BBC BLOGS - Mihir Bose
« Previous | Main | Next »

The race for 2016 kicks on

Post categories:

Mihir Bose | 19:02 UK time, Wednesday, 4 June 2008

The race for the city that will host the Summer Games after London, in 2016, raises novel problems for the Olympic movement.

It could mean the Olympics going to parts of the world it has never gone before, or it could also mean a change in the Olympic movement's relationship with America.

Although the final decision will not be taken until October 2009, the race for the 2016 Games has now started with the short-list of five cities decided by the IOC Executive board meeting in Athens on Wednesday.

That two of the seven cities, Baku (Azerbaijan) and Prague (Czech Republic), did not make the cut is no surprise.

However the choice of Rio and the rejection of Doha came after much debate within the International Olympic Committee as to whether the short-list would be made up of five cities, as has been the norm for recent bids for Summer Games.

Chicago, Tokyo and Madrid were always going to make the short-list, but it was not certain whether Rio or Doha would also be chosen.

Brazilian delegates celebrate during the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announcement of which cities will move to the final round of bidding for the 2016 Summer Games

Although the 1968 Olympic Games were held in Mexico, the IOC is very aware that they have never held the Games in Latin America and, just as the Games are going to China for the first time, they must go to that continent at some time.

Rio has bid before, against London in 2012, but failed to make the short-list.

This time Rio has made a strong bid, but the problems for the Brazilian city are two fold.

Firstly, if the Olympics go there in 2016 it will mean Rio will host the Games only two years after the World Cup.

Brazil may be one of the rising economic powers, not quite China or even India, though not too far behind, but there is doubt whether there is enough money for two such events over such a short period of time.

Secondly, while Rio held a largely successful Pan American Games, like the Olympics a multi-sports event, there are concerns about security in Rio not dissimilar to the issues faced in South Africa by the World Cup organizers; this worries many IOC members.

Doha presented a different set of problems.

Its technical bid, I am told, was excellent, but Doha has a very small population of little more than a million while, furthermore, it planned to host the Games in October.

This would have meant clashes with other events such as the Champions League in Europe and the NFL in America.

Moreover, the IOC has long thought that a city must be of a certain size to host the Games and, while Doha promised to ferry people from round the Arab countries in a celebration of peace, the idea has not struck some in the IOC as practical.

However, Doha's ace was that its bid represented the whole of the Arab world.

The IOC is aware that the Games will have to go to the Arab world at some stage and not putting it on the short-list could have sent the wrong message to the Muslim world.

There is little doubt that the debate about the exclusion of Doha from the short-list was the most intense on the IOC Executive Board.

Doha's supporters will be angry that while, like Rio, they held a regional games (the Asian Games), this was not considered good enough.

As for the top three of Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo, their bids are seen as strong and I am told that Tokyo, which hosted the Games in 1964, scored heavily technically.

Madrid came within an ace of winning 2012 in Singapore, and indeed many insiders on the London team feel that had Madrid, not Paris, got to the final round it would have beaten London.

Former President Juan Antonio Samaranch worked hard for Madrid last time and will see Madrid getting the 2016 Games as his final act in the movement.

For their part, Chicago presents the unresolved American money problem - the economic advantage the American Olympic movement has had since the Americans rescued the Olympics back in the 1980s.

At that time, American TV rights and sponsorship brought money to a movement which looked as if it would collapse following the boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

The deal the Americans struck gave them a slice of the cake before the rest of the world got their share; they receive 13% of the US TV rights and 20% of the IOC Top sponsorship.

Only afterwards do the rest of the Olympic movement gets their share and, as the Olympics has become less dependent on America over the years, this has bred fierce resentment.

Yesterday, as the representatives of the summer Olympic Games met in Athens, there was much heated debate on this issue.

So while Chicago made the short-list, in order to win 2016 the Americans may have to accept that they cannot get their generous slice of the cake before the rest of the world any longer.

Many will make Chicago a favourite - America has not the Games since Atlanta in 1996 - but the outsider, Rio, will draw comfort from the fact that favourites don't often win.

For the 2012 race, London was only third on the short-list, comparing badly with Paris and Madrid, and when it lost its bid leader Barbara Casani, Seb Coe replacing her, the chances of London winning seemed remote.

Sochi was even more of an outsider for the 2014 Winter Games but, just like London in 2012, it won in the end.

There is a chance that 2016 could produce a similarly surprising winner.


or register to comment.

  • 1. At 7:41pm on 04 Jun 2008, Tony Doyle wrote:

    I have a feeling that Chicago will win out. Not just because it's America etc, but the last couple of Olympics have been to the east, it's time that the West got to see the events without waiting up to the early hours. Admittedly London will resolve this, but I don't think Rio can get it that quick after hosting the World Cup; The country isn't rich enough to secure it.
    I personally would have liked to see it in Doha, just to open up the world and remove some prejudices; plannning to host it in October for a Summer Games though would be it's likely downfall.

    Complain about this comment

  • 2. At 8:06pm on 04 Jun 2008, Stargazer wrote:

    Doha apparently received the same score as Chicago and was ahead of Rio in the ratings, which makes its elimination unfortunate.

    New York had a poor bid for 2012, which collapsed into increasing chaos, the consequences of which could hamper Chicago. What is more, the memory of the 1996 games in Atlanta is still strong and also the fact that the USA has received the summer Olympics twice and the Winter Olympics too in less than 25 years. Put all these factors together with the unpopularity of the USA in the world and they will have a big job to win the bid.

    The Spanish are convinced that they were robbed of the 2012 games and getting them in 2016 is a matter oif national pride. Their worst problem in the 2012 race was overconfidence: they refused to read between the lines in the IOC final technical assessment and realise that there were elements of the bid that needed improvement; at the time the Spanish media regarded their bid as as near to perfect as was possible (the huge headline after the technical report was published was "IMMACULATE!!" - it was only later that they realised that other countries had received even better assessments). Surely the Spanish can't make the same mistakes again? In their case though they have to beat the feeling that consecutive games in western European cities would be too much.

    Tokio has a similar problem. With Beijing in 2008, will another Asian bid be successful in 2016? However, if the Beijing Games are a massive success, the Japanese bid might just win a significant number of additional votes from delegates with happy memories of Beijing.

    Rio is a wildcard. Not so long ago, Brazil put in what was generally reckoned to be the worst bid in modern history. But they are persistent and are learning as their making the cut this time shows.

    If I had to guess, I'd say that Tokio will win but, this time, there are good reasons to pick (and NOT to pick) any of the candidates.

    Complain about this comment

  • 3. At 8:21pm on 04 Jun 2008, danilosilva wrote:

    Baku is the capital of Azerbaijan, not Uzbekistan!!

    Complain about this comment

  • 4. At 9:21pm on 04 Jun 2008, Alex wrote:

    Typically, the Olympics moves around the globe every 4 years (e.g. 1988 on - S Korea, Spain, America, OZ, Greece, China, London). Therefore, Madrid will not win due to London having 2012, simple as that. Also, as America had the games as recently as 1996, I would say it is down to Tokyo or Rio.

    Therefore, do the IOC give it to the best technical bid (Tokyo) or do they go for the sentimental vote of Rio as South America has never held an Olympics before?

    Complain about this comment

  • 5. At 10:28pm on 04 Jun 2008, Stargazer wrote:

    Aehartley, the IOC has also established a habit of correcting previous perceived errors or injustices. Atlanta got the 1996 Games instead of Athens, so Athens received 2004 as compensation. Beijing just missed out to Sydney in 2000, so they got the 2004 Games.

    Like the 1996 Games, the 2004 Games were not a complete success: the IOC took the unusual step of flagging them in the run-up to the Games as a "yellow flagged" (Games in danger) and the Olympic infrastructure has largely been unused and fallen into decay.

    The IOC will not want to have another Atlanta or Athens and could take a sentimental decision to reward an unlucky loser.The latter sentiment could just help Spain. The former could give a big boost to Tokio as the most reliable of the four candidates. If rotation is the aim, holding the Games in Asia in 2008 and 2016 will exclude Tokio as surely as holding them in Europe in 2012 and 2016 would exclude Madrid. If so, they would be forced to choose between two candidatures that may worry them a great deal.

    What do you think?

    Complain about this comment

  • 6. At 11:06pm on 04 Jun 2008, Paddy Briggs wrote:

    Chicago is a great city but there is no way that the USA should have yet another Games. The time is long overdue for a Games in South America and Rio has to be the choice.

    Complain about this comment

  • 7. At 11:18pm on 04 Jun 2008, kasbah wrote:

    #1 - the last few olympics have been in the east?

    1992- barcelona
    1996- atlanta
    2000- sydney
    2004- greece
    2008- beijing
    2012- london

    2 of the recent 6 olympics in the 'east', and remember that china has over a billion people, so maybe they deserve also not to have to wait up late at the majority of olympics??

    also, an american olympics is hardly ideal for us in the UK anyway (i'm guessing you're based in the UK) due to a good 5 hour time difference

    #5 - surely beijing have been given the 2008 games, not 2004.......

    sentiment might help spain - but 2 western european olympics in a row? and tokyo won't be helped by an asian olympics in 2008 and australia in 2000 (although not asia it is still in the same region!)

    Complain about this comment

  • 8. At 01:01am on 05 Jun 2008, Alex wrote:

    Criketing_Stargazer. Yes, I see what you mean about the sentimental vote but I just do not think they will have two Olympics in a row in Europe. Honestly, I think that if Rio can guarantee safety then they will get it. They can certainly provide the infastructure and a huge sport loving public. In giving the Olympics to South America for the first time then I would say that was quite sentimental too.

    Complain about this comment

  • 9. At 01:52am on 05 Jun 2008, chappychap wrote:

    Firstly, Latin America is not a continent. Secondly, the games have been held in Latin America - Mexico City is in Latin America. The continent that they have not been held in is South America.

    Complain about this comment

  • 10. At 01:54am on 05 Jun 2008, MichiganFlicker wrote:


    Unless they plan on completely redeveloping their transit system, no way!

    They have about 6 lines on the L-train/subway/underground system and it is nigh on impossible to go from one line to another. The train station is nowhere near a transit stop. It is one of the most ridiculous public transport systems I have witnessed in any city anywhere. OK you don't expect much in car-happy America, but I am sure there are many better within the US.

    Send it to Rio, give South America an Olympics for once.

    Complain about this comment

  • 11. At 02:04am on 05 Jun 2008, Stargazer wrote:

    Yes, #7. And, as you will have noticed, it was a typing error because it was correct a few lines below. Unfortunately there is no way to correct typos in posts... Apart from that your reasoning in the bottom line is identical to mine: but do the IOC really want to take a chance with Rio, or give the Olympics to the USA yet again?

    It's an interesting poser.

    Complain about this comment

  • 12. At 02:57am on 05 Jun 2008, DB wrote:

    As a Chicago resident, let me just say that our infrastructure -- or at least one key aspect of it -- is a serious barrier to us getting the bid. That aspect is local transportation. North Lake Shore Drive is in desperate need of reconstruction; the 'el (underground) requires heavy renovation and an entirely new route, the Circle Line, if it is to work to its full effectiveness; and as many as 1,000 buses need replacement as it is and another thousand or more will need replacement by the Games. What's worse is that we have $4 billion in federal funding towards these projects sitting on the table because the Governor and legislature of Illinois so far have failed to produce local matching funds, which would probably require a tax increase. So we have a vacuum of leadership in our state government that no amount of city leadership will solve.

    If this year's legislative session does not solve the local matching funds issue, the federal dollars expire, and with it, in all probability, our Olympic bid.

    Complain about this comment

  • 13. At 03:05am on 05 Jun 2008, DB wrote:

    MichiganFlicker is partly mistaken about our transit system. The 'el lines connect with one another very well. What they don't connect properly with is the regional rail system. Out of Chicago's four downtown terminii, only one, Millennium Station, connects directly with the 'el and it is a long, long tunnel; two others, LaSalle Street and Ogilvie stations, have 'el stations right next to them but you do have to walk outside to get to them. And Union station, the biggest station of all, is a good three block walk from the 'el (although it is so close to so much of the Loop that this does not deter the commuters). This subway/regional rail connectivity is what the Circle Line is supposed to remedy, and it will work by connecting stations a little way out from the city center (e.g. Clybourn, Halsted), so that it operates as a city-wide distributor and not just a local downtown connection.

    Complain about this comment

  • 14. At 04:53am on 05 Jun 2008, pierreri wrote:

    i think rio de janeiro deserves to host the 2016 games. the city hosted the pan-american games in 2007 which was a great success. mexico might have hosted the games in 1968, but the games have never been in south america.
    brazil has come a long way and the country is able to host the olymnpics as well as the 2014 soccer world cup!!!!!!!!!

    for the last 20 years the olympic games have been in the u.s.a, europe, asia and australia and it is about time the i.o.c. recognizes the strength of latin america!!!!!!

    good luck brazil!!!!!!

    good luck rio de janeiro!!!!!!

    you deserve to host the olympic games!!!

    Complain about this comment

View these comments in RSS


Sign in

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.