IOC’s March Marathon Holds the Key to Bid Success or Failure – Keir Radnedge

By iSportconnect | February 28, 2013

The Olympic movement is about to go on a Very Important Journey. Next week is the starting grid for a race through a hectic month whose discoveries will go a long way towards deciding which city hosts the summer Games in 2020.

Not all the way.

Politics and personal preferences will also come into play when the 100-plus members of the IOC decide how to cast their vote on September 7 in Buenos Aires during the 125th IOC Session [congress].

But the three contenders – Tokyo then Madrid then Istanbul – are all on alert to be perfect hosts this month to the Evaluation Committee which will fly in for four days apiece to assess each bid.

Precisely (drawn by lots): Tokyo from March 4 to 7, Madrid from March 18 to 21 and, finally, Istanbul from March 24 to 27 – and first or last is not held to be either an advantage or disadvantage.

May last year was the date when the 2020 Olympic Games swung into full IOC focus, just two months before the Opening Ceremony of London 2012.

By then president Jacques Rogge & Co were already looking over London’s shoulder into Sochi 2014 and beyond.

First task was for the executive board to decide on a shortlist of ‘serious’ candidates, to spare no-hopers any further waste of money.

As the IOC put it: “To ensure that cities insufficiently prepared or considered not to have the potential to successfully organise the Olympic Games in the year in question, did not proceed to the second phase of bidding, thus ensuring significant cost savings both to the bid cities and the IOC.”

Hence Baku (Azerbaijan) and Doha (Qatar) were dropped from the list of five ‘Applicant Cities’ at an EB meeting in Quebec during the SportAccord Convention.

Baku, presumably, fell victim to a lack of major event experience while Doha will suspect a crucial thumbs-down from US TV moguls who could not countenance shifting the Games dates for climatic reasons. IOC vice-president Thomas Bach had called it “the most difficult decision we have ever had to take with regard to a shortlist.”

Both, doubtless, will be back in the bidding for 2024 and/or 2028 depending on the outcome of the 2020 vote.

Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo were thus cleared to prepare Candidature Files, featuring an in-depth project description, and prepare for the Evaluation Commission visit.

Not that any of three had come, unscathed, through an initial assessment.

A preliminary technical report on Istanbul cautioned that some aspects of the plan would need to be refined to improve the athlete experience and the overall Olympic experience for all other Games’ participants.”

No such reservations about Tokyo: the IOC’s technical study group considered the city had presented “a very strong application and offers athletes the conditions to be able to compete at their best.”

Madrid was praised for “a strong application which offers athletes the conditions to be able to compete at their best and presents no major operational concerns.” But it did add a rider of concern that careful attention should be paid to Spain’s fragile economy.

While the cities went to work, so the IOC planned its own next moves with Britain’s Sir Craig Reedie, a newly-elected vice-president, being handed the upfront role of evaluation leader.

Completing his commission are fellow IOC members Guy Drut (France), Frankie Fredericks (Namibia), Nat Indrapana (Thailand) and Claudia Bokel (Germany also representing the Athletes’ Commission) as well as Eduardo Palomo (Spain, Association of National Olympic Committees), Andrew Parsons (International Paralympic Committee) plus senior IOC officers.

Representatives of all three cities attended the London 2012 debriefing in Rio de Janeiro last November then handed in their formidable ‘bid books’ to the IOC in Lausanne on January 7.

The evaluation mission is to spend four full days with each bid team.

They will examine the 14 themes of the IOC’s candidature questionnaire, which includes topics such as vision and legacy, transport, accommodation, finance and environment, and visit the competition and non-competition sites and venues proposed in the bid.

All the bids know they must address the sacred cows of governmental guarantees, apparent financial competence, sustainability (the green agenda) and legacy plus a vision which embraces paralympic concerns and culls white elephants.

The Olympic movement, under Rogge, has also sought to re-engage with young people and all three bidders could do worse than draw a few lessons from Lord Seb Coe’s address to the IOC in Singapore.

Also, of course, Reedie & Co will visit venues, proposed venue sites and meet the great and the good in Japan, Spain and Turkey. These visits are not only technical examinations but political, diplomatic and public relations exercises.

The ‘Reedie Report’ will be published in June, ahead of a briefing for all the IOC members in July. Both the report and the briefing have gained in significance now that members and their groupies can no longer jet-set from one bidding city to another (and not at their own expense).

Now, the focus is on the IOC’s own March marathon. For the three cities the trick is not so only getting it right but ensuring, above all, that nothing goes wrong.

As a past bidding executive once put it: “Winning a bid is terribly difficult . . . but losing it is very easy.”


Keir Radnedge has been covering football worldwide for more than 40 years, writing 33 books, from tournament guides to comprehensive encyclopedias, aimed at all ages.

His journalism career included The Daily Mail for 20 years as well as The Guardian and other national newspapers and magazines in the UK and around the world. He is a former editor, and remains a lead columnist, with World Soccer, generally recognised as the premier English language magazine on global football.

In addition to his writing, Keir has been a regular analyst for BBC radio and television, Sky Sports, Sky News, Aljazeera and CNN.

Keir Radnedge’s Twitter: @KeirRadnedge

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