Review of 2014 and a Look Ahead to 2015

By iSportconnect | December 31, 2014

By Christian Radnedge

Last February Olympic president Thomas Bach opened the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi by pleading with international leaders to “have the courage to address your disagreements in a peaceful direct political dialogue and not on the backs of the athletes.”

It can be argued, see looking back on 2014, that his had been one of the most politically charged sporting years ever.

The build-up to Sochi was dominated by fears over safety and security after suicide bombings in Volgograd in southern Russia barely two months before the Games.

There was also widespread condemnation and protest over Russia’s recently implemented anti-gay propaganda legislation.

The Games had already generated their own negative publicity through the huge cost involved.

Sochi2014StadiumIt was estimated that around $50billion was spent on the city of Sochi, including all Games costs and infrastructure projects.

That astounding figure contributed to a lack of interest in bidding to host the 2022 Games.

Four cities cancelled their bids leaving only Almaty and Beijing as remaining candidates.

Next month the evaluation commission visits will begin with the host being chosen at the 128th Session of the International Olympic Committee in Kuala Lumpur in July.

The IOC addressed bidding issues in its Agenda 2020 review and has resolved to make it simpler and cheaper for cities to bid for future events.

As for Sochi, the Games passed by without any major incident and were largely viewed as a success – save for one of the Olympic rings failing to open in the Opening Ceremony.

FIFA’s troubles

FIFANo sooner had the last medal been handed out in Sochi than the sports media turned its attention to the behemoth in the event calendar which was the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

Many of the venues were already far behind on schedule and organisers faced a race against time to be ready for June.

Add to that public dissatisfaction with the national government and FIFA for what they saw as a waste.

Former footballer and now left-wing politician Romario called the tournament the “biggest theft in history” estimating that the cost at the expense of the people would be more than $46bn.

The stadia were just finished in time but the protests continued.

In the first week alone there were more than 20 demonstrations and 180 arrests made across various World Cup cities in Brazil.

Every appearance of state President Dilma Rousseff and FIFA president Sepp Blatter was met by a huge chorus of boos.

The exciting football turned the tournament into one which is already being lauded as one of the best.

But there is no doubt the FIFA brand took a battering and matters would only grow worse later in the year.

FIFA_Garcia_EckertThe investigation report into the bidding process for the controversial 2018 and 2022 World Cups by US attorney Michael Garcia was submitted in September but has not been published because of confidentiality fears.

However, recently the FIFA executive committee has decided, after widespread criticism and many calls for publication, that a redacted version should be released when possible.

The damage has been done though, and was possibly a factor in Emirates ending its World Cup sponsorship.

Sony also called it quits though the technology giant has been suffering its own corporate problems.

FIFA will have another sponsor ready to take Sony’s place, thought to be Samsung.

But the negotiating position of world football’s governing body has certainly been weakened.

For many reasons then there will be huge interest in the FIFA presidential elections in May.

Blatter has constantly reiterated his desire to stand again and at the moment his only challenger is Jerome Champagne, a former FIFA executive.

But there is still time for more candidates to announce themselves by the deadline of January 29.

Election fever

SebCoe_CampaignAnother election to watch out for in 2015 is for the presidency of the International Association of Athletics Federations in August in Beijing.

Former London 2012 chief Seb Coe announced his candidacy last month to succeed Lamine Diack.

Currently he is the only runner in the race, though fellow vice-president Sergey Bubka is also expected to stand.

The election takes on extra significance after the latest doping allegations surrounding the sport.

A German TV documentary alleged that systematic doping had taken place in Russia in particular for many years and experts have suggested that athletics has a real problem with doping in other countries too.

Also in 2015:

Baku2015NewThe very first European Games takes place in Baku in June. Azerbaijan is building up a portfolio of major sports events and hopes that this event will help with an Olympic bid.

Simon Clegg, ceo of Baku 2015, recently admitted to iSportconnect that he is fully aware of the pressure of helming the first event of its kind.

Across the Atlantic, Canada hosts the FIFA Women’s World Cup in June/July.

It will be the biggest tournament of its kind featuring 24 teams and is expected to break records in terms of broadcasting and social media.

Also 2015 is expected to witness the biggest ever Rugby World Cup held in England and Wales in the autumn.

DebbieJevans_RWC2015England 2015 ceo Debbie Jevans told iSportconnect last month about the challenges organisers faced when they tested Twickenham which will host, among others, the opening and final matches of the tournament.

Against the backdrop of these events, sports and politics will once again be working together as countries ready bids to host the Olympics in 2024.

The decision will not be taken until 2016 but interest is reported to be extremely high.

Bids could come from the USA, South Africa, Qatar, France and many others. Especially now the IOC has opened up Games events to be hosted in more than one country or city.

Whatever happens, we’ll have the best of the sports business news here on iSportconnect.

Happy New Year.

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