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Big moment for Rio and Chicago

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Mihir Bose | 17:57 UK time, Sunday, 14 June 2009

Olympic officials in suits meeting behind closed doors can never generate the sort of excitement as a single tweak of a Usain Bolt muscle, but keep an eye on the meetings beginning on Monday in Lausanne.

While they will not produce any binding decisions they could tell us a lot about the likely shape of the movement over the next decade, including the chances of a first British member of the IOC executive board since the 1950s.

The most crucial meeting is the one on Wednesday when the four cities bidding for the 2016 Games - Rio, Chicago, Tokyo and Madrid - make closed door presentations to IOC members at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne.

Many IOC members have always resented the ban on visiting bidding cities imposed back in 1999, following the corruption scandal that nearly brought the movement to its knees.

Their complaint is that the present system does not give them a chance to make a proper study of a city's merits.

They get a hefty evaluation report, which many confess they do not properly read, followed by a presentation by the cities just before the vote. There have been all sorts of suggestions for reviving visits including escorted visits with IOC minders to prevent any possible chance of bribery.

The meeting in Lausanne is a compromise suggested by President Jacques Rogge, providing members a chance to hear from the bidding cities, have more time to reflect on their decision, but all of it above board with no possible chance of any skulduggery.

The members will only decide on their choice of city when they meet in a formal session in Copenhagen in October.

By then members will have the evaluation reports. Prepared by an IOC committee led by Nawal El Moutawakel, the reports were recently finalised. They have not yet been released but I understand that while all four cities get high marks, Rio may have most cause for satisfaction.

Rio has a strong emotional case - the Games have never been to Latin America. But the worry is security and I understand the report is believed to be reassuring on this.

America has not had the Games since Atlanta in 1996 and, with Chicago being Barrack Obama's home city, the conventional wisdom has been that Obama has only to appear in Copenhagen in October, with or without Michelle, and it is game over.

The Obama factor can never be underestimated but Chicago has two problems. Like all US Olympics, Chicago will be privately funded at a time when governments all over the world are funding almost everything else.

There is also still a tide of anti-Americanism in the IOC. In 2005 when New York bid against London, this tide was fuelled by the Iraq war, now it is the top slicing of television and commercial income the US Olympic Committee gets before any money is distributed to the rest of the Olympic world. This has led to angry debates, many meetings, but no resolution.

While Madrid and Tokyo have good bids, their problem is their location rather than what they say they will do. Madrid would mean three successive Games in Europe following on from 2012 in London and 2014 in Sochi. Tokyo would mean a return to East Asia for the summer Games only eight years after Beijing.

Tokyo's bid is backed by citizens in a school playground

The feeling at the moment is 2016 is going west, Rio or Chicago.

Before the cities make their presentations, the IOC Executive Board will hear the case by seven sports which want to be part of the 2016 Games - softball, baseball, golf, rugby sevens, karate, squash and roller skating.

The Executive will not come to a decision until a further meeting in August - then they will choose the two sports for the IOC session in Copenhagen to approve.

IOC chiefs would like to see major sports in the Olympics. Golf, rugby sevens and baseball meet that criterion but baseball's problem is getting major league players to take part in the Games.

The IOC has been worried for sometime that the Games no longer have the same appeal for the young and it is felt that sports like golf and rugby sevens would attract this audience.

With 90 of the 107 members likely to be in Lausanne, it gives Britain's Sir Craig Reedie a chance to lobby his colleagues as he seeks to get on the executive board. Olympic convention demands that a host city should have a representative on the executive.

Reedie just failed to get elected in Beijing but he is well liked and Lausanne should prove the start of a successful campaign.


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