Friday, October 2, 2009

Olympic Dreams in Chicago- Windy City Blown Away!!


One of my readers suggested I provide some Olympic articles over the next few months. I have worked for the Canadian Olympic Committee and I was a student in the International Centre of Olympic Studies at the University of Western Ontario (Any sharks out there that have the chance to study under the great Bob Barney at ICOS should do so).

I'm currently watching the IOC vote for the 2016 games. Chicago and Tokyo have been eliminated in the first round.

Chicago would have been a great story. A parade of stars and notable people supported the bid. Long time residents President Obama and Oprah made pitches. Chicago is a great city with a long and rich history, good and bad.

It would have been great to see the games come to a city where the longest serving IOC president (Avery Brundage) lived for so many years. He was an athlete at the 1912 games, ran the USOC from 1928-1972 and was President of the IOC from 1952 to 1972. Simply put, the most powerful figure in modern games history. He left a very large and meaningful collection to the University of Illinois.. all of his Olympic artifacts to be exact. When looking the very critical wikipedia page about him, it's clear to see he had collected many skeletons. I think a more fair depiction of his life and character is expressed in Allan Guttman's biography of Brundage.

So, Chicago was wise to avoid mentioning Brundage and his contribution. It would have played out well with the IOC, but been terrible at home. Obama alone would have been a huge boost.

So why did the bid fail?

Cause the USOC failed to play the game. I don't mean paying off African votes like Salt Lake, I mean focusing their bid on working the political chaos of the IOC without buying off people. It is much tougher to win a Summer Games than a Winter Games, but Chicago could have learned some things from Vancouver
  • Bid video was not impressive
  • They are competing against a European city, thus Europe votes were not there to help them
  • They needed to convince the world why North America needed another games so close to 2010
  • They failed to convince voters that Chicago had the support of the people and was an ideal host city.
In the end, only the voters know why they voted as they did. I am pretty jaded about the motives.

RIO or Madrid- Who should win?

My vote is for Rio. They did a solid job hosting the 2007 Pan American Games, which is the closest games in terms of size and scope that could be used as a trial run for hosting 2016.

The 1992 games were held in Spain and happened only because of then IOC president
Juan Antonio Samaranch. Under his watch, vote buying, doping cover ups and other illegal acitivities ran rampant. He wasn't above doing whatever it took to bring the games to Barcelona and to ensure professional basketball players could play in the Olympics (What, you thought that the Dream Team first appearing in 1992 was a coincidence?)
Here's a breakdown of both bids courtesy Ron Judd of the Seattle Times:

Rio de Janiero: An apparent sentimental favorite among IOC members who see themselves as international missionaries of sport and long to preach the gospel of gold medals to South America for the first time. Brazil has put big money on the table -- projected budget $11 billion plus -- and is widely considered a favorite going into the week. Areas of concern: Security and experience. Lawlessness in parts of the city have plagued other big events, and major glitches befell the Pan Am Games there. Also remember: TV rights and sponsorship potential pales in comparison to a U.S. Games.

Madrid: A stalking horse that very well could snatch the bid away if votes split between Chicago and Rio in first rounds of voting. Solid bid proposal, strong connections to the Euro-dominated IOC board, and the lingering backroom influence of IOC president emeritus Juan Antonio Samaranch should not be underestimated.


Greg King said...

"They failed to convince voters that Chicago had the support of the people and was an ideal host city"

I was interested by this comment in your article. Everything I read indicated that Chicago had the worst percentage of support from its residents (something just over 60%). Do you have insight into how those numbers are collected? Is it simple polling? And if it is polling, who conducts the polling? The group trying to bring the game to the city in question or some neutral body?

Sport Management Steven said...

The IOC, as part of their due diligence, conducts their own survey. Cities that don't want to put their faith in the IOC survey often have their own referendum/plebiscites to assess acceptance of the games from its people.

In the end, it is my belief that politics came into play. Spain took away lots of first round European vote for Chicago. Had Chicago made it through, their chances would have increased greatly. The IOC hates to shy away from TV dollars.

Ballot 1: (95 eligible, 94 valid ballots)

Madrid - 28
Rio - 26
Tokyo - 22
Chicago -18

Ballot 2: (97 eligible, 1 abstention, 95 valid ballots)

Rio - 46
Madrid - 29
Tokyo - 20

Ballot 3: (99 eligible, 1 abstention, 98 valid ballots)

Rio - 66
Madrid - 32
Rio de Janeiro elected.

Sport Management Steven said...

Continent Vote Breakdown

Europe- 45
Asia- 26
North America-12
South America-6