SBD/February 5, 2014/Olympics

IOC's Debate On Changing Olympic Bidding Process Draws Mostly Negative Reaction

Proposed changes to the system under Bach drew mostly negative reactions
The IOC today launched a debate on the "future of Olympic bidding, including the possibility of individual country or joint bids rather than the tradition of choosing a single host city," according to Stephen Wilson of the AP. IOC President Thomas Bach "opened the floor to a wide-ranging discussion on his 'Olympic Agenda 2020,' his blueprint for the organization and the running of the games." The process is "aimed at charting a new course for the IOC under Bach." Today's debate also "dealt with the process for determining which sports are in the Olympics and whether to lift the current cap of 28 sports and 10,500 athletes for the Summer Games." Under IOC rules, a single city "bids to host the Olympics," and joint bids "are not permitted." The possibility of changing the system "drew a mostly negative reaction." Members also said that the costs of bidding "should be reduced," with IOC VP John Coates "saying the cost for cities has been put" at $70M. He suggested that the IOC should "bear some of the costs, including paying for the technical files produced by the cities." No final decisions are being made in Sochi, but proposals will be "formulated after the games and put up for a vote at a special meeting in Monaco in December" (AP, 2/5). REUTERS' Karolos Grohmann notes the IOC is "alarmed at dwindling numbers of candidates for host cities, rising costs and social opposition to the Olympics." Several cities have "already pulled out of the race" to host the '22 Winter Games "amid concerns about rising costs, while protests in Brazil ahead of this year's World Cup and the 2016 Rio Olympics have further highlighted the problems associated with hosting mega sports events." Many members also "spoke in favor of reinstating city visits for IOC members, which were banned following the Salt Lake City bribery scandal" (REUTERS, 2/5).

PAY FOR PLAY? The AP's Graham Dunbar notes the IOC has been "urged not to pay sports to attend the Olympics during talks on its relations with North American professional leagues." The NHL, which has sent players since the '98 Nagano Games, has "yet to commit to the Olympics beyond Sochi," and MLB has "had issues with the Olympics over releasing top players midseason." New Zealand IOC member Barry Maister said, "The bottom line is we are on a slippery slope if we start paying people to come to the Olympic Games. It's fundamentally against the Olympic movement." Still, "renewed efforts with strong support in Japan have begun to include baseball and softball" at the '20 Tokyo Games (AP, 2/5).

TAKING A STAND: USA TODAY's Kelly Whiteside notes Bach yesterday "told world leaders to keep their nation's politics out of the Olympics in a forceful address to his membership." With Russia President Vladimir Putin "as the honored guest, Bach didn't call out" President Obama's administration by name, but the "inference was clear." The White House "named three openly gay athletes to its delegation for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics, which was seen as a direct message of opposition to Russia's anti-gay laws." Bach also "took a shot at world leaders who decided not to attend the Sochi Games." Bach: "We had to see a few politicians whose contributions to the fight for a good cause consisted of publicly declining invitations they had not even received" (USA TODAY, 2/5).
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