Monday, December 21, 2009

Seminar Abroad 2010: Delegation Roster

I will post more information later, but for now, here's the travel roster:
Tim Conrod (Bristol, CT)
Dave Fitzpatrick (Ballston Lake, NY)
Shawn Fitzpatrick (Ballston Lake, NY)
Dan Gould (West Newton, MA)
Sean Healey (Portland, CT)
Mike Jones (Stone Ridge, NY)
Ally Ostler (Sharton, VT)
Dave Quackenbush (Mid. Haddam, CT)
Spencer Severs (Woodstock, CT)
Kevin Shaker (North Adams, MA)
Nick Starr (Somers, CT)
Curt Hamakawa (Wilbraham, MA)
Dan Covell (Concord, MA)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Seminar Abroad 2010: FIFA World Cup/South Africa

This summer, my friend and colleague, Dr. Dan Covell, and I will be taking a group of 11 Western New England College students to South Africa in conjunction with the FIFA World Cup, which will be the first time that soccer's premier event will be played on the African continent. What an experience it will be to visit a country that until 1994 -- when these students were in grade school -- was a global pariah owing to its decades-long, white-supremacist policy. To get a glimpse of Nelson Mandela's grand strategy using sport in an attempt to unify his fellow countrymen in the post-apartheid era, I recommend viewing Clint Eastwood's "Invictus," starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon (which I saw last night), as well as reading the book of the same title by John Carlin.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Copenhagen Post Script

A couple thoughts occurred to me last night on my return to the states that perhaps were contributing factors to Chicago's emphatic defeat in its bid to host the 2016 Olympics. First, the point touched upon by the IOC member from Pakistan -- Syed Shahid Ali -- in his question to the Chicago delegation. He raised the issue of the difficulty that some foreign travelers have in entering the U.S., and how such inconvenient burdens can be mitigated. Forget about foreign travelers! It took me an elapsed time of one hour and 20 minutes from the time of my flight's arrival at Washington-Dulles to the time I finally cleared customs, passport control, luggage transfer, and security screening to be on my way to catch my connecting flight! By contrast, it must have taken all of ten minutes (okay, maybe 15) to clear the gauntlet at the Copenhagen Airport. Also, while the IOC could not help but be smitten by President and Mrs. Obama's visit, there is no question that the paralysis caused by the heightened security throughout the entire city -- from the airport to hotels, and from transportation to the convention center itself -- attributable to his attendance (and to be fair, to other government leaders as well) wreaked havoc on the usual protocols, which surely conjured thoughts of yankee imperialism among some IOC members. In retrospect, me thinks that these were not so small factors in at least some voters' minds.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Hej Hej, Copenhagen!

It is now mid morning Sunday in Copenhagen, and I must shortly board my return flight home so that I can be in class Monday morning. Spending the last few days at the IOC Session and Olympic Congress has been exhilarating, if not exhausting. In addition to witnessing the final presentations of the four cities competing to host the 2016 Olympics -- all star-studded and superbly choreographed -- and the suspense-filled announcement of Rio de Janeiro as the winner, I had the opportunity to meet many of my friends and colleagues from the Olympic movement. At least five members of the CISB advisory board were here, and I had the chance to visit with them all: Ron Froehlich, president of the World Games; Greg Harney, president of Global Sports Partners; Dick Palmer, executive vice president of the British Olympic Association; Kostas Georgiadis, dean of the International Olympic Academy; and Ichiro Kono, chair and CEO of Tokyo 2016 bid committee. And yes, the Danish have been absolutely splendid . . . both the pastry and the people!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Copenhagen Wrap Up

The atmostphere here at the Olympic Congress the day after Rio de Janeiro became the newest Olympic city is akin to the day after a classic, down-to-the-wire political election. The loser has retreated to his home to lick his wounds, while the victor is visible and milling about, but attempting to be gracious in his joy and exult.

The remainder of the IOC program is anticlimactic. Oh, there's IOC President Jacques Rogge's re-election for a further four years, the vote to add golf and rugby sevens to the Olympic program beginning in 2016, and the election of new members to the IOC and its executive board. Ho hum.

A Few Lessons Learned

1. First and foremost, if you're going to play, you've got to know the rules of the game. Garnering just 18 votes out of 94 cast is not a strong indication of a mastery of the game. Next time, get a good, reliable whip (vote getter-counter) and no-nonsense enforcer to keep the friendlies firmly in the stable.

2. There are no presidential coattails in IOC politics. But perish the thought of Chicago's vote count if President Obama stuck with his original plan and stayed home. Chicago's humiliating first-round ouster sealed the deal for future presidential interventions. Never again will a U.S. president petition the IOC in person in support of an American city's bid.

3. This bid city business is not for the faint hearted or for those not willing to spend a ton of money in a risky proposition. Chicago's reported expenditure of USD 50 million amounts to nearly USD 3 million per vote!

UN Secretary General Opens Congress

At this morning's opening session of the 13th Olympic Congress, UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon gave the keynote address, drawing an analogy between the 205 National Olympic Committees and the UN as international organizations that seek to improve human conditions throughout the world.

About 1,200 delegates from the Olympic family, including International Federations and National Olympic Committees, as well as coaches, trainers, academics, medical specialists and representatives of the public, NGOs and the media are attending the three-day Congress. Their recommendations will be forwarded to the decision-making bodies of the IOC and other relevant stakeholders.


Morning After

Reflecting overnight on the results of the IOC voting that awarded the 2016 Olympics to Rio de Janeiro, my opinion is that Chicago's first-round elimination was neither a rebuke of President Obama (because he and the First Lady were genuinely and warmly embraced here in Copenhagen) nor a referendum on Chicago's bid per se, but rather, a combination of other factors.

1. The simmering angst over the USOC's disproportionate share of revenue from worldwide Olympic sponsors (20%) and the U.S. television broadcast rights fee (12.75%) -- that has been a longstanding source of irritation for the IOC and virtually the entire Olympic family -- reached a boiling point last spring . . . and the pot is still roiling at full boil.

2. The USOC's announcement this summer of a new U.S. Olympic Network that raised the ire of IOC bigwigs in Lausanne because of potential legal and contractual issues that the IOC claims would affect its existing relationship with NBC. The USOC backed down and postponed the launch until later this year, but the damage was already done.

3. The chronic instability of USOC leadership in the top volunteer (chairman) and paid staff (CEO) positions, that saw yet another changeover of both posts within the past year.

4. The ineffectual lobbying of the American IOC members in persuading enough of their breathren to vote for Chicago.

It seems that the home office in Colorado Springs underestimated the IOC's discontent -- if not outright contempt -- toward the USOC, and unfortunately for Chicago, it's bid was the collateral damage.

Friday, October 2, 2009

IOC Vote Post-Mortem

The round-by-round voting is as follows:

Rio de Janeiro 26-46-66
Madrid 28-29-32
Tokyo 22-20
Chicago 18

The results of the IOC voting for the host city of the 2016 Olympics illustrate the utter unpredictability of this exercise. In the last week, most pundits, including supposed "insiders," called it a two-horse race between Chicago and Rio. Even I was off the mark, speculating about a month ago that Tokyo would prevail over Rio.

In the first round, the votes were fairly well distributed, with no city clearly showing its strength. But in the IOC's system of dropping the low vote getter, it appears that virtually all of Chicago's first-round voters threw their support to Rio. (This is understandable, given that the USA and Brazil are in the same hemispheric association, and was likely a gesture of continental solidarity.)

Like New York City four years earlier, Tokyo actually lost votes from the first to the second round, but its trailing margin of loss to Madrid was fairly significant at nine. Interestingly, it appears that most, if not all, of Tokyo's second-round voters migrated to Rio. (The round-by-round tallies differ slightly because IOC members are not permitted to vote in rounds in which a city of their home country is in contention.)

In round two, Rio opened up a formidable lead over Madrid, 47 to 29, and as noted above, it managed to secure virtually all of Tokyo's freed-up votes. The third round was a decisive victory for Rio -- what politicians call a mandate -- because it was not at all close, as many predicted it would be.

While Rio won the battle, it may rue the day as it realizes the crushing economic burden it inherited by winning the Olympic lottery. You see, Rio recently hosted the Pan American Games (2007), and has little more than four years to prepare for the month-long 2014 FIFA World Cup, before turning its attention just two years later to the 2016 Olympics. But optimistically speaking, an Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro should be an extraordinary party for all!

And the winner is . . . Rio de Janeiro!

Jubilation, heartbreak, relief, and shock. Rio is exulting in the joy of its victory; Madrid is morose with despair over getting so close, but not claiming the prize in its fourth consecutive attempt in 16 years; Tokyo knew it would take a miracle to win, and was grateful that it was not the first city to be eliminated; and Chicago is in utter disbelief that even with President and Michelle Obama's full-court press, it finished dead last! This, my friends, is the world of international politics that is the IOC!

Tokyo and Rio

Tokyo's presentation was proficient and efficient, not even utilizing all of its allotted time. Reiterating the praise of the IOC evaluation commission for its compact venue plan and ulta-sound finances, bid chairman and CEO Dr. Ichiro Kono acknowledged criticism of the bid's lack of passion by explaining that Japanese people are not accustomed to showing their emotions, but that Tokyo's bid is "full of spirit."

In contrast, Rio's presentation -- headed by Brazilian Olympic Committee president and IOC member, Carlos Nuzman -- was an impassioned plea to "make Olympic history" by sending the Olympics to a new corner of the world where it had not gone before. Nuzman has the singular advantage of being a colleague of the IOC members who will decide the cities' fate, and he has been cultivating these all-important personal relationships for many years.

Up right now: Madrid and its spear carrier, former IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch. Even though Samaranch has been retired since 2001, his influence among IOC members cannot be underestimated, many of whom owe their very membership to his beneficence.

Photo: The Bella Center, where all the action is taking place!

Obama Effect?

Copenhagen, 10:30 a.m. If there was any question of President Obama's impact by coming to Copenhagen and whether he made any difference, the answer is a resounding "Yes, he did!" Even the afterglow is palpable. Most of the IOC members could not help but be moved by his presence and appeal. After Chicago's one-hour presentation, President and Mrs. Obama spent at least 30 minutes personally greeting the IOC members, one by one. And if the buzz and frenzy surrounding their exit from the hall and departure from the convention center are any indication, Chicago has plenty to be confident about. No other personality from any city delegation can compare with Obama's megawatt star power, and if his effect can linger for a few hours until the voting this afternoon, I am persuaded that Chicago will bring home the gold. Presently, Tokyo is giving its presentation, to be followed in the next hours by Rio de Janeiro and Madrid.

Something is Definitely Going on in Denmark

Friday morning, October 2, 2009. In the 10-minute drive from the Copenhagen Airport Hilton to the Bella Center (convention center) where the IOC Session will vote this afternoon on the host city for the 2016 Olympic Games, you could tell that something out of the ordinary was going on. The presence of police along the highway, stationed at every overpass, and positioned on rooftops -- and even in helicopters overhead -- signaled that this was no ordinary event. This event, of course, was not the meeting per se, but rather the arrival of U.S. President Barack Obama via motorcade. There is almost nothing comparable to the spectacle of the arrival of an American president, especially one as globally popular as Obama. A fellow delegate from the U.K. told me that it is like the "second coming of JFK." The good citizens of Copenhagen never knew it's city had so many policemen and policewomen on the force! Shortly, the four cities will give their final pitch to the IOC members, and then wait -- anxiously and nervously -- for the announcement at 6:30 p.m. local time. And we will then learn if the Obama effect is the real deal.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

T Minus 24 Hours

Just returned from this evening's opening ceremonies of the 121st IOC Session at Copenhagen's Opera House (photo, left), which was a cultural exhibition of Denmark's finest in music (Danish National Symphony Orchestra), dance (Royal Danish Ballet), and song (Danish National Girls Choir).

Today's Copenhagen Post, the local English daily, handicapped it for the U.S. and Brazilian candidates, with headlines asking "Will the Obamas take it home?" or "Will Rio be dancing in the sand?" No mention of Madrid or Tokyo.

And coincidentally -- or not -- at tonight's opening ceremonies, Brazil's President Lula da Silva and First Lady Michelle Obama made separate entrances to take their seats (about five minutes apart) to a torrent of camera flashes and craning necks. Again, no commotion for Tokyo and Madrid.

By this time tomorrow, the suspense will be over. As one IOC member put it, "I know my decision and I'll be glad when it's over." Me too.

Dateline Copenhagen

There's definitely a lot of electricity -- and nervous energy -- in the air here in Copenhagen as representatives of the four cities vying to host the 2016 Olympics seek to button hole IOC members for last-minute lobbying before the October 2 vote.

Most of the glitterati are already here, with President Obama expected to arrive early Friday morning. It's anybody's guess whether presidents, prime ministers, and even kings, can turn the table on this winner-take-all competition. But in a system where one or two votes can be the difference between winning the gold or going home empty handed, nothing can be left to chance.

Amazingly, the mother of all city-hosting jackpots will come down to the decisions of the hundred or so IOC members, most of whom are faceless and unfamiliar to all but serious Olympicologists and avid IOC vote hunters. This conclave of IOC members comes from just 78 out of 205 countries, with 23 countries having more than one member. Thus, the vast majority of countries are completely disenfranchised in IOC voting.

Another fascinating dynamic is the exorbitant expense. Collectively, bid cities expend hundreds of million dollars -- Chicago reportedly spent USD 50 million -- over a two-year campaign for the right to compete for the chance of possibly hosting an upcoming Olympics. By contrast, the NCAA at a meeting in a hotel room earlier this month awarded the men's basketball championship (Final Four) to three cities for 2011, 2012, ad 2012. Just like that.

Tomorrow's program will consist of finely tuned one-hour presentations, in which each of the four cities will have a final opportunity to persuade IOC members to their cause. Chicago is first up, followed by Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, and Madrid. There are nearly 1,000 accredited media representatives covering this spectacle, and the announcement, which will be made at 6:30 p.m. (12:30 p.m. Eastern), is expected to be watched live on television by an estimated one billion people. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

2009 Olympic Congress

By way of background, the Olympic Congress is a periodic gathering of the "Olympic Family" -- IOC members; representatives of the National Olympic Committees, International Sport Federations, and Organizing Committees for the Olympic Games; athletes, coaches, referees, judges, and technical officials; Olympic sponsors; and the media -- and is not otherwise open to the general public. I am attending as a guest of the IOC President, Jacques Rogge. My short essay, "IOC Structural Reform: A Proposal for Universal Suffrage," is published in the proceedings of the XIII Olympic Congress.

All Eyes on Copenhagen

Copenhagen will host a veritable Who's Who at the 121st IOC Session on Friday, with the four cities vying to host the 2016 Olympic Games -- Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, and Tokyo
-- loaded for bear with all their big guns in tow. President Obama's last-minute decision to attend in person rather than via video ratcheted up the stakes in this winner-take-all contest. Yesterday's announcement of Obama's cameo appearance drew immediate criticism from some quarters over the President's priorities at this moment of foreign and domestic exigencies (see AP story below).

I will be in Copenhagen from Thursday and will report on the lead up to Friday's vote at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

Above is one of Denmark's iconic symbols: The Little Mermaid immortaliized in Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale by the same name.

Monday, September 28, 2009

To Go or Not to Go....

President Obama's decision to attend the Olympic meeting in Copenhagen on Friday, October 2, to personally pitch Chicago's bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games could be a game changer, because it gives Chicago's candidacy a rocket boost that no other bid city -- Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, or Tokyo -- can match. But it is also a tremendous risk to his political capital, because if Chicago does not win, a lot will be written and said about the President's reputed charisma, sphere of influence, and force of personality.

The President's no show likely would have sealed Chicago's fate as an also ran, but his appearance will not guarantee a Chicago victory either.

Chicago's rivals -- Madrid, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro -- previously announced that their teams will be headed by a king, crown prince, and president, respectively.

At the 2005 IOC Session in Singapore, three candidate cities had their heads of government appear in person: London had PM Tony Blair, Paris had President Jacques Chirac, and Madrid had PM Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero; while Moscow and New York sent video messages from Presidents Vladimir Putin and George Bush. At the 2007 meeting to pick the 2014 Olympic Winter Games site, Putin appeared in Guatemala City in person and secured the bid for Sochi.

The IOC poo bahs can only be marveling at their fortuity in, in effect, summoning a command performance from the President of the United States.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Post-Mortem on IOC Voting for 2012 Olympic Games

Four years ago, the IOC awarded the 2012 Olympic Games to London over Paris, by a vote of 54-50. In the first round, four cities -- London, Paris, Madrid and New York -- were separated by a single vote. Madrid, which finished third overall, was actually the top vote getter in the second round, after Moscow was eliminated on the opening ballot. Round-by-round tallies suggest that the lion's share of Moscow's supporters migrated to Madrid, probably owing to the fact that IOC patriarch and stalwart behind Madrid's bid -- Juan Antonio Samaranch -- previously served as Spain's ambassador to Moscow. In round 3, however, London clearly came out ahead of Paris in splitting New York's supporters. Going into the last round, London already enjoyed a six-vote lead over Paris, which was the cushion it needed to emerge victorious, because Madrid's votes were closely split between Paris (17) and London (15).

London: 22-27-39-54

Paris: 21-25-33-50

Madrid: 20-32-31

New York: 19-16

Moscow: 15

For 2016, there are just four cities in the running -- Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, and Tokyo -- and since IOC voting is subject to all the vagaries of palace intrigue, it is impossible to know which city will prevail after three rounds. One thing for sure is that it will go down to the wire, and for Chicago's sake the result may hinge on whether IOC members are smitten by President Obama's charm offensive. That is, if he even makes it to Copenhagen.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Can Chicago Win Vote to Host 2016 Olympics?

Answer: It depends.

It all comes down to the 106 voting members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), who will decide on October 2, 2009, in Copenhagen.

Ultimately, victory hinges on securing roughly 49 votes, for the following reasons:

1. Invariably, owing to illness or schedule conflict, a few members will not be in attendance.

2. As is his custom, IOC President Jacques Rogge will not participate in the vote, save for a tie.

3. One member, former Samsung chairman, Lee Kun-Hee, is under status akin to suspension pending investigation of a slush fund corruption scandal in Korea.

4. Members (seven at the outset) whose countries are in the running are not permitted to participate in the vote.

Thus, it is estimated that 94-95 votes will be at stake in the first round of voting between the four finalist cities: Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, and Tokyo.

In the first and second rounds, the key, of course, is merely to survive and thereby stave off elimination, because the lowest vote getter will be dropped and the voting will proceed to the next round until a city wins a majority of votes cast.

Every city's strategy is built around garnering enough votes to (a) survive the first round and then (b) pick up as many votes as possible from the eliminated city.

In Olympic bid-city elections, there is no "conventional wisdom," because IOC members' decisions are based largely on a personal calculus shrouded in secrecy and protected by the anonymity of the ballot box. Technical merit ratings are irrelevant because all finalist cities are deemed highly competent to host the games. While some have long espoused the virtues of geographic rotation, there is no evidence that the IOC abides by this theory. For the record, Brazil is the only country of the four in the running yet to host an Olympic Games (the USA hosted four summer games, while Japan and Spain hosted one edition each).

In the clubby environment that is the IOC, what really matters are the personal relationships between the IOC members and the principals of the respective bid cities, and secondly, geopolitics (in all its manifestations). Since personal relationships are not always what they appear to be, Chicago's fate lies in the USA's balance of favor as perceived by the aforementioned IOC members. In the positive column is the USA's improved global image owing to the popularity of President Barack Obama, and it is widely presumed that his presence in Copenhagen would provide a mighty boost to Chicago's bid.

On the other hand, the IOC leadership can hardly contain its contempt for the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) over its steadfast refusal to renegotiate lucrative deals that deliver 20% of worldwide Olympic sponsorship dollars to the USOC, which is just one of 205 National Olympic Committees. In addition, the USOC receives 12.75% of the $2 billion broadcast rights fee that NBC paid for the 2010 winter and 2012 summer games. To many IOC members, it is a symbol of American greed and arrogance that the USOC insists it should continue to receive a disproportionate amount of Olympic revenue. I believe the revenue-splits issue, more than any other, will end up being Chicago's Achilles' heel.

For what it's worth, here is my prognostication:

Round 1: Madrid eliminated

Round 2: Chicago eliminated

Round 3: Tokyo 53, Rio de Janeiro 44

Note to reader: Check back with me on October 2.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

CISB Speaker Series: For the Love of the Games

Over the past three years, it has been my good fortune to have several important personalities from the world of sport visit Western New England College: Roderick Jackson, the Birmingham high school girls' basketball coach who won a landmark Title IX victory in the U.S. Supreme Court; Dick Pound, the Canadian IOC veteran and former chair of the World Anti-Doping Agency; Ron Froehlich, the president of the International World Games Association; Bob Beamon, the Olympic long jump champion; Bobby Valentine, the former manager of the NY Mets and Texas Rangers; and Donna Lopiano, the former CEO of the Women's Sports Foundation.

On September 17, 2009, at 7 p.m. in Sleith Hall, Lynn Zinser (photo), a sports writer for The New York Times, will continue this speaker series by talking about "The Business of Sports Journalism." A sports reporter for the NYT since 2003, Zinser has covered the New York Giants, New York Rangers, U.S. Open (of both golf and tennis), and Olympics, among many other assignments, and writes the NYT’s regular “Leading Off” column, which is a news roundup of people, teams, and issues in the sporting world. Zinser is also the Times’ sports web writer-editor, and she posts frequent “tweets” on Twitter at

Ms. Zinser is a former president of the Association of Women in Sports Media and has received numerous accolades, including several awards from the Associated Press Sports Editors. A graduate of Syracuse University majoring in newspaper journalism, Zinser also teaches sports writing at New York University. Previously, she worked for the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Charlotte Observer, Philadelphia Daily News, Colorado Springs Gazette, and Newark Star-Ledger.

The event is free and open to the public.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Back from Hiatus

It has been nearly a year since my last post, but I will attempt a comeback blogging about the XIII Olympic Congress in Copenhagen October 3-5, 2009, which I will attend. The Congress is a gathering of the "Olympic Family," consisting of representatives of the IOC; National Olympic Committees; International Sport Federations; Olympic Host Cities; athletes, coaches, and officials; sponsors; and the media, and which is convened at periodic intervals to discuss issues facing the Olympic Movement. The first Olympic Congress, held in Paris in 1894, created the IOC and the Olympic Games, and the last Congress was held in 1994, also in Paris.

The theme for this year's Congress is "The Olympic Movement in Society," and the five subthemes are (1) the athletes, (2) the Olympic Games, (3) the structure of the Olympic Movement, (4) Olympism and youth, and (5) the digital revolution.

In conjunction with the Congress will be the 121st IOC Session, which is the organization's general assembly that meets at least once a year. At this year's Session, the IOC will determine which city -- Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, or Tokyo -- will host of the 2016 Olympic Games, and will also ratify the IOC Executive Board's recommendation to add golf and rugby to the program of the 2016 Olympic Games.

Which city do you think will win, and how excited are you about golf and rugby getting in the Olympics?