What IOC should do: LA for 2024, Paris for 2028


The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games end Sunday. That’s the 18th of September.

Let’s see if by October 1 the Rome candidacy for the 2024 Summer Games is still alive.

It’s just now under a year — next September 13, at a general assembly in Lima, Peru — until the International Olympic Committee picks the 2024 winner. This can, and should, be a turning point for the Olympic movement.

IOC president Thomas Bach, center, with Rio mayor Eduardo Paes and Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike at the Aug. 21 Olympic closing ceremony // Getty Images

The question is whether the IOC has the creativity, courage and conviction — basically, the cojones — to do what must be done.

The IOC ought to declare that the next two Games, 2024 and 2028, are going to Los Angeles and to Paris, and in that order, and then spend the next few years figuring out how to make this process work in and for the 21st century.

As it is now, the bid process needs fixing, and in significant ways.

The IOC is by nature traditional if not conservative. Even so, now — now — is the time for the IOC to be bold and brave, to be pro-active. The IOC needs to take back way more control over the thing that is at the core of what it does before events conspire, as they always do, to force institutions into panic and reaction mode.

Better, way better, to take that pressure out of the equation. And confront this:

A Games is supposed to be a celebration. The world has changed around the IOC and the IOC needs to figure out how to better offer its value proposition — one that focuses on celebration, inspiration and innovation.

Three candidates, and maybe two

Next Sept. 13, Los Angeles will be a viable candidate.

Paris, too.

Rome increasingly looks like it’s out. The mayor is on record, many times over, as saying the Games are not her priority.

The feeling is that the Italians are waiting to make an exit announcement simply out of respect for the Paralympics.

If Rome leaves, that would leave three cities.

Or maybe just two.

Budapest may now be facing a voter referendum.

Such ballot measures in Europe have consistently in recent years led to the abrupt end of bids.

A consistent sense is that the Rio Games made for an escape from disaster — as the president Thomas Bach put it in a speech delivered at the opening of the IOC session immediately before the Games, a “long and testing journey.” That is not a good sell to voters.

Nor is it a way to run a franchise — which is, make no mistake, what the Summer Games are to the IOC.

To be clear, this is not a knock on the Budapest bid team. They are a with-it bunch of people. Nor is it a knock on Budapest. It is a very cool city. The 2017 world judo championships will be there. The 2017 swim championships, too.

But the lesson of Athens and 2004 is that the Games make for a major test for a small country, and Hungary is a small country. The lesson of Rio, loud and clear, is that the Games have to stop being the impetus for a massive urban development project. A city has to be ready, with everything, or almost everything, set. From Day One.

Like, for instance, LA. Where 98 percent of stuff is already on the ground and polls consistently show ridiculously high support for the Games.

That way the IOC, and local organizers, can spend the seven years building not buildings but the Olympic spirit.

That spirit — the promotion of friendship, excellence and respect — is what the Olympic Games and the Olympic movement are supposed to be about. It’s the power of one-to-one change for the better in our fragile world, and how that spirit can amplify that very change in a city and country and, by extension, around the world.

That is what is missing when you spend seven years leading up to a Games worrying about construction deadlines and infrastructure budgets.

The real Rio 'legacy'

For emphasis, the Rio experience is likely to have long-lasting import within and on the IOC.

You can see how over and done the IOC is with Brazil, and the headaches that have attended 2016.

Consider things from the IOC perspective:

There essentially was no money; the IOC helped. It helped, too, by sending its top expert, the former Games director Gilbert Felli, to basically live in Brazil for two years to get the project across the finish line. So how do the Brazilians express their appreciation? By seeking to make Bach a witness in a ticket case involving a senior IOC member, Patrick Hickey of Ireland. Hickey says he’s innocent. Maybe he is. Or not. Whatever. Until he was detained in Rio, Hickey served on the IOC’s policy-making executive board. The Brazilian authorities, for whatever reason, have sought to make an example out of Hickey. He was dispatched, like the worst sort of criminal, to a maximum-security prison (without being convicted of a thing), then released to a version of home arrest. He can’t leave Brazil while the wheels of justice grind along.

To summarize:

After everything the IOC afforded Brazil just to get through this "long and testing journey" — time, money, expertise, patience — the payback is an IOC board member up against it and the locals making it such a big deal they want the IOC president himself to answer questions?

This in a county where politics and justice are, to be kind, a little wobbly? The former president of Brazil was just impeached. The president before her, the charismatic guy who cried with passion the day Brazil won the Games in 2009, is now facing criminal charges himself.

You wonder why — despite what he has said about being anywhere else for whatever reason — Bach didn’t attend the opening ceremony of the Paralympics? Don’t wonder.

Which leads to the easy question: looking ahead to 2024 and 2028, who in their right mind wouldn’t want something a whole lot easier?

The signals have been there since the 2022 race

The race for the 2022 Winter Games made it abundantly clear that the bid process is flawed if not irretrievably broken.

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

By the end, IOC had only two left: Beijing, where there’s virtually no snow in the far-off mountains, and Almaty, Kazakhstan. The members, in a vote last summer, went for Beijing.

Once more: a Games cannot be primarily a catalyst for urban improvements. That’s the notion the 1992 Barcelona Games ushered in, and when mayors, governors and prime ministers saw how the Games transformed Barcelona, they all wanted a piece for themselves of that 1992 magic.

That model, as the 2022 and 2024 races underscore, is no longer attractive. For sure, Rio has better transport now than before. But nobody goes into a seventh-grade classroom and says, do you want to know why the Olympics are so great? Because you can ride the bus!


Los Angeles and Paris, and in that order.

Doubtlessly there would be sentiment to award 2024 to Paris because it would be the 100th anniversary of the 1924 Paris Games.

Appropriately, however, anniversaries count for little to nothing. See Atlanta in 1996 (Athens 1896, tried for 1996). And not that security isn’t a real issue everywhere but going to France for the nearer future would only invite screaming headlines for seven years about terrorism instead of, again, inspiration and celebration.

LA and Budapest are the only two cities that over the past several months have been telling a legitimate story. Here’s one way you know: LA’s tagline is “follow the sun.” On Twitter, a Paris consultant has been posting pictures of sunrises and sunsets from around the world accompanied by the hashtag #CelebratetheSun. One even shows the sun in Brazil and observes “it’s everywhere!”

Wow! Really?! Imitation, flattery, all that. But not exactly original.

And the Olympic movement, right now, needs original thinking.

Just to get this out of the way: Yes, live in Los Angeles. No, I am not working for the bid committee. I have covered every single IOC election since 1999. Maybe I have observed and even learned a few things along the way.

Big changes, literally and figuratively

Once 2024 and 2028 were settled, that would give the gift of time. Then the IOC and, as well, governance experts can think about how to reform the process to get good if not great options for the rest of this 21st century.

Again, the time is now. The IOC is staring at three successive Games in Asia — Pyeongchang in 2018, Tokyo 2020, Beijing 2022.  And as NBC’s depressed Rio ratings make clear, big changes in the way people view the Olympics — literally and figuratively — are emerging.

It’s not, by the way, that viewers don’t want live sports. NFL and college football ratings in the United States are still insane. Just to take one example: the overnight number for the New York Giants-Dallas Cowboys game this past Sunday on Fox, a game shown to 90 percent of the country, hit a 16.9. Compare that to the 2015 Giants-Cowboys game, shown to 100 percent of the United States on NBC: 16.7.

Summary: shown to fewer viewers and yet more people tuned in.

The Olympics are not, however, football. And the Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps years are just now, at least purportedly, coming to a close.

This is why, for instance, the Olympic Channel is now up and running online.

That’s an excellent first step. Still, the IOC needs to do more.

The IOC needs to get in way better touch with the technology that is an intuitive part of the youth audience it is trying to reach. That’s why Bach made a tour last year of Silicon Valley’s leading companies.

In that same speech to the members on the opening of the IOC session in Rio, Bach confessed that on that Silicon Valley trip, he was introduced to Vine, the six-second video-sharing app. Before that moment, he had no idea what it was. “Skeptical” at first, he said, he was “converted in about six and a half seconds” after seeing the “fantastic images and emotions,” adding that Vine “completely captures the magic of the digital world.”

Bach is only 62 years old. It’s cool that he doesn’t do skateboarding tricks himself for his squad on Vine. But it’s inexcusable that, as the chief executive of an entity whose mission is connecting with the world’s young people, he had to be virtually smacked upside the head to get to know an app that is central to mainstream youth culture.

Same goes for the bid process. Rio is that smack upside the head. Let’s focus on those “fantastic images and emotions,” and on putting the “magic of the digital world” front and center — that is, inspiration and celebration.

LA for ’24, Paris for ’28. In combo, that would make for a big, and appropriate, first step.

2020 -- fairness in IOC rules?

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- The International Olympic Committee here this week announced a series of seemingly benign rules designed to guide the process by which it will, in 2013, select the city that will stage the 2020 Summer Games. If 2013 seems a long time away, 2020 seems almost silly. A first-grader would be just about to start his or her junior year in high school by the time the opening ceremony of those 2020 Games rolls around.

That's how far ahead the IOC works. It has to. The Games, particularly the Summer Games, are a multi-faceted event that involves government, business, volunteers, fans and, of course, athletes. It is further noting the obvious to observe that a Games also requires billions of dollars, among considerable other resources.

The IOC is thus only being practical, indeed judicious, to promulgate rules. The issue at hand is whether these rules,  announced on the occasion of the IOC's first policy-making executive board meeting of 2011, will indeed prove benign.

Without question, the 2020 rules illustrate just how incredibly differently the IOC can move in the bid and campaign spheres than does FIFA, international soccer's governing body.

At first glance, the IOC rules would seem innocuous enough.

By the end of this month, the IOC is due to send a letter with the 2020 timelines to the more than 200 national Olympic committees.

A letter is supposed to then go out on May 16 asking for the names of interested cities. Already, the Italian National Olympic Committee has said it will nominate Rome. Other cities that may yet be in the mix: Durban, South Africa; Tokyo; Madrid; Istanbul; Doha, Qatar; Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

A bid from the United States seems unlikely. Not impossible but, at this moment, improbable.

For the first time, a prospective bid city must comply with World Anti-Doping Agency rules and accept the jurisdiction of the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Then comes the kicker.

Let's say a prospective bidder wants to stage the 2020 Games outside what the IOC now calls the "normal Olympic Games period," meaning between July 15 through August 31.

That would-be bid has until July 29, 2011, to tell the IOC it wants to go outside the normal dates.

In turn, the IOC will come back a month later -- by Aug. 29 -- "regarding WADA compliance, CAS and the proposed dates."

This is where things might very well get very interesting, a long, long way before the Sept. 7, 2013, vote itself -- in Buenos Aires -- for the 2020 winner.

In the 2016 bid contest, the IOC allowed Doha to stay in the race for months and gave it solid technical scores but then declined to pass it through to the final round -- the so-called "candidature" phase, where cities ultimately go before the voters. The alleged reason: it's too hot in Qatar.

That didn't seem to bother FIFA, particularly once the Qataris proved they could cool the stadiums down to temperatures in the high 70s with new technology. And of course Qatar won the 2022 World Cup.

For 2020, these new rules give the IOC the flexibility -- that is, if it were so inclined -- to cut Doha (or any place, for that matter) much earlier in the process than was the case in the 2016 campaign.

Asked by a Brazilian journalist Thursday about how FIFA and the IOC assess temperatures in Doha, Rogge said at a news conference,

"On the issue of temperature, I think you have to compare apples with apples and pears with pears.

"When Doha, when Qatar was bidding [for 2016], they made the proposal to organize the games at the end of October, beginning of November. The temperature then was much too high. The proposal of FIFA is one of December [and] January, when the temperature is lower, so there is no discrepancy between the two. I don't think that FIFA would consider to organize the games in October, November …"

Well, not really. The Qatar proposal was, like all the other 2022 proposals, for mid-summer. Which the IOC president was gently reminded of a few moments later.

To his credit, he immediately acknowledged he had misspoken:

"It is true … that the original foreseen dates of the FIFA World Cup for 2022 was mid-June, end of July, something like that, which is the traditional date of the FIFA World Cup. That is what is in the documents. FIFA followed it on the basis of this period with air-conditioned venues.

Then I think it was started with Franz Beckenbauer, who spoke first about the winter, and the whole discussion came about the winter. More I can not say. This is definitely not an issue for the IOC. I will not intervene into that. The issue for the IOC was different.

"The [2016] dates were end of October, November, which were still considered as being too hot for the athletes but also being also some type of hindrance for the international sporting calendar, and then ultimately we said no.

"The situation might be reviewed by an exception granted by the executive committee but ultimately the IOC will always want to have the Games to be organized in ideal climactic conditions. There's no way we are going to jeopardize the health of the athletes."

It's far from clear that the IOC is truly after "ideal" climactic conditions. I don't remember that being the case in hot and steamy Athens or Beijing. For that matter, I don't remember the weather in Vancouver being "ideal."

The issue is whether Doha, Dubai and other non-traditional bid candidates that are technically capable of staging the Games are going to get the chance to make their case -- to get the opportunity to go before the voters. That's what's at stake.

Time will tell.


As the Associated Press reported, the U.S. Olympic Committee and IOC opened talks here Tuesday in Lausanne in a bid to resolve a long-running dispute over the USOC's share of certain revenue shares.

The USOC delegation went home almost immediately afterward. At Thursday's news conference, Rogge called Tuesday's meetings "very constructive," and said, emphasizing that he was not giving a deadline, "I expect this to be solved much faster than was originally anticipated."

All that is to the good. The sooner the better, frankly.

On Thursday, as far as the AP's Steve Wilson and I could tell, he and I were the only Americans in or around the Chateau de Vidy, the IOC headquarters. Steve, who has been a good friend for a dozen years, is based overseas. So, apparently, the only American who actually lives in the United States and who was here at Vidy on Thursday was me.

Which is surely some sort of sad comment on the scope and nature of the relationship the United States of America has at this moment in time with the International Olympic Committee.