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.