to inspire those young people across seven years, to and through opening ceremony and the 17 days of the Games, if not beyond

— take a leadership role across the Olympic and broader political landscapes by demonstrating transparent fiscal stewardship, responsibility and stability in all budgets related to the production of a Games

— voluntarily submit all such budgets to scrutiny by internationally accepted accounting experts, those reports routinely to be made matters of public record

— stabilize if not energize the Olympic movement in the host nation and around the world

— spark sponsor and audience interest domestically and internationally

If the IOC did that for 2024, there would be only one conclusion. It would be so easy. Crisis solved.

More 2024 straight talk: the hits keep coming

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The hits keep coming for the International Olympic Committee, and we are not talking Top-40 radio.

On Sunday, voters in the Swiss Alps — for the second time — said no thanks to an Olympic bid that would have been staged in the posh mountain resorts of St. Moritz and Davos. A state in Switzerland is called a canton. That canton is called Graubuenden. Asked about financing a candidacy for the 2026 Games, 60.1 of voters there said, nope.

Four years ago, the vote against a 2022 bid was 53 percent.

Trend line: not positive. The Swiss say they'll keep exploring 2026 options in another mountain town, Sion, but whatever. In 1999, Sion was the 2006 IOC loser, to Turin, Italy.

Making Sunday’s balloting all the more a disconnect: voting was held amid the two weeks of the 2017 world alpine ski championships in St. Moritz. If ever conditions were ripe to highlight the cool stuff of a high-profile event in a ski resort that twice before had staged the Winter Games, in 1928 and 1948, it was all there.

Instead, disaster. Sixty-forty is a blowout, people.

Marius Vizer, the International Judo Federation president, at Sunday's Grand Slam 2017 tour stop in Paris // IJF

Actually, Sunday’s balloting makes for the latest in a string of lectures — sorry to use that word, IOC friends, because the good lord knows you don’t like to be told much, if anything — that taxpayers all over Europe have been screaming now for years from the rooftops.

Here is the question:

Are you listening?

Better:

What, finally, will make you hear?

What, ultimately, will make you realize what is what?

The Olympic movement is at — pick your phrase — an inflection point, a turning point, a tipping point.

Voters are not just rejecting the costs of the Games, though that is the biggest factor.

This is also an uncomfortable let’s look-in-the-mirror moment for the members of the IOC.

Voters — see Brexit, Trump, Olympic-related balloting, maybe next the upcoming elections this spring in France — are rejecting everything that goes with what they perceive to be the “elite.”

There could be no more glaring example of the “elite,” right or wrong, fair or not, than the IOC, particularly the IOC going to Davos for a three-week party at what taxpayers perceive to be their expense.

Davos! It was at the super-glitzy Davos get-together just a few weeks ago that the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba announced a long-term sponsorship of the IOC. To be both clear and fair, from the perspective of the IOC and Alibaba the deal is a coup. Terms were not announced but it reportedly is worth a reported $800 million to an entity, the IOC, that over the four-year cycle 2013-16 announced it intends to take in revenue worth $5.6 billion.

And you wonder why taxpayers are revolting against the Games?

Once more, it is worth heeding the words of Marius Vizer, the president of the International Judo Federation, who said in a speech in Sochi in April 2015:

“History demonstrated that all the empires who reached the highest peaks of development never reformed on time and they are all headed for destruction. The IOC system today is expired, outdated, wrong, unfair and not at all transparent.”

For these remarks, the IOC and president Thomas Bach tried (unsuccessfully) to all but excommunicate Vizer from the Olympic movement.

Time keeps proving Vizer all the more prescient.

In December 2014, the IOC, at Bach’s urging, passed a purported 40-point reform plan dubbed Agenda 2020. To date, as Sunday’s balloting in Switzerland made plain yet once more, Agenda 2020 has proven thoroughly unconvincing to taxpayers anywhere. The reason is clear: there is no fact-based evidence proving that Agenda 2020 amounts to anything but lip service.

Bottom line: the IOC simply cannot carry on the way it has been doing business since the 1992 Barcelona Games ushered in the notion of Games as catalyst for wide-ranging urban transformation project.

That era has come to a crashing, sudden end.

That is what voters in western democracies are saying, and emphatically.

And it’s easy to understand why:

Games-associated costs have become obscene.

$12 to $15 billion in Athens in 2004, $15 billion in London in 2012, a presumed $20 billion in Rio in 2016 (bid documents said $14.4 billion, and that was before a series of delay-related cost overruns), $40 billion in Beijing in 2008 and the killer, a reputed $51 billion in Sochi in 2014.

The Associated Press reports out of Rio recently have just been -- in a word -- grim:

https://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP/status/830584108350849024

https://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP/status/830411202488582146

For 2022, six cities in Europe dropped out, five put off to varying degrees by the $51 billion 2014 figure: Oslo, Munich, Stockholm, Davos/St. Moritz and Krakow, Poland. A sixth, Lviv, Ukraine, fell out because of war.

In Oslo, they didn't just complain about the money -- they complained about stuff like IOC protocol and how many cocktails, fruits and cakes were supposed to be on hand for visits. When Oslo dropped out, the IOC issued a statement that called it a "missed opportunity" and chastised the Norwegians for taking "their decisions on the basis of half-truths and factual inaccuracies."

You wonder why the perception persists -- despite the considerable on-the-ground good work the IOC does around the world each and every day -- that the IOC is elitist?

That 2022 race left the IOC to choose between Beijing, with no snow in the mountains, and Almaty, Kazakhstan. It chose Beijing.

The 2024 race in 2015 started with five cities. It is now down to three.

Hamburg, Germany dropped out after voters said no in a referendum.

Rome dropped out when the mayor said the Games were too expensive amid other priorities. Rome similarly dropped out of the 2020 picture.

Los Angeles, Paris and Budapest are still in.

The IOC will pick the 2024 winner on September 13 by secret ballot at an assembly in Lima, Peru.

September is a long way from February. A lot can, and doubtlessly will, happen.

Even so, the conversations that typically don’t happen in IOC bid campaigns need to happen. Because this campaign can’t be like the others. The Olympic movement literally cannot afford it.

The government-backed Paris 2024 bid, for instance, says its infrastructure costs would total $3.2 billion.

This total ought to be viewed with extreme suspicion. It is the nature of government-backed winning bids in the past 20 years to have made similar we’ll-keep-costs-down promises: Athens, Beijing, London, Sochi, Rio …

Take another look at that Rio athletes' village. Paris needs to build one, too.

Our Paris 2024 friends recently, so everyone should know, have been trying another tack. The Games have never been away from Europe for more than 12 years; the last Games in Europe were in London in 2012; 2024 would obviously be 12 years. Our French friends say, it’s precisely because the crisis is in Europe that the IOC ought to come to Europe for 2024. If the IOC doesn’t come to Europe for 2024, they ask, when will it ever come to Europe again?

Easy: 2028.

When these cities will be lining up because they already have expressed interest: Madrid, Budapest, Milan, St. Petersburg and Paris.

Also, probably some city in Germany.

In case this is not clear: Budapest wants to be the first city in Europe to stage the Games after London. And they have a good story to tell.

In any case, in virtually every country but the United States, sport is an arm of the federal government. Thus bids and Olympic Games tend to be the purview of governments. The logic tree goes like this:

It’s one thing for a federal government somewhere to put up, say, $50 or $80 million to organize and run an Olympic campaign. It’s quite another, as is the case in the United States, to have to raise that money from private donors.

When I wrote a few columns ago that Casey Wasserman, the LA24 bid chair, had gone about raising $35 million, I was wrong.

It was more like $50 million, maybe even a little more.

If Los Angeles does not win for 2024, Wasserman just cannot go back to all those people and say, looking at 2028, “OK, let’s do it all over again because now I think we really might win.”

Not going to happen.

Indeed, we all need to be as crystal clear about these things as possible:

To make Agenda 2020 anything more than just so much talk, the IOC needs for 2024 to grab onto the very thing that for years it has found so sour about the American bid: the fact that it is privately funded instead of government-backed.

A privately funded bid has no wiggle room. When the LA24 people say the bid will be $5.3 billion, it will — just like Peter Ueberroth proved in 1984, when there was no room for error — be $5.3 billion, if not less.

Moreover, this needs to be explicitly understood as well. Plain, forthright talk serves everyone’s interests:

If Los Angeles does not win for 2024, there will be significant resistance where it counts to the notion of there being an American bid for an extremely long time.

By significant, I am being gentle.

By where it counts, I mean U.S. Olympic Committee leadership, the USOC board of directors and at the highest levels of politics and government in the United States as well.

Even the winter sports people get it. They’re in for 2024. They’re not yapping about Denver or Salt Lake for 2026 or 2030.

This is it. 2024. The United States is in for 2024. Only.

This is it.

This is the message that needs to get out, to percolate, to be readily and well understood and absorbed, not just the message but the consequence that the Americans are exceedingly likely not to bid again for a long, long time if 2024 doesn’t go their way.

This is a very different bid campaign than any of the past 20 years. The stakes could not be more significant, perhaps existential, for the modern Olympic movement.

This is it.

From the tatami: lessons in respect

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RIO de JANEIRO — This is a story about Olympic dreams, though it is not just about that. This is a story about families of all sorts, though it is not just about that.

Kosovo's first-ever gold medalist, judoka Majlinda Kelmendi // photo IJF

This is a story about fairy tales, and how sometimes at the Olympic Games, in particular within the extended judo family — and it really is a family — fairy tales really can come true.

Last Friday, at the Opening Ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympics, judoka Majlinda Kelmendi carried the flag for Kosovo. It wasn’t until 2014 that the International Olympic Committee had even recognized Kosovo as a separate country — a process that had started in the sports world when the International Judo Federation became the first to say Kosovo was real, in 2012.

On Sunday, in the women’s 52-kilogram (114 pounds) category, Kelmendi won gold.

To read the rest of this column, please click through to NBCOlympics.com: bit.ly/2aKEko8

The Olympics as canary in coal mine

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If English is not your first language, or you have forgotten or never learned about the dangers inherent in mining, or you have (inexplicably) little to no regard for “Zenyatta Mondatta,” the classic 1980 album from The Police, herewith an appreciation of the phrase “canary in a coal mine.”

And why, like the canary, the Olympic movement is an eerily prescient predictor of change buffeting our uncertain, if not broken, world — the kind of change that produced Brexit, the vote Thursday that will now lead to the United Kingdom’s self-inflicted divorce from the European Union.

Brexit makes for nothing less than a seismic event in the history of all of our lives.

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At the same time, the very same forces that came together to usher Britain out of the EU have been vividly on display for the past several years in any reasonable assessment of international sport, and particularly in reference to the International Olympic Committee: disdain if not outright rejection of political elites, bureaucracies and institutions, most if not all of it animated by grievance along with its historically volatile corollary, fear of the “other.”

Indeed, the evidence makes a strong case that the Olympic scene is arguably nothing less than a — if not the — leading indicator of big-picture trends in an increasingly globalized world.

That is, a canary in a coal mine.

The first coal mines did not feature ventilation systems. The legend goes that miners would bring a caged canary down with them. Why? Canaries are sensitive to methane and carbon monoxide. As long as the bird sang, the miners knew their air was safe. A silenced canary meant it was time to move, and fast.

Consider any number of recent IOC host city elections in the early years of the 21st century — indicators, all, of intensifying interconnected-ness:

— The tacks to China (2001 in 2008), Russia (2007 for 2014) and Brazil (2009 for 2016).

— The Olympic telegraph of the rise of Asia, both acknowledging and accelerating its economic and political might, with the awarding, after 2008, of three Games in a row there -- 2018 Winter (South Korea), 2020 Summer (Tokyo), 2022 Winter (Beijing).

Beijing will be the first city in Olympic history to stage both Summer and Winter Games, and China re-emerged on the Olympic stage only in the 1980s.

Beijing won for 2022 in an election last summer, defeating Almaty, Kazakhstan. Here was the flip side.

Six cities in Europe dropped out, five put off to varying degrees by the $51 billion figure associated with those 2014 Sochi Olympics: Oslo, Munich, Stockholm, Davos/St. Moritz and Krakow, Poland. A sixth, Lviv, Ukraine, fell out because of war.

Just two candidates for the Winter Olympics?

And maybe now just three for the ongoing campaign for Summer 2024?

The original 2024 list of five — Hamburg, Los Angeles, Paris, Rome and Budapest — is already down to four, German voters having rejected Hamburg. Four very well may soon shrink to three amid this week’s election of a new mayor in Rome, Virginia Raggi, for whom the Olympics is not a priority: "Already with 13 billion euros ($15 billion) in debt, Rome can't permit taking on more debt to make cathedrals in the desert."

Déjà vu all over again, maybe: in 2012, the then-prime minister of Italy called off Rome’s 2020 bid, citing uncertain [read: too high] costs.

And Los Angeles, of course, took over for Boston when locals objected vehemently to the notion of an Olympic invasion.

As telling as the Olympic indicators have been for the wider world, those same markers are equally if not more on-point for the Olympic movement itself and, especially, the IOC.

The collision of interests that gave rise to Brexit leads now suddenly if inevitably to the logical and legitimate Olympic question:

Can the structure of a club born in the 1890s and driven for most of these past 130 years by Europe find, by itself, a way to engineer an appropriate 21st-century governance that will help sustain its position in the world?

Or will change — in a form the IOC might or might not like — be imposed upon it?

In the way that it has been imposed, thanks to the FBI and Swiss authorities, on scandal-plagued FIFA?

In December, 2014, the IOC membership unanimously voted for a 40-point reform plan, dubbed “Agenda 2020.” Within the Olympic bubble, Agenda 2020 has become a ready point of reference — a talking point but, let's face it, lip service, really.

IOC president Thomas Bach at this month's meeting of the committee's policy-making executive board // IOC

In the real world, Agenda 2020 has offered little if anything in response to the onslaught of challenges playing out in real time.

Any Games is supposed to be a celebration of possibility. With roughly six weeks to go, and keeping in mind that perhaps all will be steady once the Olympic cauldron is lit in Rio, those Games are on course to possibly be the biggest cluster of all time:

Where to begin? There's Zika and the withdrawal from the Games of golf and basketball stars, bad water, the collapse of political and economic institutions as well as even a showpiece beachfront sidewalk, allegations of major governmental corruption, street crime, uncertainty among the locals and, the latest, the shut-down of the Rio anti-doping lab.

And, of course, accusations of state-sponsored doping in Russia.

And more. Like, maybe the subway to Olympic Park gets finished. Or maybe not.

As it was winding around Brazil, the Olympic flame relay seemed to be the sole beacon of sanity — until someone had the dumb idea of using a chained jaguar, an endangered Amazonian jungle cat, as a relay prop. It somehow escaped its army handlers. An army officer thereupon shot and killed it.

For those looking deeper into the symbolism: the jaguar is the official mascot of Brazil’s Olympic team.

So, as NPR pointed out, they sort of went and killed their own mascot in Brazil.

This can lead to all manner of deep thoughts about existentialism. Such thoughts are perhaps better reserved for philosophy, and what-if’s.

What's real is relevance.

And the IOC’s No. 1 challenge, always, is to remain relevant in a changing world — to reach out to young people in hopes of serving as a bridge to connection and inspiration. To celebrate humanity, as one of its better marketing campaigns years ago put it.

Swinging away from the jaguar and back to the canary: if it were singing an Olympic song, it would ring out all about the three core Olympic values -- friendship, excellence and respect.

Where is that song?

Is it even being hummed amid the cha-ching that is Olympic cash flow?

Make no mistake: 21st-century sport is not just dreams and inspirations. It is also big business.

It is, at a very real level, institutional.

Perhaps at no time in its history has the acronym “IOC” served as an illustration of the contrast between what those inside the Olympic bubble believe it to be and, more important, those without.

There are, indeed, fascinating comparisons to be drawn between the IOC on the one hand and, on the other, Brexit and the EU.

Some observations from Friday’s reporting, and just substitute in “IOC” where appropriate:

Financial Times -- "Political elites are under pressure everywhere in the west. Donald Trump is a candidate for US president. Marine Le Pen is bidding for France’s Élysée Palace. But who would have thought pragmatic, moderate, incrementalist Britain would tear down the political temple? This week’s referendum result was a revolt against the status quo with consequences, national and international, as profound as anything seen in postwar Europe."

Washington Post -- “We are in the midst of a worldwide sea change regarding how people view themselves, their government and their countries. The Brexit vote and the rise of Trump — while separated by thousands of miles and an ocean — are both manifestations of that change. There will be more."

Another from the Post, and the strikethroughs are in the original -- “As Trump himself notes, the issues that dominated the Brexit campaign and his own campaign are similar: hostility to immigration, resentment at cosmopolitan elites, frustration with unelected officials telling ordinary citizens how to live, and a persistent perception that the status quo favors minorities layabouts over white ordinary, Anglo-Saxon decent, Christian hard-working citizens.”

New York Times:  “The European Union hasn’t done a good job of explaining its purpose — it’s too opaque, too bureaucratic, too confusing — and its slow handling of the debt crisis, especially in Greece, where it acted fast so French and German banks could cut their losses, but left Greece asphyxiated, had devastating consequences for all. Decisions made for short-term financial stability have led to long-term political instability.”

It’s all reminiscent of what the former IOC Games director Gilbert Felli said amid the 2022 drop-outs: “We lost good cities because of the bad perception of the IOC, the bad perception of how the concept could be done.”

At one point before Oslo formally pulled the plug, a poll suggested that 60 percent of the Norwegian public was against a 2022 bid, with only 35 percent in favor. Oslo! The very soul of winter sports, where Norwegian news outlets ran gleefully with reports about perceptions of the special privileges that would be afforded IOC members at a Games — including cocktail protocols, stocked hotel bars, even hotel room temperatures.

The IOC’s response when Oslo pulled out? It lashed out, saying politicians were misinformed, “left to take their decisions on the basis of half-truths and factual inaccuracies.”

Last November, voters in Hamburg became just the most recent in a succession of ballot initiatives to shoot down the IOC.

Why? A few weeks later, a local dentist told the Guardian, the British newspaper, “I think the people of Hamburg are fed up [at] being short-changed by private companies when it comes to major public projects.”

When voters in Bavaria said no the year before to Munich 2022, here was the key take-away, from Ludwig Hartmann, a Greens Party lawmaker and leader of the movement, called “NOlympia,” that led to the opposition to the project: “The vote is not a signal against the sport but against the non-transparency and the greed for profit of the IOC.”

The IOC, to be clear, is not a for-profit institution.

In other respects, it has real work to do.

It’s not that this is a secret in the Olympic world, either. At the SportAccord conference in Sochi in 2015, Marius Vizer, the-then SportAccord president who is also head of the International Judo Federation, called out the IOC in his usually direct way, accusing it of running a system that had become sclerotic.

In his words: “History demonstrated that all the empires who reached the highest peaks of development never reformed on time and they are all headed for destruction. The IOC system today is expired, outdated, wrong, unfair and not at all transparent.”

In effect, Vizer was the Olympic canary in the coal mine.

The IOC response: kill the canary -- er, the messenger.

Lamine Diack, the-then president of the IAAF, the track and field federation, served as the primary IOC proxy, taking the IAAF out of SportAccord and calling Vizer a “chief coming from nowhere.”

To make a long story short, Diack is now under criminal inquiry in France, suspected of accepting more than $1 million in bribes to help Russian athletes evade sanctions for tests.

Moreover, Tokyo’s winning 2020 bid is now under suspicion. In the months immediately before and after the 2013 vote for 2020, $2 million is thought to have been transferred from Japan to an account in Singapore controlled by a close friend of one of Diack’s sons, Papa Massata Diack, long an IAAF “marketing consultant.”

Vizer, in Sochi in 2015: “I dedicate and I sacrifice my family for sport. I mean sacrifice in the way of dedication. And in my eyes,” now referring to Diack, he is “a person who sacrifices sport for his family.”

Friday’s New York Times also included a column in which a reporter recalls being on assignment in Russia and, while there, hears a film producer make this sardonic observation: in Russia, “the future has become unpredictable — and so has the past.”

Substitute “IOC,” again.

And here, too, from the final paragraph of that same column — once more, plug in “IOC” or “Olympic movement” in place of the proper nouns: “Who inherits England? It’s a question that has obsessed British novelists for decades. And who inherits Europe? Today in Europe the past is equally unpredictable, and the path ahead looks very uncertain.”