Pyeongchang's 2018 evaluation report win

In the old days of the Soviet Union, experts from afar used to watch the grand parades ever so carefully. They would carefully parse the reviewing stand to see which dignitaries were seated next to which generals. That way they might be able to figure out what might really be going on behind the Iron Curtain. It's much the same in trying to divine the real meaning of the International Olympic Committee's evaluation commission reports.

There is, actually, a method to it. It's all nuance. It's not just what is said but how.

Such a close read of the document issued Tuesday makes plain that Pyeongchang, the perceived front-runner all along in the 2018 race, got the best marks, cementing the Korean bid's status heading into next week's pivotal briefing before the full membership at IOC headquarters in Lausanne.

The evaluation commission went to lengths to praise Munich and Annecy, France, too.

But it's the way the praise for Pyeongchang was written, and the way perceived obstacles deflected, that proved so key.

For instance, tensions on the Korean peninsula? Not to worry. Such tensions have existed for 60 years, the report said, adding that "Pyeongchang and the region can be regarded as a safe and low-risk environment for the Games."

Compact venue plans? Check.

Land required for the Games? Roger that.

Public support? "No apparent opposition to the Games." Indeed, the report said, an IOC poll shows support for the Games at 87 percent across Korea, 92 percent in Pyeongchang.

Federal backing? The Korean government assured the IOC that hosting the Games was a national priority.

And then this, probably the most significant sentence in the full report: "Overall, the commission believes the legacy from a 2018 Pyeongchang Games, building on existing legacies from previous Olympic Winter Games bids, would be significant to further develop winter sport in Asia."

Disclaimer: Nothing is predictable in an IOC election. Just ask Paris, the perceived 2012 Summer Games front-runner. Paris lost to London in the final round of voting in 2005.

Further disclaimer: The evaluation report is not nearly as important as the meeting next week in Lausanne and, at the risk of being obvious, the IOC session in July, in Durban, South Africa, at which the 2018 vote will be taken.

Even so: What the evaluation commission report can do is offer members a safe harbor. That is -- a rationale, if they want one, for voting a particular way.

For instance, this from the summary section of the 2016 evaluation commission document: "A Rio 2016 Games aims to showcase Brazil's and Rio's capabilities, social and economic development and natural features."

Like the sentence about Pyeongchang and legacy -- that just radiates sunny optimism.

Compare this from the summary section about Chicago's 2016 bid. The "well-designed and compact" athletes' village would be a "special experience." But transport, in a city where the el train takes people everywhere, was somehow thought to be a "major challenge."  Temporary venues, which the bid committee had played up as a clever innovation, "increases the element of risk." Worst of all, Chicago 2016 had not at press time provided the necessary finance guarantees and "the commission informed the bid that a standard Host City Contract applied to all cities."

Thud. And you wonder why, among other reasons, Chicago got just 18 votes and was bounced in the first round?

It's not the "technical" stuff itself. It's more the way those elements contribute to the perception of a bid that sometimes starts sweeping the membership.

To be clear, this 2018 report -- like its predecessors -- absolutely does not rank the cities. The report presents the race as a three-horse derby, saying "each city's concept offers a viable option to the IOC though the very nature of each project presents different risks."

Again, though, when the report gently -- or as in the case of Chicago, not so gently -- points out challenges, that's when you have to ask, why? Of all the things the commission could point out, why this? And how did this come about?

In Munich's case, the report was -- no question -- positive, as it should have been, given that many of the 1972 Summer Games venues would be re-used for the Winter Games; the allure of Munich itself, one of the world's most dynamic cities; and avid German crowd and financial support for winter sports. But then this:

"There is some opposition to the bid at the local level," the report said, and the IOC opinion poll fixed public support for the Games at 60 percent in Munich, 53 percent in Bavaria and 56 percent nationally.

Poll numbers in the 50s and 60s? Uh-oh.

Munich bid leaders say their own poll now shows a 75 percent nationwide approval rating.

For its part, Annecy got way better marks in this report than in a survey several months ago, the commission even citing the Annecy vision of being a "catalyst and a model for sustainable development in the mountain region."

Nonetheless, the report said, Annecy still faces basic logistical issues, including a "relatively spread out" system of athlete villages that would pose "operational and transport challenges" for coaches and athletes.

It's all right there. You just have to know how to read it.

As ever with the IOC members, however, you don't know if they do read these reports. After all, this one runs to 119 pages.

Like trying to decipher generals from potentates at the old-style parades,  there has to be a better way -- but that's a column for another day, perhaps after the vote this coming July.

Sport and the environment in 21st-century Qatar

DOHA, Qatar -- The International Olympic Committee gave the Japanese swim federation, among others, an award on the occasion of its "9th world conference on sport and the environment" held here over the past several days. For what? At the Japanese national championships, they used to print out race results on paper. The federation switched to a system that posts all results on its website.  Results are posted within 10 seconds after each race is done.

Sheets of paper saved: 2 million. Trees saved: 150.

When the system is put into practice at some 1,500 competitions across Japan in the near future, some 200 million pieces of paper -- 17,000 trees -- will be saved, federation officials estimate.

Let's be honest. A conference like this doesn't itself save the world.

But an initiative like that from the Japanese swim federation is not insignificant. And a conference like this one does highlight ways in which key sports, environmental and political leaders can find ways to talk to each other. And dialogue is always a good thing.

At the outset, Achim Steiner, the executive director of the United Nations environment program, said from the lectern to International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, "Our partnership with you is one of the great opportunities to give the world hope and courage."

Closing the event, Rogge vowed at a news conference to "continue our strategy of education, regulation and partnership."

The assembly marked the first time the IOC had held its every-two-years environment meeting in the Middle East.

The conference was the first major session since the IOC became a permanent observer to the UN. It thus made for a prelude of sorts to the 2012 Earth Summit to be held in Rio de Janeiro, the 2016 Olympic city.

More than 80 national Olympic committee representatives were on hand, as were delegates from some 20 international sports federations.

For those more interested in IOC politics -- some two dozen IOC members were also here, along with delegates from each of the three cities in the 2018 bid race: Munich; Annecy, France; and Pyeongchang, South Korea.  The Koreans came up just short in bids for the 2014 and 2010 Winter Games and while environmental issues made for a key theme of those bids, Sun-Kyoo Park, a culture, sport and tourism vice-minister said Monday in an interview with a group of reporters, "It is now more important because green growth has become a global issue."

That the conference took place in Doha was of course most intriguing on another level. This is, as the huge banner outside the conference center, the Sheraton hotel, reminded all put it, the new "global sport center." The golf and tennis tours make regular stops here. They're bidding for the 2017 world track and field championships after holding the first-rate world indoor 2010 championships. They put on the hugely successful 2006 Asian Games. They will put on the Pan-Arab Games this December -- an event that deserves wider attention, with 7,000 athletes.

And, of course, Qatar will stage the 2022 soccer World Cup. And it's in connection with the winning bid for that World Cup that they launched one of the most compelling environmental initiatives in recent memory.

Here they cool soccer stadiums to beat the desert heat.

They've known how to do that for a while. The Al Sadd soccer stadium, for instance, uses such technology. The basic premise is amazingly clever: Cool air is forced through pipes and onto the field to cool the pitch itself; at Al Sadd they took the design factor forward an extra step by covering the pipe exhausts with faux soccer balls.

The stands are also cooled by the same technology. Pipes deliver cool air to vents that sit under each seat.

All of that, however, uses standard air-conditioning technologies. So it isn't perhaps super-environmentally friendly.

What they did for the World Cup bid was unveil a new solar-powered system and promise a carbon-neutral event. This is what happens in a forward-thinking place like Qatar, and why an observation from the lectern from the secretary-general of the Qatar Olympic Committee, Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, proved so resonant.

Last Sept. 14, the day that inspectors from soccer's world governing body, FIFA, showed up to see the purpose-built "cooling technology showcase" model stadium, it was 42 degrees celsius -- 106 degrees Fahrenheit -- outside.

Inside the showcase, it was 23 degrees celsius, or 73 Fahrenheit.

The system uses solar energy -- which is abundant here -- to heat water. That hot water is then put into a tank for an "absorption chiller" chemical reaction that cools it way down. Voila -- ready temperature control.

They didn't solve the world's environmental challenges this weekend. But what there is to learn from the Japanese swim federation, and from the Qatari soccer and Olympic delegations, is that a little imagination and ingenuity can go a long way.

"Nobody believes," Sheikh Saoud said in Arabic, speaking through a translator and referring not just to his own nation but to all of humanity and the environmental challenge we all face, "that we can be inactive or complacent."

The IOC's week along the beach

ACAPULCO -- For a week, the Olympic world moved itself to the Fairmont Princess hotel along this resort's palm-strewn beaches. The indelible image:

Vlade Divac, the former NBA star who is now president of the Serbian Olympic Committee, taking to the sand after the meetings were done for the day, the sun creeping lower and lower in the west, to play beach volleyball.

Funny how everyone wanted to be on Vlade's team.

Inside, with Vlade very much in attendance, the Assn. of National Olympic Committees met -- the largest gathering of Olympic figures outside the Games themselves, with officials from more than 200 nations on hand. Amid dozens of presentations, ANOC re-elected as its president Mario Vazquez Raña, the Mexican media mogul and senior International Olympic Committee figure.

Moreover, ANOC convened a first-ever joint session with government sports ministers; some 100 showed up. ANOC held a joint session with the IOC's policy-making executive board. And then, finally, the IOC board wrapped it all up with a three-day meeting of its own.

The highlights:

-- Each of the three 2018 bid cities appeared before the ANOC assembly; these marked their first public presentations. Munich, with two-time Olympic figure skating champion Katarina Witt and polished videos, unveiled its "festival of friendship" while Pyeongchang, seeking to bring the Winter Games to Korea for the first time, promoted "new horizons" with indisputable government and business support.

The presentations by those two seemed to most a cut above that of the third city in the race, Annecy, France. But it would be foolish, particularly at this early stage, to count Annecy out. The IOC in recent years has shown a distinct preference for bids with a single figure the members want to do business with; the head of the Annecy bid is the eminently genuine Edgar Grospiron, himself a gold-medalist in freestyle skiing.

The IOC will make its 2018 choice next July at an all-delegates session in Durban, South Africa.

-- The IOC said it is "looking favorably" at the inclusion of women's ski jumping and several other events, among them the extreme sports favorite slopestyle, for the Sochi 2014 Games. But it stopped short of saying yes -- for now.

Instead, the IOC gave president Jacque Rogge the authority to say yes (or no) after the world championships this coming winter. The women's ski jumpers have been fighting for inclusion for years. In slopestyle, the competitors go through "features" such as rails and bumps.

The full under-consideration list of new events: women's ski jumping; ski slopestyle (men's and women's); snowboard slopestyle (men's and women's); ski halfpipe (men's and women's); biathlon mixed-team relay; figure-skating team event; luge team relay.

"They said they were favorably looking at the sport," the 2009 women's world ski jump champion, American Lindsey Van, said in a telephone interview from Park City, Utah.

"I have to think positively. They didn't say no. So we're headed in the right direction."

-- Sri Lanka's Olympic committee proposed that technology or laser shows could replace fireworks at the opening and closing ceremonies of the Summer and Winter Games, citing environmental concerns.

Rogge said the IOC would review the issue. He also said it would be considered "seriously."

The likelihood of fireworks going away from the Olympic scene seems improbable. The gala banquet that Señor and Señora Vazquez Raña threw here for ANOC delegates, for instance, was preceded by a beach-side fireworks show.

Improbable, however, is not impossible. It used to be that live doves, symbolizing peace, were released as part of the opening ceremony. That was until a bunch of doves got cooked by the cauldron at the 1988 Seoul Games. Now the doves are featured symbolically -- and sometimes memorably indeed, as was the case with the stylization by acrobats at the Torino 2006 Winter Games.

-- Vazquez Raña was elected by acclaim to another four-year term as ANOC president. ANOC gets a representative on the IOC executive board. That's now Vazquez Raña. He turns 80 in two years. That creates a conflict with IOC age-limit rules that say that's when he has to step down as IOC member, and thus from the executive board.

The IOC adopted those age-limit rules as part of its response to the Salt Lake City corruption scandal some 10 years ago. The Vazquez Raña case thus promises to make for an intriguing test of the IOC's commitment to those reforms. Unclear is how, if at all, the FIFA bid scandal -- and the closer look at governance issues it surely will prompt in many Olympic and international sports offices -- may affect Vazquez Raña's status.

Rogge said the executive board will study the issue. A decision is likely in 2011.

-- At the news conference wrapping up the week, Rogge urged FIFA to follow the same sort of path the IOC did in the wake of the Salt Lake scandal.

Rogge said FIFA president Sepp Blatter "was so kind to call me" to discuss vote-buying allegations in the race for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, the IOC president adding he suggested that Blatter "do exactly what he has done and try to clean out as much as possible."

The IOC ended up ousting 10 members and enacting a 50-point reform plan amid allegations of offers of cash and other inducements linked to Salt Lake's winning 1995 bid for the 2002 Winter Games. Asked if he could be sure the IOC was not itself now in line for another major corruption case, Rogge responded, "Could it happen to the IOC? I hope not. I believe the rules we put into place protect us as much as possible. But you can never say never in life. Cheating is embedded in human nature."

Ultimately, the import of these Acapulco meetings may prove to be the joint session with government ministers. It was a coup for Vazquez Raña to get so many here and while little constructive came out of this first give-and-take -- despite the fact that the speech-making ran on for 11 hours -- little was expected.

A next logical step, much discussed in the open-air bar of the Fairmont:

The possibility of convening a working group to draft a code of conduct for both sides, government and sports officials. Sports officials want government to contribute resource, primarily financial. It's entirely reasonable for governments to know where those funds might be going and then spent. Unclear, however, is whether misconduct -- whatever that might be -- should or could lead to sanction.

For now, just getting together -- sports and government -- makes for an entry in the history books.

In its way -- like seeing Vlade patrol the net.


This column appeared first on the AIPS website. That site is full of useful and interesting stuff, including reports from around the world you can't find anywhere else. AIPS, founded in 1924, is the international sports press association.

One down, nine to go, lots to talk about

ACAPULCO -- One presentation down. As many as nine more to go, concluding with the International Olympic Committee's vote next July for the 2018 Games. Munich unquestionably had the best videos here Thursday. It's why they were widely perceived to be the winners in Thursday's initial presentations, with Pyeongchang slightly behind and Annecy farther back.

One presentation hardly makes for an Olympic victory, however. As the bid teams regrouped here Friday, and as officials from the more than 200 national Olympic committees on hand dissected what they'd seen the day before, discussion turned to key issues that were not explored Thursday in detail but may yet prove pivotal.

Here are reports of what they were talking about:


Vancouver in 2010. Torino in 2006. Salt Lake City in 2002.

Those are big cities, not winter hamlets like Lillehammer, the Norwegian town that played host to the Winter Games in 1994. And so the IOC's Winter Games trend in recent years is clear, driven by the obvious: Seventeen days is a long time in a little place. In a big city there's more to do around the Olympic action.

Sochi, Russia, site of the 2014 Games, is not small, either. The city itself counts about 400,000 people.

Pyeongchang would mark a departure. The population of the town itself is somewhere about 75,000 people, the president of the Korean Olympic Committee, Yong Sung Park, said Friday at a breakfast for selected reporters, and that estimate may be generous.

That's why the construction of a high-speed rail line linking Seoul and Pyeongchang is so intriguing; it addresses what could be seen as a significant weakness in the Korean bid.

The project is being developed apart from the 2018 bid; construction is likely to begin in a few months, the line to Pyeongchang done by 2017.

Typically, such so-called "technical" matters are of interest only to the experts who study them. In this instance, though, the train could be a game-changer, because you could go from Seoul to Pyeongchang, about 120 miles, in 50 minutes, according to material supplied by the 2018 bid committee.

That's more or less how much time it took each day to commute from Darling Harbor in central Sydney out to the Olympic precinct for the 2000 Summer Games.

You could, for instance, stay in Pyeongchang and get to Seoul, which is as interesting as any city anywhere, in about half the time it took this past February to get from downtown Vancouver up to the alpine events in Whistler.

Or you could stay in Seoul and commute to the action in Pyeongchang.

Not everyone, of course, is going to want to ride the train.

Thus the additional suggestion at Thursday's presentation to, in effect, bring Seoul to Pyeongchang -- communications director Theresa Rah, speaking from the lectern, describing it as a "Best of Korea" experience, with "world-class restaurants boutiques, shopping malls and entertainment options."

She added a moment later, "Imagine the excitement of the Winter Games, the beauty of the Orient and the best of what Korea has to offer, all together in Pyeongchang."

Details are far from complete, bid chairman and chief executive Yang Ho Cho said at the day-after breakfast. Asked by one reporter to name chefs who might be on hand in 2018, Cho said with a smile that he had no idea. If Pyeongchang wins, he said, "We have a concept and an idea and to implement it we have lots of time."


There's another Olympic bid trend that often gets overlooked but in recent ballots has proven central to the balloting.

The IOC repeatedly has voted for a particular individual that the members obviously like, respect and want to be partners with.

Examples are numerous: Athens won in 1997 for 2004, for instance, because of the personality of Gianna Angelopoulos.

The trend for the last four elections is clear: John Furlong for Vancouver 2010. Seb Coe for London 2012. Dmitry Chernyshenko (and Vladimir Putin!) for Sochi 2014. Carlos Nuzman for Rio 2016.

The strength of the Annecy bid is chief executive Edgar Grospiron.

The point of the Annecy presentation Thursday was to introduce Grospiron -- and to give him the endorsement (via video) of Jean-Claude Killy, the French ski legend and IOC Winter Games operations expert.


Grospiron, in interviews, indisputably has proven he gets the vision thing. Can he and the French turn it into a compelling narrative?

For instance, France has played host to the Winter Games in 1924, 1968 and 1992.  It would only be natural to position Annecy as the 21st century extension of that legacy, wouldn't it?

"It's a continuing story between France and Olympism," Grospiron said of the three prior Winter Games, in Chamonix, Grenoble and Albertville.

"What's interesting now is that Olympism doesn't need France to exist. But France needs Olympism to be able to develop its sporting activity, to reinforce that."

Another, perhaps related, possibility: Annecy could also position itself, he said, as a forward-thinking bid that aims to use the Games as a catalyst to take on such challenges as global warming -- that is, the effect of climate change on already-mature ski and snow resorts forced to deal with, say, diminishing snowfall.

"This land is what we have," he said, calling the region in and around Annecy and Chamonix "most beautiful and most precious."

He said, "Our responsibility is to modernize and at the same time to preserve our values -- or its values, its traditions, its authenticity, its environment.

"That's the vision that I have … to integrate harmoniously the Games between the eternal snows of Mont Blanc and the crystal-clear waters of Lake Annecy. That's our main issue."


The 1972 Summer Games will forever be remembered for the kidnappings and murders of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches.

There's no point tiptoeing around it. It happened. It's part of the story of the Olympics and Munich.

"We knew from the beginning that this could be our biggest problem," the mayor of Munich, Christian Ude, said in an interview, speaking in English.

"Therefore we had a lot of talks with members of other national Olympic committees. I spoke about this in Athens in 2004 with a lot of representatives of the Olympic family, especially with the members of the Israeli delegation. The surprising answer -- surprising for me personally -- was that '72 was the first attack of international terrorism on the Olympic family. This could happen in the United States, in Great Britain, in Spain, in Russia, everywhere. It's not the responsibility of the location where the international terrorists have made an attack.

"That," he continued, "was not only the opinion of one or two -- the president and general secretary of the NOC of Israel but also the opinion of other members and of other countries. I spoke with the NOC of Poland, the former Czechoslovakia, Russia. They all said the same. This was not the responsibility of the location where it happened. It was the responsibility of the international terrorists who attack also in other continents and other countries.

"Especially the Israeli delegation and the Jewish members in other countries said two important things that encouraged us. First, the security standard in Germany is very high now, especially in Bavaria and Munich. About Munich, I say it as a Social Democrat, and the Free State of Bavaria has a conservative government, so it's not self-promoting: I have to accept that the security standard in Bavaria is very high. Munich is the city -- of all cities in Europe with more than one million inhabitants -- with the lowest crime rate. Year to year we get new evidence that the security standard in Munich is the best in all cities of this size.

"The second thing is that in the time of my office," 17 years and counting, "we have a re-birth of Jewish people and the Jewish religion and Jewish life in Munich. Some years ago we opened the new synagogue in the middle of the city. The new Jewish school and the new Jewish center with a restaurant and so on -- it is the biggest new Jewish center in Europe. We have guests from Israel, from the States, from everywhere in the world -- they accept the rebirth of Jewish life and that Jewish people feel in Munich at home. You couldn't imagine it some decades before.

"Therefore we believe it's not only our opinion. We ask the Jewish community worldwide: is it," meaning 1972, "a problem? If it's a problem, we make no bid. They all say it is no problem and they say one sentence more: Munich should get a second chance."

Three-city field, two-city race?

ACAPULCO --  The vote for the 2018 Winter Games is still some nine months away.  But is the race already tilting toward a two-city race in a three-city field? In presentations Thursday to officials from all 205 national Olympic committees, Pyeongchang and Munich, the South Korean and German candidates, articulated distinct visions. Those two would seem to offer the International Olympic Committee a clear choice when it votes next July.

Munich wants to throw a "festival of friendship," a traditional alpine celebration with the bang of a big street party.

Pyeongchang, bidding for the third straight time, unveiled a theme it called "new horizons," a call to the IOC to fulfill the mandate of taking the Games to every corner of the world.

Pyeongchang's vision is perhaps more profound. It falls neatly in line with the IOC's recent moves to Beijing (2008), Sochi (2014) and Rio de Janeiro (2016).

Then again, Munich has Katarina Witt, the two-time Olympic figure skating champion. It's impossible to know whether it ultimately makes a difference but let it be said, and directly: Katarina Witt exudes sex appeal.

She knows it. Everyone around her knows it. To ignore that is to ignore a salient feature of the Munich bid.

Everyone in the room listening to her Thursday at the lectern, when she was talking about celebrating winter sport "very passionately," when she said Munich's goal is to "lift the Winter Games to a new level of global excitement" -- everyone gets that the project has allure because she so obviously does.

Katarina Witt wore a two-tone grey-on-grey sheath dress Thursday from the American designer Nicole Miller, and four-inch pumps from the premium Swiss shoe label Navyboot, and you can bet that after the presentations the TV camera crews had eyes only for Katarina.

As ever, she played it cool. All business. She said afterward that it was thrilling to finally be able to go public with the presentations, that it finally affords those interested "the pictures in your head about what they could expect."

At some point -- not here, not now, it's way too early in the game -- the Koreans will counter with Yu-Na Kim, the Vancouver 2010 figure skating gold medalist.

At that point, the race will sharpen further. Next year.

Oh, and then there's Annecy, France -- the third entrant in the 2018 race.

There are some features to the revamped Annecy plan that are truly intriguing -- a "square of nations," for instance, a celebratory Games-times plaza. And bid leader Edgar Grospiron is one of the most decent, genuine guys anywhere.

Even so, it is an enduring mystery why the French -- just as they did in the 2005 race for the 2012 Summer Games, won by London -- seem to keep having difficulty sounding the right tone in these Olympic bid contests.

For instance, every bid-city presentation includes videos. The Annecy presentation on Thursday began with a video that included shots of Grospiron getting dressed, putting on a white shirt, tugging up his pants.

This reminder from the creative department: there is a fine line between being artistic and having a great many people in the room go, what?!

Following that video, the French line-up of speakers Thursday included Pernilla Wiberg, the great alpine ski champion (three Olympic medals, two gold) and former IOC member.

She's not French. She's from Sweden.


Then came another video, this one from Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the First Lady of France. Why not her husband, the president of the republic?


The Munich presentation featured a video of German chancellor Angela Merkel. The recently elected governor of Gangwon province in Korea, Gwangjae Lee, appeared here Thursday in person, even speaking in English.

Was Carla Bruni-Sarkozy -- who spoke in French -- featured on Thursday's video because she is herself a former model? Or was it she and not her husband because he was the one who in early 2008 was the first European leader to raise the possibility of not attending the opening ceremonies that August in Beijing?

Within the IOC, they tend to remember those kinds of things. And the rough going the torch relay had in Paris in the spring of 2008 too.

Grospiron, asked after the presentation about Sarkozy, said, "You can be sure he is behind us," meaning fully supportive.

If Annecy has challenges, it's only fair to note that the other two surely do, too.

There's talk within Olympic circles of a push to take the Summer Games back to Europe in 2020 (say, Rome). The 2022 Winter Games, too (say, 2022, St. Moritz, Switzerland).

There are currently four Italian and five Swiss IOC members. The IOC votes through secret ballot, and so it's fruitless to try to divine whether any or all of those nine, for instance, might see the benefit in going to Asia in 2018 and then coming back to Europe thereafter.

Then again, it's not difficult to figure out that nine votes would give you an excellent head start on the 55 or so you might need to win.

The Munich effort must also contend with the presumed 2013 IOC presidential candidacy of Thomas Bach, the leader of the German Olympic Committee and an IOC vice president. Would the IOC give the Games to Munich in 2011 and then two years later turn right around and elect Bach, too?

"I hear different theories," the mayor of Munich, Christian Ude, said Thursday in an interview.

"It's a wonderful situation for Munich to have a representative of the bid who is so well-known and popular in the IOC. Of course, there is another opinion which says he wants to become president and he has a difficult situation …

"I only see that he is supporting the bid with all his power and influence, and we enjoy it."

As for Pyeongchang: Two times already it has come up short, losing 2010 to Vancouver and then 2014 to Vladimir Putin and Sochi. Can it finally get over the hump?

This 2018 bid would seem markedly different from before -- no references to politics or reunification on the Korean peninsula, for instance. This bid also features unquestionable governmental and heavyweight business support.

Will that be enough? If it's not, is it fair to ask what combination of elements and timing would ever be enough to make a Winter Games bid from Korea "enough"?

The only certainty in an Olympic bid contest, as ever, is uncertainty.

Well, and this -- in the next few moths, the so-called "Olympic family" will surely be seeing a lot of Katarina Witt.