Xi Jinping

On Mr. Trump and double standards: let's all chillax


Everybody: chillax.

And while you’re at it, the time has come for everybody — this means you, you and especially you — to start thinking, and hard, about why it is that there’s such an obvious, ridiculous and totally unfair double standard when it comes to evaluating American bids for events such as the Olympics and soccer’s World Cup.

In the aftermath of President Donald J. Trump’s executive order on Friday imposing travel restrictions on certain countries, you might have thought — especially reading Twitter and the mainstream media Kool-Aid — that the freaking sky was falling.

The Los Angeles 2024 Summer Games bid: imperiled if not dead.

The notion of an American bid for the 2026 soccer World Cup: wounded, maybe fatally.

These assertions betray a wild miscalculation if not a fundamental misunderstanding of what’s at issue.

Moreover: a fevered rush to judgment never serves anyone or anything.

Deep breath.

First things first: the International Olympic Committee vote on the 2024 race isn’t until September 13 in Lima, Peru. Paris and Budapest are also in the race. Eight months from now is an eternity.

To speculate now, in January, about what might happen in September because of what Mr. Trump did in January is pointless.

Let’s all remember that our French friends have their own national elections in the spring. If Marine le Pen wins, will there be similar freak-out? If François Fillon wins, will the French trade unions go berserk and the threat of trade union uprisings threaten a Paris 2024 candidacy? Look, will Mr. Fillon even stay in the race? He has said in recent days he would drop out if he were criminally investigated over allegations, much reported on in the French press, that his wife was paid for parliamentary work she did not do.

Let’s say Madame le Pen wins. Just for the hypothetical. Is that the reason to vote up or down on Paris?

Or Viktor Orban, the populist prime minister of Hungary. He has said, “We have to change and make Europe great again.” That verbiage sounds — vaguely familiar. Does that make him the devil? Is he the reason a Budapest bid ought to soar or go down in flames?

If not — why is Mr. Trump being held to a different, and entirely unfair, double standard?

Here are Mr. Trump's words from his January 20 inauguration:

"We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world -- but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first," and that is an unchallengeable truth.

He followed, "We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow."

Let’s put the core of this right out there: you don’t have to like Mr. Trump. It does not matter whether you, you or especially you like the new president.

Repeat, and for emphasis: it does not matter.

Here is what matters:

Many of the members of the IOC like, or are inclined to like, Mr. Trump. Especially the IOC president, Thomas Bach. He likes Mr. Trump just fine.


While you are processing that, this:

Mr. Trump is the duly elected president of the United States. Advice: if he’s not your cup of tea, pour yourself a shot of bourbon or vodka or, if you prefer, pop a Xanax and proceed, quickly, through the five stages of grief and get to acceptance. Like, now.

Repeat: Donald J. Trump is the president of the United States. The American people elected him.

If you think Trump is the antichrist, you have a very short memory when it comes to Barack Obama in the international sports sphere, starting with that disaster of a show in Copenhagen in 2009 on behalf of Chicago’s 2016 Olympic bid followed by the delegations to Sochi 2014 led by gay athletes including the tennis star Billie Jean King and, in short order, the overreach of American executive power in the form of the FIFA indictments and an investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn of doping by Russian athletes, as if the United States would or should have any interest whatsoever in doping in Russia.

Imagine if the tables were turned and the Russian federal police and prosecutors launched a purportedly doping-related investigation there of American athletes on the grounds that, say, American high jumpers had violated Russian banking laws. That’s a laugh.

At any rate:

Do you like Vladimir Putin?

What about Xi Jinping?

Do you like the Russian system of government? What about the way they do things in China? Would you consider China, even as “open” as it is now, autocratic or not? For that matter, Russia?

Let’s have a little straw vote here: would you rather, all things considered, live in the United States, Russia or China?

The 2014 Winter Games went to Sochi, with Mr. Putin making a personal appearance before the voting members of the IOC at an assembly in Guatemala.

Beijing is the first city on Planet Earth that will play host to both the Summer Games, 2008, and the Winter Games, 2022.

So — pretty clear that being Mr. Putin or Mr. Xi is not a bid killer. Yet being Mr. Trump ought to be?

Let’s have another little vote.

Would you rather, all things considered, live in Russia, Qatar or the United States?

Soccer’s World Cup will be in Russia in 2018.

And in Qatar in 2022.

Back to the news — because the president, who campaigned on a promise to implement immigration reform, took a first step in so doing, the United States is suddenly a pariah?

That logic does not hold.

To be clear: the order suspends entry of all refugees to the United State for 120 days, bars Syrian refugees indefinitely and blocks entry into the country for 90 days for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim nations: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.


This is why maybe just pausing before hitting that “send” button can sometimes be helpful, even for someone as thoughtful and well-intentioned as Mr. Peterkin, who is an IOC member from the Caribbean island of St. Lucia.

As the Washington Post reported Saturday, “Officials tried to reassure travelers and their families, pointing out that green-card holders in the United States will not be affected and noting that [homeland security officials are] allowed to grant waivers to those individuals and others deemed to not pose a security threat.”

The story adds, noting that details were for sure still being worked out and waivers would be “evaluated on a case-by-case basis,” and quoting an unnamed official, “If you’ve been living in the United States for 15 years and you own a business and your family is here, will you be granted a waiver? I’m assuming yes, but we are working that out.”

Wait — amid the tweets and corresponding rip jobs of the president of the United States, who was elected first and foremost to secure the safety and well-being of the people, and moved Friday to implement an initial, temporary strategy that he and his advisors deemed appropriate, this:

Where are the similarly heated complaints or observations about — just to pick one — France?

France has been under a “state of emergency” since the attacks in Paris in November 2015 that killed 130 people. Last month, the French parliament last month extended that state of emergency through July 2017, the interior minister warning ahead of the parliamentary vote that the country faced an “extremely high” risk of another attack.

Why not the same — or worse — outrage about a “state of emergency” now lasting almost two full years? In a western democracy?

Beyond which:

What does any of this, in theory, have to do with sport?

Answer: zero.

For those of you who would prefer to be idealists: isn’t the whole notion of the Olympics that sport can bring the world together, at least for 17 days?

“We are working closely with the administration to understand the new rules and how we best navigate them as it pertains to visiting athletes,” U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman Patrick Sandusky said Saturday. “We know they are supportive of the Olympic movement, and our bid, and believe we will have a good working relationship with them to ensure our success in hosting and attending events.”

Would you know that from reading, for instance, the New York Times?

In a story published Saturday, the Times’ Jere Longman, an excellent newsman and a longtime colleague, quotes the historian David Wallechinsky, also a longtime colleague, as saying that Mr. Trump is perceived in Olympic circles as “anti-Muslim, anti-woman and anti-Latino.”

Wallechinsky then goes on to say of the president’s executive order, “This is worse. I would consider it a blow to the Los Angeles bid — not fatal but a blow.”

Oh — as if Mr. Putin, who has waged a war in Chechnya, is considered pro-Muslim?

Or Qatar or China, just to pick two, are havens for women’s rights?

Admittedly the United States is imperfect. Any country is. But which country has maybe, just maybe, made more progress in advancing the rights of women in the workplace and other spheres — China, Russia, Qatar or the United States?

As far as the IOC goes:

Right now the United States has three IOC members. There’s Larry Probst. And then there are Anita DeFrantz and Angela Ruggiero, and she is the current chair of the athlete’s commission.

France, two members, both men: Guy Drut. Tony Estanguet.

Hungary: two men. Pal Schmitt. Daniel Gyurta.

Would it maybe have been relevant, journalistically speaking, if Longman had mentioned that Wallechinsky, who is assuredly one of the world’s foremost Olympic historians, is also a noted compiler of published lists such as “world’s worst dictators”? Maybe an informed guess how Wallechinsky views the new president?

Beyond which:

Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin had a phone call on Saturday — initiated by Mr. Putin, according to the White House. The call lasted for an hour. Mr. Trump also spoke Saturday with leaders of Australia, France, Germany and Japan.

Where was the major diplomatic blowback? Hello?

Just to name one: did the prime minister of the United Kingdom criticize Mr. Trump? Uh, no.

Sure, the president of France did. But who cares? He’s about as popular in France as an “I’m with Her” button would be a White House staff meeting, and everybody knows it.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed Saturday to meet with Mr. Trump during a visit to Washington on Feb. 10. The next Summer Games are in Tokyo, in 2020. So interesting.

Mr. Putin and Mr. Bach have — since the November election —already spoken by phone. Mr. Bach, since taking office in September 2013, has met with more than 100 heads of government of state — but did not meet with Mr. Obama. Odds are good that Mr. Trump will meet, and probably sooner than later, with Mr. Bach.

Mr. Bach is, of course, on good terms with Mr. Putin.

Mr. Bach knows full well that the Olympic movement needs the United States right now. That’s why he made a trip to California last year, to Silicon Valley. The movement needs the creativity of California to reach the youth audience that keeps the Olympics relevant and material. What is the IOC’s major initiative right now? The Olympic Channel. Who produces more influential content than anyone anywhere? California — Hollywood, Snapchat, Google, Facebook, Apple.

Mr. Bach knows, too, that with recent budget headaches — Rio, Sochi, London, Beijing — the IOC has to take a very, very considered look at a Los Angeles Games for 2024, where everything is mostly built, the city has a two-time legacy of producing big-time and inventive Games, the locals want the Olympics and absent colossal and unpredictable disaster the Games will make everyone involved, as Sean Penn’s character said in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, beaucoup dollares.

Mr. Bach knows, too, that this is LA’s time. Bid leader Casey Wasserman scared up $35 million to fund a 2024 bid. He can’t go back to those donors if the IOC turns LA down for ’24 and say, let’s try again. Won’t happen.

Beyond which:

Let’s say you’re Mr. Trump. Let’s say the IOC turns LA down the way it did Chicago for 2016 and New York for 2012.

It would state the obvious to note that the new president has shown he is plainly willing to play hardball.

Repeatedly, too, he has expressed interest in the tax scheme.

It is not hard to figure out, not difficult indeed, that if the IOC shoots down LA for 2024, there might well be an inclination at the White House to say, OK, let’s take a very hard look, right now, at the tax status of all the IOC’s American-based top-tier sponsors.

Everybody: chillax.

Talking the talk: IOC elects Beijing for 2022


KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Earlier this week, when he opened the 128th International Olympic Committee session, president Thomas Bach declared of Agenda 2020, his would-be reform plan, “We need to demonstrate that we are indeed walking the walk and not just talking the talk.” On Friday, the members — the very same ones who fell into lockstep in approving Agenda 2020 last December — voted for Beijing to win the 2022 Winter Olympics. The count: 44-40, Beijing over Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Beijing, stage for the 2008 Summer Games, will become the first city to put on both the Summer and Winter Olympics.

Friday’s vote, the first major test of the 40-point Agenda 2020, revealed emphatically its major challenge: it is, in large measure, just so much noise until the IOC members actually follow its prescriptions.

IOC president Thomas Bach at the opening of the 128th session // photo IOC

There’s only one way for the IOC to really walk the walk. Therein lies a huge opportunity for the U.S. Olympic Committee and, now, Los Angeles for 2024.

Agenda 2020 promotes sustainability and feasibility. LA is tailor-made for such a blueprint. Almost all the venues stand ready, on the ground, for an Olympics; political and business support is rock-solid; the locals are hugely in favor of the effort, with poll numbers in favor of the Games in the 70s.

The Boston debacle, which ended Monday, is not going to make things easy for the USOC. Nor will the FIFA indictments. Nonetheless, Friday’s vote spotlights the path by which LA not only can but should win for 2024.

If LA saved the Games in 1984, now LA can not only save the USOC but Agenda 2020 — that is, make the reforms real, and make it possible for western democracies, and their taxpayers, to believe again in the Olympic Games.

Based on the chatter here in Kuala Lumpur, if Los Angeles bids, it would immediately become a formidable 2024 contender — with a real chance of winning.

Indeed, a strong LA bid would turn Boston into a fleeting memory -- an appropriate casualty of what now, via Agenda 2020, is called the "invitation phase" of the bid process. The USOC actually could, and should, emerge stronger for having gone through the months of Boston dithering.

On the other hand -- no LA bid will result in four years, or more, of Boston post-mortem.

That’s not the talk of someone who has lived in Los Angeles for more than 20 years. That’s talk that simply reflects what Bach says — if, that is, the IOC is going to walk the walk.

Paris is always awesome to visit but the French have to prove that they can overcome their traditional political and bid difficulties. (See Annecy 2018: seven votes.) Hamburg is not Berlin, and it’s now unclear how dramatically Friday’s vote for Beijing might impact the forthcoming Hamburg referendum, particularly since German voters shot Munich down not all that long ago.

Rome and Italy have financial woes. Budapest is uber-chic but 2024 in Hungary is likely going to be a hard sell. Toronto? Not yet a reality, and in choosing between Canada, which played host to the Games in Vancouver in 2010, and the United States, where the Olympics haven’t been held in a generation despite U.S. financial contributions, that’s a slam-dunk.

Baku? Not ready, at least for 2024, for prime time.

Been there, done that? That’s the knock against LA?

Not after Friday -- not after the IOC voted for Beijing in 2008 and again for 2022. That kills that LA-three times argument, and totally.

Listen to the words of Craig Reedie, an IOC executive board member from Great Britain, who earlier this week observed, “They won’t have to build temporary stadiums, which is expensive. It could be third-time lucky for LA. It was third-time lucky for London,” for 2012.

LA would make it so easy. Not to mention — obviously — fun.

The beaches. The weather. The restaurants. The stars.

Veteran IOC member Mario Pescante of Italy moments before Friday's presentations

Bach this week has made it abundantly clear that he expects a bid from the USOC. Indeed, he used the word “commitment" in emphasizing at a Wednesday news conference that an American bid is expected; on Thursday counted the USOC among those who had "already committed themselves to a candidature"; and on Friday published a pre-vote op-ed of sorts in which he noted that the United States was on the list of nations "seeking to host the 2024 Games."

Please pay close attention, each and every one of you on the USOC board of directors. Bach could not have made himself more explicit: there must be a 2024 U.S. bid. And not bidding for 2024 will not go down well for, say, 2026.

Logistically, the USOC has until Sept. 15 to name its candidate.

LA, San Francisco and Washington were the finalists against Boston. San Francisco and Washington were never viable candidates. That leaves only one option. Especially given the time constraints.

If the USOC wants to, say, hold sailing in San Francisco Bay — the kind of shared-city prospect Agenda 2020 expressly envisions — hey, have at it. That would, among other things, enable the Olympic Rings to go up the Golden Gate Bridge, which Bach is known to find a keen proposition.

But to be clear: this would be a Los Angeles bid. Never in a million years would the IOC be good with a joint bid, a suggestion floated this week in the San Francisco Chronicle. IOC rules say there is one person who signs the host-city contract, which provides guarantees against any financial shortfall — the mayor of the host city itself. That would be LA mayor Eric Garcetti, a huge backer of the Olympics.

For its part, LA officials should proclaim, loud and often, that Garcetti will sign that contract — the thing that purportedly caused Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to withdraw his support.

Any project involves risk. Such risk in LA is, however, extraordinarily minimal. The 1984 Games made a surplus of $232.5 million.

This 2024 bid thus offers LA, the USOC and the Olympic movement a new way forward, particularly in the United States, which the IOC — to be candid — seriously needs.

Chicago 2016 and New York 2012 foundered in part because of the demands of this contract.

For 2024, LA and the USOC should acknowledge that they are honest-to-goodness real partners, and that as partners the USOC would cover 25 percent — or some other equitable slice — of any shortfalls, should they occur.

The likelihood of which, again, is super-low.

It’s a no-lose, win-win proposition all around.

This would get LA and the USOC in the game, and with emphasis — showing that, especially in the United States, a Summer Games is a proposition not to be voted down but to be welcomed.

A scene from this past winter from one of the proposed Beijing 2022 venues

Another scene, showing lack of snow, from this past winter around Beijing 2022 venues

If the knock on the IOC right now is that only autocratic or dictatorial governments want the Games, what better?

So why, Friday, did the IOC membership vote for China?

Despite significant human rights concerns?

The awful air pollution?

The fact that there isn’t going to be anywhere near enough natural snow in the mountains?

That the Chinese are going to have to spend billions and billions to build a new high-speed rail line to connect the mountain venues, now hours away, from Beijing itself — and are not going to include that money in Olympic budgeting, making a mockery of Agenda 2020 concepts such as “transparency,” all just to avoid a Sochi-like financial reckoning?

Because, simply, with the Chinese the IOC knew it can — as the saying here repeatedly went — sleep at night.

In putting on those 2008 Games, the Chinese government, with its immense resource, spent at least $40 billion.

In a video shown Friday to the IOC members, Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed his “strongest support” for the Games. The project was described as a “national priority.” Xi promised a “fantastic, extraordinary and excellent” 2022 Games.

The Chinese bid team, including basketball star Yao Ming, at its post-presentation news conference

With that kind of backing, the IOC could be assured that — amid any and all controversies, now and into the future — the 2022 Games will, no problem, come off.

This was particularly key after difficulties in Sochi as well as the struggles in Rio for 2016.

Also: 1.4 billion Chinese represent a huge marketing opportunity for the international federations, sponsors and others. The sports industry in China was represented Friday to grow to an $800-billion industry by 2025.

Even before the vote, the IOC knew that it was headed back to Asia for a third straight Games — Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018, and Tokyo in 2020.

Over the course of the 2022 campaign, four western European democracies dropped out, all put off to varying degrees by the $51 billion figure associated with the Sochi 2014 Games or with the IOC itself: Oslo; Munich; Stockholm; and Krakow, Poland.

A fifth European city, Lviv, Ukraine, fell out because of war.

That left Beijing and Almaty.

The super-direct Almaty presentation on Friday, building off its slogan, "keeping it real," made for arguably the best any bid city has mounted since London, in 2005, won those 2012 Games.

Almaty bid leader Andrey Kryukov, right, just moments after the presentation

“We want to help the IOC show the world that a country does not have to be a superpower, or spend tens of billions of dollars, to host the Winter Games,” Erlan Idrissov, the Kazakh foreign minister, told the members.

Prime Minister Karim Massimov directly confronted the notion that China was a safer choice.

“We’ve heard the sentiment that if you don’t select Almaty, then you, the IOC, can ‘sleep well at night’ for the next seven years. I find that a curious statement.”

He said the IOC had been “brave” on a number of prior occasions: challenging apartheid in South Africa, selecting Moscow for 1980 at the height of the Cold War and going to Beijing in 2008.

“Those were visionary, heroic declarations,” he said, “about sport’s ability to serve humanity. And, in each case, you were right. So today, we ask you to have faith in us, to have faith in Kazakhstan. Our request is not simply based on blind faith. It is based on facts, the facts that you need to make an historic decision — historic not only for Kazakhstan but for the Olympic movement as well.”

IOC sessions are typically long on diplomacy. Massimov, however, all but called the Chinese out, saying of Almaty 2022, “There were no fabrications about our compact venue plan, our travel times or our accommodation resources.

“There was no overstatement about public or political support, or our ability to host large-scale winter sports events.

“There was no enhancement of our beautiful mountains in the city, or our abundant, real snow and winter atmosphere.

“And there is no doubt about Kazakhstan’s financial stability.”

44-40. A new electronic voting system -- by tablet -- didn't work so ballots were, in the end, cast the old-fashioned way: by writing. Immediately unclear: whether the many conversations in the election room in the transition between the electronic and paper ballots proved pivotal in what amounted to Round 2 in a two-city vote.

44-40. Much closer than expected but nonetheless, in the end, Beijing prevailed.

Action speaks louder, way louder, than words. Agenda 2020 -- for real?

Now the page turns. Here comes the contest for 2024, and the chance to, as Bach said, walk the walk.

The kabuki theater of the 2022 evaluation commission


The kabuki theater that marked the two-stop International Olympic Committee’s evaluation commission for the 2022 Winter Games wrapped up Saturday in Beijing. In this and a prior trip to Almaty, Kazakhstan, it can be said to have accomplished practically nothing of consequence. Here is why. The technical merits of these two bids are practically irrelevant, even if one might like to argue back and forth about whether the ski jump in Almaty is so close you can touch it or the ski run is so far away from Beijing it might as well be in Mongolia.

This 2022 race is the worst the IOC has conducted in its modern history.

Worse, by far, even than the 1984 Games “race,” when Los Angeles was the only entry.

The IOC evaluation commission at the Beijing closing ceremony // photo courtesy Beijing 2022

Then at least you knew what was going to happen.

IOC elections can be unpredictable. Even so, this one would seem to be showing a lot of clarity already.

First and foremost, the 2008 Summer Games were in Beijing.

That means that some significant number of the IOC members have actually been to Beijing.

Moreover, the Nanjing Youth Games were just last summer. That means some number of members have been to China who knows how many times over the past several years and seen for themselves just how incredibly good the Chinese are at organizing Olympic events.

It’s true. The Chinese do grand Olympic scale stuff exceptionally well. Of course they do. This is not difficult: money plus resource plus the ability to tell people what to do equals prime-time showtime.

That gives Beijing a huge — and unfair  — advantage over Almaty.

The dumb IOC rule that says the members are not allowed to visit candidate cities means that in this context they can’t visit either Beijing or Almaty. But most have already been to Beijing. So when the time comes this July 31 to make a 2022 choice at the IOC assembly in Kuala Lumpur, and the members know from just seven years ago, or even just last summer, that the Chinese are hugely capable, what button are they most likely instinctively to push?

This dumb rule, meanwhile, cuts both ways. It’s currently three hours from Beijing to what would be the ski venues in 2022. If the members were able to sit on a bus for three long hours and think about that — even though the Chinese say they’re going to build a high-speed rail to cut the travel time to under an hour — would they still want Beijing?

How does such an expensive high-speed rail fit into Agenda 2020, the IOC’s purported reform agenda? Let’s be real. The Chinese say the rail line to the ski resort is unrelated to the Games. Who believes that? Without the Olympics, is there all of a sudden this drive to get 300 million Chinese — about the population of the entire United States — to embrace winter sports, which has abruptly, indeed over just the past few weeks, become one of the drivers of the Beijing 2022 campaign?

The Chinese are masters of propaganda. Nothing in and of itself wrong with that. All countries engage in the stuff. But the opportunity has been dropped into their laps for Beijing to become the first city in the history of the modern Olympics to stage both the Summer and Winter Games -- and this from a country that didn't even come back to the Summer Games until 1984. Incredible.

More straight talk, meanwhile: when the Chinese government promises its full resource, that’s a huge guarantee. Especially for the IOC, and its Winter Games.

The IOC’s winter franchise is wobbly. Think about this 2022 race. Stockholm, Lviv, Krakow and Oslo all pulled out. Munich, the 2018 runner-up, was going to get in but didn’t after a 2013 no-vote referendum and just a few days ago, the head of the German Olympic confederation, Alfons Hörmann, said what everybody in Olympic circles knows all too well:

“It is bitter that Almaty and Beijing are the only ones left. It is now clear that Munich would have been served the Games on a silver platter.”

With Thomas Bach, from Germany, as the IOC president — Munich would have won not just a silver platter, but one piled high with turkey and cranberries and all the fixings. Or German sausage. Or whatever.

The resource of the Chinese government is important, indeed, because the federal Kazakh authorities have been, for some reason, slow in coming to the table with their full faith and credit.

In so doing, the Kazakh government may have squandered some very valuable backstage relationships — key one-to-one ties that within senior IOC circles are well-known, indeed.

Take, for instance, this seemingly unremarkable picture, captured by Xinhua in mid-January:0023ae9885da1620a97c08

It shows Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah of Kuwait, one of the most influential personalities within the Olympic movement, with Chinese president Xi Jinping.

The sheikh is, among other things, head of the Assn. of National Olympic Committees. He is also head of the Olympic Council of Asia. He seemingly has a proven capacity to move dozens of votes.

Just to be obvious, both Kazakhstan and China are in Asia.

How should this simple picture be interpreted?

Until a picture shows up just like this that features the sheikh with Nursultan Nazarbayev, the president of Kazakhstan, it’s pretty easy to understand exactly what this photo says.

Especially when you add in these remarks from the Xinhua story accompanying the sheikh’s visit to Beijing, which on their face would seem completely benign but are actually anything but, you can begin to parse certain key elements of the 2022 dynamic.

“Calling China an important cooperation partner of the ANOC, Sheikh Ahmad said the country had demonstrated its capability to hold large-scale international sport events.

“The Beijing Olympics and the Nanjing Youth Olympics were the pride of China and Asia, he said.”

This is not to say that Almaty is totally foregone. The bid has a great spirit that perhaps is just what the IOC needs. It also speaks far more to Agenda 2020, if indeed that package is real instead of aspirational, than does the Beijing proposition.

There’s little to no snow up in the mountains three hours from Beijing. No worries, IOC executive director Christophe Dubi told reporters this week: the Chinese would store water in reservoirs to make artificial snow. As opposed to Almaty, where every winter there is, like, real snow, and lots of it.

“Basically,” the chairman of the evaluation commission, Russia’s Alexander Zhukov said in Beijing at the wrap-up news conference there, referring to the China plan, “it is cold enough and everywhere there is sufficient water.”

As an environmental proposition, which wins? Moreover, which fits better with Agenda 2020?

Speaking of the environment:

How the IOC can even begin to entertain more jibber-jabber about the unfathomably bad air quality in Beijing when the same noise came forth in 2001 about 2008? This week, while the IOC team was on the ground there, readings for a benchmark pollutant in the air were more than six times what the World Health Organization considers safe.

Politically, as well: imagine seven more years of local and global protests against Tibet and human rights?

Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter, which requires host cities to secure the “rights and freedoms” set out in the charter “without discrimination of any kind,” was revised in December, at the IOC session in Monaco, in line with recommendation 14 of the 40-point Agenda 2020.

Yet, as Human Rights Watch asserted last week, “discrimination — on the basis of sex, gender, ethnicity, disability and sexuality, among others — remains rampant throughout China.”

Sophie Richardson, the advocacy group’s China director, said, “Host selections can no longer be made on promises of flashy infrastructure or glitzy opening ceremonies but now must require respect for fundamental human rights. Will the IOC enforce its own standards?”

In that same spirit, International Tibet Network member groups last week issued a position paper that called on the IOC “to reject [the Beijing bid] and in the context of events in China after the 2001 decision to consider with extreme caution the bid of Kazakhstan.”

This, then, is the dilemma the IOC finds itself in — one entirely of its own making — in the aftermath of the 2022 evaluation visits, full of show and short on meaning.

It could have reopened the 2022 race when there was a window to do so. But no.

Now, having a few months ago enacted the Agenda 2020 package, it remains to be seen whether — aside from the implementation of the Olympic TV channel, which assuredly is real — the rest of it is so much talk or, like many other well-meaning IOC vehicles over the years, just so many words.

A picture, they say, is worth a thousand.


Putin's big "Dreams about Russia"


ADLER, Russia — In a ceremony entitled “Dreams about Russia,” the Sochi 2014 Olympics got underway, arguably the most controversial and contentious Winter Games in history, as much a referendum on modern Russia as celebration of the best in winter sports. “Welcome to the center of the universe!” Russian TV star Yana Churikova shouted to kick off the evening, touching off a show that veered through the centuries amid the strains of classical music, the thump of dance music and the crash and boom of fireworks that lit the night sky.

A scene from early in Friday's "Dreams of Russia"

As the Russian team made its way into and around Fisht Olympic Stadium, the place literally shook to a heavy bass beat. Television cameras showed Russian president Vladimir Putin smiling. Later, he would formally declare the Games open. And he would smile again.

Irina Rodnina, the most successful pairs figure skater in history with three gold medals, and Vladislav Tretyak, arguably the greatest hockey goalie ever with three golds and one silver, together lit the cauldron.

In much the same way that with the bang of 2008 drums China sought six years ago to announce its arrival onto the 21st century world stage, these 2014 Olympic Games were always going to be a defining occasion for Russia and, in particular, Putin.

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