Sir Martin Sorrell

Hamburg vote makes plain Olympic brand crisis


Hamburg’s 2024 Olympic bid went down Sunday to devastating defeat in a referendum, a result that is — no reason to mince words — bad, just very, very bad, for the International Olympic Committee and, especially, IOC president Thomas Bach.

Even with all kinds of external factors weighing on the vote — the Paris attacks, a scandal involving Germany’s winning 2006 World Cup soccer bid, the refugee crisis in Germany and across Europe, and more — the vote marks a sharp repudiation of the IOC’s Agenda 2020 would-be reform plan and, indeed, Bach’s leadership, both substance and style.

Worse, it’s a repudiation by his own people.

Bach is, for anyone even remotely familiar with the Olympic scene, himself German. Indeed, before becoming IOC president, he was head of the German Olympic confederation, which goes by the acronym DOSB.

This is on him.

IOC president Thomas Bach in New York in October with UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon // photo IOC

Also in New York: with French president François Holland // photo IOC

In August in Beijing with Chinese president Xi Jinping // photo IOC

In June at the presidential residence in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, with president Almazbek Atambayev // photo IOC

The no vote Sunday amounted to 51.6 percent; yes, 48.4 percent. About 650,000, or half, of the eligible 1.3 million voters in Hamburg took part.

It leaves four cities left in the 2024 race: Paris, Rome, Budapest and Los Angeles. The IOC will pick the 2024 winner in 2017.

The balloting Sunday is intriguing for any number of reasons.

It shows what bad business it is — if in many ways understandable — how a few percentage points either way can make or break a massive project, and not just an Olympics. A better result would have been a big number, either way.

It clearly suggests, too, that it’s the end — and probably for a very long time — for bids from Germany, traditionally one of the most important nations in the Olympic scene.

“It looks like thoughts of Olympia and Germany don’t go together,” Alfons Hörmann, now the president of the DOSB, told reporters.

An IOC spokesperson, meanwhile, said, “Having followed the discussions in Germany over the last weeks, this result does not come as a complete surprise. With this decision a great opportunity for the city, the country and … sport in Germany is lost.”

It’s actually way beyond that, and this offers the most intrigue.

Fundamentally, the IOC is looking at a profound brand crisis.

As Nikolas Hill, the Hamburg bid leader, said in a conference call, “As you know the things we had to face in the last few weeks — the attacks in Paris, the soccer crisis, the refugee situation and many more things — all these topics I would see in direct connection to the Olympic agenda, the reform agenda of the IOC.”

It’s now Bach’s job to get out front and fix it.

If he can.

“We noticed a change of mood in the city,” Florian Kasiske of the German opposition NOlympia group, said. “People can see that there are things where the money is better spent.”

Bach, in his two-plus years as IOC president, has acted as a global diplomat of sorts, meeting — by his own count — some 100 heads of state or government. He has traveled repeatedly to the United Nations.

Everywhere he goes, the IOC president takes pictures. There’s invariably a press release.

Mindful that all politics, even global politics, is local, here is the core question: how much time, effort and energy did the IOC president spend over the past six months in Hamburg, talking up the bid with voters and key officials?

The answer: zero.

What is the point of meeting heads of state x, y and z if you can’t even get your own home country to understand the financial picture and then get excited about the Olympic enterprise?

To draw an American analogy, Bach has been like the congressman who is always in DC but never at home, listening to and engaging with his constituents. In Bach’s case, that means he has been either at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, or at some presidential palace, somewhere.

The IOC, in fact, has a great story to tell. Why isn’t it — and in particular, the IOC president — out there doing exactly that?

This is so obvious:

When people don’t want you, something’s wrong. Very wrong.

And in recent months around Europe, the IOC’s traditional base, voters and public officials have made it increasingly clear they either don’t want, or plain-out fear, the Olympic brand.

The Olympic story is supposed to be that the Games come to town and that’s a good thing — promoting not just the sometimes-ethereal notion of a better world through sport but the concrete concept of a positive after-Games legacy.

Even so, in the afterglow of arguably the greatest Summer Games ever, London’s 2012 Olympics, taxpayers in six western European democracies dropped out of 2022 Winter bidding, five of the six put off to varying degrees by the $51-billion figure associated with the Sochi 2014 Winter Games or with the IOC itself:

Oslo; Stockholm; Davos/St. Moritz, Switzerland; Krakow, Poland; and Munich.

The sixth 2022 European entrant — Lviv, Ukraine — fell out because of war.

Munich bid for the 2018 Winter Games, and lost, to Pyeongchang, South Korea. A Munich 2022 bid probably would have won going away.

Instead, the would-be Munich effort was killed — just as Hamburg’s was Sunday — by voter referendum. So, too, Davos/St. Moritz. Krakow, as well.

Oslo put on the 1952 Winter Games, Lillehammer the 1994 Winter Games; Stockholm, the 1912 Summer Games; St. Moritz, the 1928 and 1948 Winter Games; Munich, the 1972 Summer Games. So it’s not as if there isn’t historical precedent to make the case to the locals all about the upside of an Olympics.

Moreover, within a few days of the St. Moritz/Davos balloting, voters in Austria rejected a 2028 Summer plan. Innsbruck put on the 2012 Winter Youth Games; it staged the 1976 and 1964 Winter Games. And Salzburg bid for the 2014 and 2010 Winter Games.

In early 2012, the then-prime minister of Italy called off Rome’s 2020 bid, citing uncertain costs associated with the project. Rome put on the 1960 Summer Games.

What else did the IOC need to hear, and start grappling with, the problem?

By the end, the 2022 race proved completely illustrative of the dynamic, featuring just two survivors, Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan.

In IOC voting this past July 31, Beijing won for 2022, even though there is little to no snow in the mountains roughly two hours away where the ski events would be held, and the bid budget did not include, for instance, the billions it’s going to take to build a high-speed rail line from Beijing up to the ski venues.

In December, 2014, the IOC members had approved, unanimously and with almost no public dissent, Agenda 2020, Bach’s 40-point reform plan.

How was a vote for Beijing, with environmental and human rights issues, and budget fudging from the outset, in line with Agenda 2020?

Two days after the 2022 vote, meanwhile, at that very same IOC general assembly in Kuala Lumpur, at Bach’s invitation, the members heard at length from Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive officer of London-based WPP, the global advertising and marketing group, about — its brand.

Sir Martin Sorrell addressing the IOC session in Kuala Lumpur on Aug. 2 // photo IOC

In large measure, the speech focused on digital opportunities, including the one undeniably new initiative in Agenda 2020, the creation of an Olympic TV channel.

That said, Sorrell’s broad observation is worth revisiting anew.

To stay relevant in an ever-changing world, Sorrell made plain, the IOC must keep re-inventing itself. He said it had — and must still — show “a willingness to continually adapt, even if that change has not always been easy.”

Now is precisely such a moment.

Communication about what the IOC is, and the Olympic Games can be, needs to be radically revised. And Bach ought to consider far-reaching changes in the the way the IOC president approaches the bid process.

As the IOC’s then-executive Games director, Gilbert Felli, said some 16 months ago in observation about the 2022 fiasco, “So in the communications, and that’s the lesson from this campaign here, we lost good cities because of the bad perception of the IOC.

“So we have to learn our lesson and the ones to blame is the IOC.”

There remain those four cities for 2024. Again, Paris, Rome, Budapest and LA. Four, yes -- but for how long?

What is the chance the Italians pull out again? Rome has municipal corruption and fiscal woes, big-time.

How serious, really, is the Budapest effort?

Bach would probably — strike that, almost definitely — say that as IOC president, his job is to remain studiously neutral in any IOC election.

But he can take a neutral position with regard to the cities themselves even while doing what he should — strike that, must — now be doing: rallying support for the Olympic movement itself, and the notion of a local Games.

The president is too smart and sophisticated not to understand this basic: his job is not to stand by and watch the fraying, if not destruction, of the Olympic brand. All because he wants to remain neutral?


In this context, he is the farthest thing from neutral. He has to be an advocate. Bach needs to go in the next several weeks and months, and repeatedly if need be, to the four markets remaining in the 2024 race — note, four major global markets — and, as Sorrell advised, make the case for why the Games are relevant, fun, interesting and deserve to come to town.

Enough with the heads of state and the photo ops, at least for now.

Talk to real people.

Be accessible. Be real. Be relevant.

Leadership means accepting responsibility, confronting challenge and delivering solutions.

If there was any doubt before, Sunday’s vote in Hamburg can leave none. It’s time to see some real leadership at and from the IOC. And that starts at the top.

Olympic math: why LA 24 makes for a good deal

BEIJING — Last Friday, the Los Angeles city council found itself under some pressure regarding city guarantees for any potential Summer Olympic Games. The council, sensibly, asked not just for more time but more involvement in the process. Compare: when Boston’s Mayor Marty Walsh wavered last month on the same issue, that was, essentially, the end of the Boston bid.

LA 2024’s bid will go forward, indeed on Tuesday, and to places Boston’s didn't and couldn't. Why? Walsh had eight months to make up his mind. In Los Angeles, the city council had three days. This time, more time proved a reasonable request.

In doing enough to let a bid go forward, while keeping a careful eye on its coffers, the city of Los Angeles has provided the U.S. Olympic Committee’s 2024 ambitions that rarest of things in American life: a genuine second act.

Casey Wasserman, who along with Mayor Eric Garcetti, is leading the LA 24 effort // Getty Images

To be explicitly clear about what’s next: the city and the USOC ought to be, and will be, partners. That said, the USOC will not in the near term have an easy ride, nor does it particularly deserve one.

To be plain, too, about expectations: there are always – stress, always – going to be naysayers, worriers and criticisms about events in public life, especially civic-minded projects with budgets that run into the billions. That’s billions with a b.

No problem.

Indeed, one of the fundamental reference points for this 2024 election is the understanding, for sure at the most senior levels of the International Olympic Committee, that it must – again, must – confront the $51 billion hangover from the 2014 Sochi Olympics. That $51 billion is the figure associated with the cost of those Games, and that number is why a remarkable number of cities in western democracies bowed out of the 2022 Winter Games process, leaving only Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan, Beijing the winner in the election last month.

Partially in response to Sochi and that $51 billion, the IOC last December enacted a 40-point would-be reform plan, dubbed Agenda 2020.

The starting point for real understanding of the LA 2024 project is that it is not – repeat, not – Sochi.

Nor is it 1976, and cost-overruns in Montreal, the sort of tiresome allusion that surfaced in my former newspaper, the Los Angeles Times, in an article published Saturday.

That was before 1984, for goodness’ sake, and the LA model that showed the world how to run an Olympic Games.

Here is how long ago, and how irrelevant and immaterial Montreal 1976 is to Los Angeles 2024: in Montreal in 1976, Caitlyn Jenner was a winning decathlete named Bruce.

The reason cities have gotten into trouble over the years with Olympic-related budgets, and the reason Montreal is irrelevant, is that there are, in fact, two budgets – one for the operation of the Games, the other for all the stuff that get built around them, anything from airports to metro lines to stadiums.

In LA, concerns about that second budget – the construction or infrastructure budget – should be minimal. All the major sports venues are already built, including, most importantly, the stadium, site of not just the 1984 but 1932 Games.

Outside the famed peristyle end of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, venue for the 1932 and 1984 Summer Games // Getty Images

This is why it’s also inappropriate for the Times – which should know better if the concern is, truly, taxpayer protection – to lump the infrastructure column in with the operating column, and declare that the “cost” of the LA Games would be $5.8 billion.

They’re totally different – organizing committee expenses at $4.1 billion, non-committee expenses $1.7 billion.

Big picture, and more numbers will follow below:

LA was Agenda 2020 before Agenda 2020 was a thing. If that’s really, truly, genuinely what the IOC wants, it wants LA for 2024.

In conversations here in Beijing amid the 2015 track and field world championships with members of the IOC’s policy-making executive board — they were here for a joint meeting with the IAAF, track’s international governing body — it’s clear that an LA bid is eminently winnable.

The corollary: LA, and its taxpayers, should have no fear of the IOC, or the Olympics. Just the other way around. An LA 2024 Games, should they come to pass, would be the sort of success that makes 1984 look modest.

Starting again with last Friday’s city council session:

Showing the remarkable candor of an executive whose tempered self-assuredness will likely serve him well in the company of Olympic champions, IOC members and those who are both, bid leader Casey Wasserman explained to the city council the open secret that most everyone in the Olympic movement already knew: how LA was rejected in the first place.

In summary: LA was always the choice of the USOC’s chairman, CEO and staff. But board members with links to Boston were at the heart of a group that overruled the USOC’s staff and leadership.

This was, as we all now know, a mistake.

In public life, mistakes rarely come cheap.

Already, LA mayor Eric Garcetti and his team have exacted an unprecedented concession on behalf of taxpayers. LA’s city operations, estimated at $200 million, will now be paid for by a future organizing committee. 

To see the legalese that says just that, click here, and scroll to page D-3, Article II, Section 2.02.

As a point of contrast, Boston assuredly did not get any such concession. See here, again page D-3, Article II, Section 2.02.

LA mayor Eric Garcetti // Getty Images

The USOC has also offered an immediate contribution of at least $1 million to kick-start the bid. Frankly, that’s the very least it could do after denying LA 2024 eight months of fundraising opportunities.

There is more to come.

On top of the money the USOC could reasonably expect to have made during the LA 2024 lifecycle, already covered in a joint venture payment, the USOC wants a whole chunk of change – for elite athlete support – that escaped general notice throughout the whole Boston process. The line in LA 2024’s budget says TBD, suggesting some serious haggling.

Rightly so.

The USOC says it wants $100 million from a future organizing committee while it prepares for the Games, together with a $100 million endowment based on a 50 percent cut of any future surplus. That’s on top of the 20 percent of the surplus that would already go to the USOC under the host city contract. 

To see the outline of the "Los Angeles Fund for Team USA," click here and turn to page 46. To see the standard 20 percent share a national Olympic committee is due under the host city contract, click here and turn to page 40 of 69.

Apply the USOC’s now-plus-later demands, take out the standard shares for the IOC and USOC and the projected surplus shrinks from $161 million to $6.11 million.

Here is the math that explains that calculation:

A starting net surplus of $161.1 million, less $100 million elite athlete support now = $ 61.1 million. From $61.1 million, subtract 50 percent for USOC endowment = $30.55 million, 20 percent for USOC = $ 12.22 million, 20 percent for IOC = $12.22 million, for a total of $54.99 million. That would leave $6.11 million for LA.

That’s not fair to Angelenos.

And it absolutely would raise more than a few eyebrows among those in Olympic circles around the world who continue to believe the USOC’s natural instinct is to gouge everybody else.

The LA 84 deal was no extra money for the USOC during Games prep and 40 percent of the surplus after. Total. It was fair then. It is fair now. And a fair deal is needed to help LA play catch-up.

Let’s be clear, again. Had it been picked eight months ago, LA would have started the race as favorite. The delay and uncertainty since means that’s just not the case, even if not being a favorite can also be a good thing.

Paris, making the early running, has used the same eight months to line up $37 million in government funding for its bid. They have a head start on lobbying, too. Bid leaders and French sports ministers have been pressing all the flesh they can find this week, here at the track championships in Beijing. 

That all these details — about the LA bid and the USOC — have come to light is a good thing. The transparency lacking in Boston is now where it should have been all along. As Sir Martin Sorrell, the British executive, told the IOC members a month ago at the general assembly in Kuala Lumpur, sunshine is a good thing.

Transparency and oversight have big upsides too. The LA city council’s decision to maintain an active role will ensure serious measures of certainty and clarity accompany LA 2024’s bid.

One certainty is that the success of LA 84 has provided the IOC with a commercial model for supporting the Olympics that shows exactly how much money can be brought to the table.

Here, then, is where the numbers show so clearly what a crazy good deal LA 24 would be — for LA 24, of course, but also for the USOC, the IOC and, most important, for taxpayers.

It works both ways. There is absolutely no doubt -- not an over-reach -- LA would generate substantially more than any other city possibly could in revenue from sponsorships, ticket sales and more. At the same time, since the LA venues are already on the ground, the committee there can put on the Games for significantly less expense than anywhere else.

More detail:

Based on IOC guidance, LA has forecast $1.5 billion as the contribution it can expect to receive from the IOC.

That, though, is the number the IOC is giving organizers of the Rio 2016 Games.

It’s another open secret that by 2024 this will rise to as much as $2 billion, thanks to the success of IOC president Thomas Bach and his team in selling TV rights and top-tier sponsorships.

The London 2012 IOC contribution? $1.05 billion. This figure went to $1.5 billion for Rio and is going to keep going up, up, up -- thanks to the IOC's enhanced revenues.

The LA 24 estimate calls for $1.4 billion in domestic sponsorship. That is, in the parlance, conservative.

The Games have not been held in the United States since 2002, in Salt Lake City; the Summer Games since 1996, in Atlanta. That means there is 20-plus years of pent-up sponsor demand.

Tokyo 2020 blew threw its $1.2 billion target already: five years out from its Games.

Interestingly, the LA sponsorship projection of $1.437 is less – repeat, less! – than Boston had put forward, $1.52 billion. To compare, click here and turn to page 6 or, for that matter, page 47.

Come on.

Which is more appealing – a market of maybe 4.5 million people or the entirety of Southern California, at least four times as large?

What’s going on, here, obviously, is that the LA bid — and the USOC — are trying to make it clear that they are not the stereotypical Americans, interested in the Olympic sphere only in making money. Instead, they are being smart – doing the one thing that always plays well internationally for any U.S. effort, being humble.

Nonetheless, it’s super-obvious that more money from the IOC, and more sponsorship dollars, mean more revenue. Which means that the revenue projection of $4,827.3 billion is low. Which means there will be more than the currently forecast $400 million for contingencies until 2024 and that potential future surplus.

Way more. 

Like, way, way, way more.

The real projected surplus can't even start to be fixed until LA would win and then start selling. 

Again, what’s certain is that most of the venues LA will need are already in place. Which means a clear focus on what’s missing: an athletes’ village.

The city council already has its eye on this and that’s a good thing. The reassurance the council will need over the village is exactly what the IOC will need, also.

In an evaluation of Chicago 2016’s bid that explained the USA was a risk simply not worth taking, the IOC had unkind thoughts about financing for the village. LA 2024 cannot afford to take a similarly half-baked scheme to the final vote. The council’s aversion to taxpayer risk means LA 2024 won’t.

Frankly, though, it’s really not a worry. Anyone can worry about anything, and of course a project that’s budgeted at $1 billion is the kind of thing likely to make reasonable people, ask, OK, explain.

So, here:

The organizing committee would contribute $75 million. A developer will pick up the rest, $925 million.

Who is going to be that developer? Unidentified.

Is that a worry? No.


Are you kidding?

Los Angeles, like any city, has problems. But, with the support of the mayor, finding a developer who wants to invest in housing on a site near downtown – the new hipster capital of the United States – in a market that’s housing-scarce, is a no-brainer. And it’s not as if Los Angeles is lacking for real-estate developers.

With certainty on the venues and the village, there can – finally – be clarity on what will make this a winning bid: everything else LA has to offer in service to the Olympic movement.

The movement needs, more than anything, to stay relevant. To do that, it needs to attract young people.

And what’s this in the LA 24 bid book?

Skateboarding, on Santa Monica Beach. Click here for the bid book; skate is mentioned any number of times; to see the schematic that would put it literally on the beach, scroll to page 86.

Santa Monica: home not only of the sport but also to Activision, the company that made the Tony Hawk games.

Like no place else, LA gets the convergence of sports, entertainment and electronic gaming. And how to put on a sensible, financially responsible Olympic Games.

Walking the walk, Part 2: what new sports for the Olympics?


KAZAN, Russia -- This week in Tokyo, eight sports are making their pitches to be part of the 2020 Olympics. For those eight, being part of the Olympic program would mean hundreds of millions of dollars, particularly as governments around the world look to develop athletes, coaches, facilities and grass-roots participation structures. Understanding just how much interest there is in what might be added to a future Olympic sports program, the chairman of the Tokyo 2020 coordination commission, John Coates, said back in February: “The whole world is looking at this process, not just the people of Japan. Many sports are interested and this is going to be a very transparent process.”


That’s a buzzword that features strongly in the IOC’s would-be reform plan, dubbed Agenda 2020.

President Thomas Bach mentioned it eight times in his opening speech last week to the 128th IOC session in Kuala Lumpur. He said, in part: “People today demand more transparency and want to see concrete steps and results on how we are living up to our values and our responsibility. We need to demonstrate that we are indeed walking the walk and not just talking the talk.”

Just in case that wasn’t clear enough, the word came up again several times in remarks to the IOC members from their invited keynote speaker, Sir Martin Sorrell.

It would be naive to imagine the IOC didn’t have some advance idea of what Sir Martin was going to say: “You have to run your operation, totally, on a transparent basis because there’s no other way that you can do it… Sunlight is good.”

So in the spirit of transparency, what do we know about what’s being pitched in Tokyo?

Very little.

Sure, we know the names of the federations invited to pitch. But precious little else.

The pitches took place behind closed doors: no media in the room and certainly no online livestream. Representatives of the international federations making the pitches held up copies of their bid books for the media to see but don't try downloading them from the federation websites. They’re not there.

Compared to the IOC’s own existing standards—for cities bidding to win the Olympics—things in Tokyo are looking, well, opaque.

Some of the sports pitching for 2020--skateboarding and surfing spring to mind--have entrenched internal opposition to being included in the Olympics. Opponents like that don’t just go away because you try to do things quietly: the lesson of Boston’s Olympic bid should be clear.

Back to last week in Kuala Lumpur. Like all great advertising execs, Sir Martin has a keen sense of what his clients want to hear. He made a lot of sense while making it plain that a multi-faceted attempt to distribute Olympic video content in a social way online is vital to maintaining relevance. Sir Martin backed up his assertions with clear and compelling data. The Olympic Games need to reinvent themselves for generations of young people who themselves have been reinvented by new technology.

Sir Martin spoke at length about YouTube, about millennials and about even younger users who consume most of their video online through mobile devices. This was exactly dead-on right. YouTube has exactly the kind of user age the IOC would love to be engaged with the Olympics:

Source: ComScore

To reach these young people, though, the Olympic product itself has to change, and not just the way that product is distributed.

This is fundamental.

There is, as ever, talk about this. But talking the talk and walking the walk are two very different things.

Here was Coates, speaking this past February: “Universality and gender equality are key in selecting new sports or events but the IOC will also consider an up-and-coming sport that is gaining in popularity especially with youth.”

Bringing in the new will, however, be genuinely very difficult.

Changes to the Olympic program marked the biggest test of Jacques Rogge’s presidency, which ran from 2001 to 2013.

The absence of transparency over additions to Tokyo 2020 suggests changes to the Olympic program are already becoming the biggest test of Bach’s presidency, too.

The Tokyo 2020 battle, meanwhile, will be nothing in light of the real fight to come — when the Olympic sports incumbents fight to stay on the program for 2024, to keep every last part of their medal and athlete quotas.

A taste of what’s in store: existing sports have proposed some novelties for the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympics. But there are no new sports on the program.

At the same time, it is not particularly difficult to see what is up-and-coming, gaining popularity with young people. Google will tell you what works for the YouTube demographic just by typing in the search terms. Consider the options for martial arts:


Even with the benefit of incumbency on the Olympic program, taekwondo and judo just aren’t as interesting to YouTubers as karate and muay Thai. So it makes sense, of course, that karate would be on the short list for Tokyo 2020. But where is muay Thai? It isn’t even "recognized." as the term of art goes, by the IOC. And only recognized sports (including tug-of-war and polo) were invited to apply. Wushu, however, is also recognized. So it made the shortlist, too. For the record, arm wrestling is bigger on YouTube than wushu.

The social media platforms and behaviors that Sir Martin Sorrell detailed for the IOC are responsible for popularizing new sports at previously unimaginable speeds. The heavy hitters of this new generation of sports, like parkour and obstacle-course racing, were barely known 10 or even five years ago. There are others, too.

Take calisthenics and street workout. It’s already bigger on YouTube than equestrian. The sport’s biggest star, Frank Medrano, has a third as many Facebook fans as the entire Olympics and twice as many as the world’s best-known surfer, Kelly Slater.


Finding out what the youth of the world wants to engage with is easier than ever. But the challenge confronting the IOC is twofold: 1. Can it can keep up with the ever-increasing pace of change? 2. Does it have the will to do so?

It is clearly possible — under a strong leader — to bring new things into the Olympic movement. Medals were being handed out for modern pentathlon five years after the French baron Pierre de Coubertin dreamed the sport up. Under Juan Antonio Samaranch, the IOC president from 1980-2001, triathlon’s governing body was established and recognized, the sport then given full medal status, all within a few years. No one can possibly doubt that triathlon has become a fine addition to the Olympic program.

So where are the new Agenda 2020-era additions to the Olympic movement? The World Flying Disc Federation and its main sport, Ultimate Frisbee, were recognized last week in Kuala Lumpur. That’s a 50-year-old sport with the same level of YouTube interest as wushu.


Youth engagement, flexibility and transparency are admirable goals. But if Agenda 2020 is to work, to be more than just talk, then those ambitions needs to drive processes and events, not the other way around.

It’s time to walk the walk, bring in the new and tell the whole world about it.