The political nature of olympic bidding


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In many ways the political nature of bidding goes back to the first intercalated Games of 1906. These were granted to Athens by De Coubertin to appease the Greek wish for a permanent holding of the Games there. He felt that the prize of Games being awarded to cities all over the world reflected more fully his idea of a true world movement. Since then, politics has unavoidably influenced the nature of Olympic bids.


How the Olympics are Awarded The bidding procedure for olympic venues comes to a conclusion about 6 years before a games actually takes place. Normally, for at least 2 years prior to that time, would be host cities will have lodged their bids with the IOC. Any number of cities may bid to host the games, but the IOC will only accept one bid from any member country. Any bid must have the support of that country’s NOC.


Normally, the city with a clear majority is successful. If, however, there is no clear majority, then the city with the least votes is eliminated and a second round of voting takes place. Up to 1976, bids were thin on the ground. However, in recent games, in which British bids were involved, (the games of 1992 in Barcelona), saw 21 cities prepared to step forward. The following Olympiad, eventually awarded to Atlanta, aroused the interest of 26 cities. The IOC’s response to this upsurge of interest was to set up a committee to reduce the number of candidate cities to 4, prior to the normal voting procedure.


It is the bidding process that attracted criticism in recent years. Accusations have been levelled initially at IOC delegates who, in visiting potential host cities, to vet facilities and the general suitability of the submission, have allegedly acquired a stream of gifts, cash and other favours, as their hosts have sought to extract the promise of votes at the crucial time. Such developments, indicate that currently the hosting of an Olympics is a much sought after prize. This pre-empts the question, why do cities bid?


Why Cities bid for the Olympics Prior to the games of 1980, the hosting of an Olympiad was seen as very much a great honour for the host city. However, as the games grew larger, the cost of staging them grew out of all proportion to the capacity of any individual city to finance such a huge series of events. At that time there was little market for advertising and so the potential for such revenue was limited. The critical point was reached in 1976, when Montreal, the last city to attempt to finance the games from its’ own resources, accumulated massive debts which nearly bankrupted them.


The Moscow games of 1980 were largely underwritten by the soviet authorities keen to impress the world. It was, therefore, the 1984 games and the emergence of Peter Uberroth, which was the first real inkling of how things were to change in the financing of the games. What followed is now history and the nature of bidding for the games changed dramatically. There were now high stakes to be played for, both in terms of potential benefits to host cities and to a whole range of business, commercial and media interests.


Potential host cities began to sell themselves for all they were worth. A whole raft of logos, publicity events and marketing schemes began to swell budgets to unprecedented proportions. Cities were prepared to gamble millions in the hope that they might be chosen. It seems that Mr. Uberroth had been successful in selling one of America’s favourite products- PROFIT.


The Manchester Bids of 1992 and 1996 It is now a commonly held belief that the Manchester bids for 1992 and 1996 were doomed to failure from the outset.


Both of Manchester’s bids were headed by businessman Bob Scott. It is reported that he became so incensed at developments, particularly during the second bid, that his confrontations with certain members of the IOC were finally instrumental in the bid being lost. In the eyes of many IOC delegates, the problem was that Manchester was simply not London. Manchester had beaten London in a contest to decide which city should be the British entry but there appears little doubt that if London had been the city put forward, it might have been a different story.


Atlanta not Athens- The Controversy Just about everyone who has any knowledge of the history of the modern olympic movement, thought that the centennial games would be awarded to Athens. That they were not came as a shock to most and was accompanied by a distinctively and allegedly “fishy” smell. Juan Antonio Samaranch had been known to declare publicly that Athens had always been the clear favourite.Athens was most people’s favourite venue for the centennial games . The leading nominations included Belgrade, Manchester, Melbourne, Toronto and Athens with Atlanta way down the list.


Atlanta was a poor city with apparently nothing going for it except that it just happened to be the headquarters of the coco-cola company. The precise details of why the IOC membership had a sudden change of heart will probably only ever be known to themselves.


At the close of the second millennium, president Samaranch was busy trying to heal the wounds of the now apparent misdemeanors of several decades. Building the Legacy- Sydney Olympics 2000


The Olympic 2008 City Bid



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