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?