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Competition hots up in Copenhagen

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Gordon Farquhar | 16:15 UK time, Thursday, 1 October 2009

There's so much spin going on in the lobby and bars of the Marriott in Copenhagen, I'm surprised the hotel isn't ripping off its foundations and starting to revolve.

That's where most of the 106 voting members of the International Olympic Committee are staying so, naturally, it has become a magnet for all the PR advisors of the four cities bidding to host the 2016 Games, their officials, celebrity supporters, journalists, camera crews and the just plain inquisitive.

Four years ago in Singapore, when London came away with the spoils, it was pretty intense at this time. Here, it feels even more so. Perhaps it's the closeness of the race.

Everyone I've spoken to here is hedging their bets, although Chicago and Rio de Janeiro seem to be out in front of Madrid and Tokyo.

Security guard in Copenhagen

The smallest things are being seized upon: In the last couple of days when a member of the Spanish Olympic committee described Rio's bid as deserving to finish fourth, it prompted an immediate complaint to the IOC's ethics commission.

Rio has also complained about a member of the Chicago bid saying Brazil didn't deserve an Olympic Games just two years after the football World Cup.

According to the rules of engagement, bid teams aren't supposed to comment on their rivals, although the feeling is that there's actually been less scrutiny of the bidders' activities in this campaign than there was when London, Paris, New York, Moscow and Madrid were slugging it out in Singapore.

Jacques Rogge has intervened to defend the voting process, after questions about suspect vote trading, prompted by President Sarkozy's claim that all of France's were behind Rio and, "our votes are yours."

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Some pointed out that those remarks came during an official visit to Brazil where one of the chief topics for discussion was the possible placement of an order for French-built fighter jets.

Rogge told us: "IOC members are utterly independent, even when their president tries to herd them in a certain direction. There is no-one in the world who can deliver votes except the member himself with his own single vote."

It's a secret ballot anyway so - in theory - no-one can ever know how you've voted.

There does seem to be genuine belief that any one of the four bids could be victorious and the first round will be crucial.

At that stage a bid has to rely on its core vote, and then hope to keep on picking up second and third preference votes in later rounds of the contest to see it to victory.

Hearts will be in mouths. The tension is building. Barrack Obama's impending arrival is the chief talking point. But whether it will be enough to woo the IOC electorate remains to be seen.

They're in the luxurious position of knowing that any one of the four will do a good job, if they trust the strong verdicts delivered on the cities by their own Evaluation Commission.

One IOC member told us he always waits until the final presentations to make his mind up. He wants to see what they're all like under pressure, because what follows for the successful candidate is seven years of relentless scrutiny.

It's what goes with the turf, but the prize is worth it, it seems.


  • Comment number 1.

    Chicago has to be favourite, simply on the grounds that the USA hasn't had the olympics for yonks!

  • Comment number 2.

    Well, I don't know who is going to get chosen to host the Games in 2016, but I can tell you that Obama's involvement in the process has given the opposition what it thinks is a chance to score political points. Suddenly the Republican Party here in the States has become anti-olympics claiming that there will be no jobs produced for the Olympics until 2016. Forget about the fact that once the winning bid is announced, preparation begins emediately and the Jobs are created. One conservative commentator here has even gone so far as to say the Winter Olympics in Vancouver have lost a billion dollars. There is only one problem with this claim however, the Vancouver games haven't even started yet and are not scheduled to begin until February.

    Having said that, I hope Chicargo gets it. Would have been nice if New York had put in a bid but oh well.

  • Comment number 3.

    How can the International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge comment that 'a good transportation system' in light of the fact that London was awarded the honour last time round. Has anyone of the committee ever tried getting to the east end of London before they made that decision? Given the legacy of poor urban planing and all that goes with in UK, it is inevitable that London's arteries will clog up , events will be stalled etc. So why should it be a factor now?

  • Comment number 4.

    Madrid is a lovely city in a lovely country, so my hope is for them to have it. Tokyo is to close too Peking, Rio is too smoggy and dirt poor, Chicago will try and spread the event venues across the state to pay back for the state support, so, Madrid has it.

  • Comment number 5.

    Blair's appearance in Singapore was something new and surprising, thereby inspiring. Although it's Obama, I don´t see him having the same kind of impact in C'hagen, particularly since he won´t be the only head of state present.
    Come on Rio!

  • Comment number 6.

    The key factor is going to be second preference votes. With question marks against all the bids, which bid will be disliked by the smallest number of delegates? One suspects that the first preference votes will neutralise each other and that the bid that will win will be one that few people love, but fewer still hate.

  • Comment number 7.

    the richest one at present i.e. Tokyo will get it

  • Comment number 8.

    'the USA hasn't had it in yonks', what will be a whole 20 years. Let's have a look at the rest of the field:

    Madrid: Spain wouldn't have hosted the games since Barcelona 1992 - 24 years
    Tokyo: Haven't held the games since 1964 - 52 years
    Rio: The games have never even been held on their continent

    Why should America be given the right to hold the games so regularly? There are many more nations who need the games, not just feel they deserve to.

  • Comment number 9.

    Tigertoo, Madrid has a bid that is regarded passionately in Spain. The media really give the impression that the possibility of not winning simply does not exist. However, I wonder where the first preference votes will come from. In 2012 Madrid could bank on a solid block of votes from its ex-colonies; these though are likely to back Rio until it is eliminated. Possibly Madrid will pick up a number of European votes, but certainly, the prospects of a trip to exotic Rio or Tokyo may just prove too tempting.

    The voting patterns are going to be very interesting and, this time, it is not obvious which bid is likely to be eliminated in the first round.

  • Comment number 10.

    Hoping for Rio. Whilst for us of course TV wise Madrid would be better, I kind of accept the US rights are a major factor in determining the host, but I hope rather than gifting them to America the IOC see that Rio can provide them with games lucrative in the US, but branching out to somewhere new.

    After all, these would be the third games in a generation for the US, just 20 years after the disaster that was Atlanta, which themselves took place just 12 years after the LA games of 1984.

  • Comment number 11.

    As an American who went to college a few hours south of Chicago and has lots of family there, I would love to see them get it. It would also make the frothing anti-Obama nudniks bitterly unhappy, which is another thing in its favor. That said, Rio getting the bid would ensure the greatest, most epic month-long party in the history of the recorded universe... so I'm torn.

  • Comment number 12.

    Re # 5

    No disrespect but what you need to understand is that President Obama's office is a little more presitegious that Tony Blairs. The President of the United STates is both head of the government (at least one branch of the government here in the US) and Head of State. The Prime Minister of Great Britian is merely the leader of the government. In addition the position also carries with it the unofficial title of Leader of the Free World. His position is comparable to that of a rock star. He presence is considered huge and could very well influence the committee.

  • Comment number 13.

    Olympics in USA again??? Horrible

  • Comment number 14.

    "13. At 00:07am on 02 Oct 2009, BrutalLogiC wrote:

    Olympics in USA again??? Horrible"

    What a brilliant and insightful comment! I am not surprised Anti-Americanism would rear its ugly head in a discussion like this but please at least provide some arguments or information to explain why games in the US would be "horrible".
    But I am excited about this race. I really do like the idea of it being open to at least 3 of 4 remaining candidates. I say 3 because I really dont believe Madrid will get it because 3 European games in a row seems highly unlikely. Rio would be something different but violent crime is so common in the city and I am not sure if it would be smart of the IOC to take the games there until its a safer destination. And yes, Chicago has a crime problem but not nearly as extreme as Rio's. As an American my main concern with Chicago is the state of Illinois's culture of corruption. I can just imagine the inevitable scandals about building contracts for bribes. And although I like Tokyo, I think there are so many great cities that have never hosted that the IOC should avoid awarding games to previous hosts in the near future. Whatever happens it will be an exciting race to the finish.

  • Comment number 15.

    Is English Yo-Yo having a laugh when he says the US hasn't had the Olympics for yonk? If it gets 2016, it will be the third summer games in 30 years to be held in the States - plus a winter games.
    By the way, Brekkie, Rio is only two hours behind Britain so it would still make for great TV primetime.

  • Comment number 16.

    Tiggertoo: distance from London to Madrid - 784 miles. Distance from Tokyo to Beijing - 1307 miles. So why is Tokyo ruled out and not Madrid again? Anyway neither city will win - it's really between Rio and Chicago.

  • Comment number 17.

    English Yo-Yo: Chicago deserve it more because the USA hasn't had it in yonks? If that's the case then surely Rio deserve it more since the Games have NEVER even been to South America!

    tigertoo: Europe have had too many olympics recently (Barcelona 1992, Athens 2004, London 2012) so I doubt the Games would come here again. Also, perhaps you should be better informed than to presume that Rio is dirt poor/smoggy. Of course it has the well-known areas of poverty showcased by movies such as City of God, but it also has some of the most affluent areas. In any case, isn't the whole idea of the Olympic movement to develop/re-develop areas that are in need? It is also no more smoggy than London/Chicago/Tokyo or any other big city.

    Rio have consistently been improving their bid with successive bids since bidding for the 2000 games. It has the backing of the entire Latin American continent, and I for one cannot believe that the Games have yet to visit the vast, beautiful continent that is South America.

  • Comment number 18.

    I live 60 miles from Chicago and fervently hope that the bid will go to Rio.
    Chicago's infrastructure is crumbling, claims of easy transport from hotels to venues bring laughter from people that actually have to drive within the city.
    No public project ever comes in at a figure anywhere close to initial estimates and as it is the financing has the potential to leave the taxpayers of Chicago and probably the entire state of Illinois on the hook for billions of dollars.
    Taxes are already outrageous here and the state is barely paying it's bills.
    Way too high a price to pay to give an aging mayor the legacy he craves...

  • Comment number 19.

    Rio, Chicago, whomever, it needs to be run by totalitarians like China, because the Olympics are not about values anymore.

  • Comment number 20.

    I am a punter. Putting my money on Chicago with the shortest odds is very untempting. With the Obama canvassing blitz enveloping them so comprehensibly, I do not think Olympic delegates with voting rights will be able to make up their minds too easily, but they do have the final say. I'll set up an order of elimination; no logic, just a hunch.

    1. Tokyo
    2. Madrid
    3. Chicago

    So Rio de Janiero should get it, the hosting by rights. I expect US to put up a tenacious fight that could well make them an immovable object. So that could be a problem.

  • Comment number 21.

    I am surprised by bloggers that say that Rio is smoggy/dirty/poor/violent.
    London has areas where the criminality are way above. Madrid was recent target for terrorism (which they did not deserve but had it), Tokyo is really a crowded place with an incredible demographic density and Chicago may not be well known for criminal statistics and areas of poverty mostly because we only see them in American Films.
    All in all, what I would like to say is that Rio is not exactly as worse than others and neither the others are worse than Rio.

    I think all cities have their problems allied to their sizes and local challenges and people that pick on this or that issue against this or that city is very poor minded.

    Having said that, after looking to all the bids, I really agree with the so-famed declarations that it is a way too close to call and that all bids are really good.

    What in part saddens me is that ALL of those bids are slightly too good to be true anyway. Apart form China, in recent years the bidding process has been marred for this process of overstading targets with microscopic budgets that are no way near realistic.

    London's budget for example has already literally exploded although I still feel it will be a great venue for 2012.

    But, hey, that's the name of the game.

    I think Rio and Chicago have the edge (in no particular order).

    I hope Rio gets it since people will not regret to visit one of the most beautiful cities in the world and it is not only carnival. Also, because of the government involvement on all process of building/improving the existent venues (Rio has recently hosted with sucess the Panamericam Games and will benefit from an improved Public Transport as a result of 2014 World Cup), these will certainly be more accessible to the general public rather than the other cases (like Greece unfortunatelly) where the private investiment was high and the venues ended up either abandoned or not accessible to most people.

    But... having said that, if Chicago wins, for a Brazilian will not be that bad since if we check the statistics, Los Angeles and Atlanta are the last Olympic venues where Brazil most accumulate good results...

    I just hope that the real best wins whoever they are.

  • Comment number 22.

    Can you name any world famous landmarks in Chicago that would serve as iconic images during the Olympics - or anything that will make the place instantly identifiable on TV during the Games? No, thought not.

    It's windy - er that's it.

    A Chicago games would be as instantly forgettable as the Atlanta Games - now best remembered for a home-grown terrorist incident and the fact that the transport system was diabolical.

    Rio would make much better telly - straight away you can hear the samba music, see the images of the beach, the statue of Christ, Carnival etc etc.

  • Comment number 23.

    Obama's Waterloo!

    Rio & Tokyo look good!

  • Comment number 24.

    USA had the games in the 80s and in the 90s, Spain had the games in the 90s. Why should either get another one so soon?

  • Comment number 25.

    If Chicago wins then the USA will have held 3 out of 9 Olympics. From LA in 1984 to Chicago in 2016. That's surely too many isn't it? It's not as if the last one in Atlanta was any good. Why should they hold the Olympics a third of the time?

  • Comment number 26.

    Chicago is not 'windy' in the sense of a blustery wind. It got the nick name because of polictical hot air !

    But can we get away from the 'its x turn' and the 'y deserves' the games.

    The IOC does not do 'turns' or who 'deserves' their Games.

    The approx 100 voting members will vote for all sorts of reasons.

    Some won't mind two European hosts in sucession but others will.

    Some will vote on what they think is best for their particular sports (15 members ar from the international sporting federations rather than countries) interest and not the general good.

    Others will vote on the non sporting aspects from legacy, finance to the best culture and shopping.

    Whatever we mere mortals think will not bother any of the IOC members. It is their games and they will award them to the place they want to have them.

  • Comment number 27.

    Tokyo is promising legacy and promises to be a green games. Economically also they have worked very hard to control the budget. That is in important in the economic climate.
    If transportation is a factor then Tokyo has a wonderful chance of winning. It has the best public transport of anywhere I have ever been. I also found the locals to be the most helpful, friendly and welcoming I have ever encountered. I was in Japan for the world cup in 2002 so Tokyo has a very special place in my heart.
    I hope that Tokyo wins.


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