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Talking point: Spotlight on Olympic bidding process

Should the IOC change the Olympic bidding process to enable smaller countries to take part?

Published in Sports Management Oct 2016 issue 127
Read on turning pages | Download PDF of this issue
Brazil, which has high levels of poverty, struggled to pay for the Olympics. Can we make the Games deliverable by poorer nations?
Brazil, which has high levels of poverty, struggled to pay for the Olympics. Can we make the Games deliverable by poorer nations?

Last month, Rome became the latest city to pull out of an Olympic bid. As the Olympic Games get bigger, is it time to make bidding – and hosting – more affordable? And should the IOC consider nations as hosts?

Debbie Jevans,

Former Director of Sport, ,

London 2012 Olympic Games

Debbie Jevans
Debbie Jevans

The Olympic Games is a complex and challenging, albeit exciting, event to stage. The 16 days of competition comprise, among other things, more than 30 competition venues, multiple training venues, logistics centres, car parks, uniform distribution centres and a village for 10,500 athletes.

It’s a huge undertaking for any one city and the question has to be asked as to how many cities have the necessary facilities to deliver a Games without a massive building project underwritten by the government. Is the time now right for country bids that use their existing infrastructure across a number of cities to be considered, rather than asking that the Games be staged in one city?  

Many countries have ample existing facilities that would allow them to stage a Games if they were able to bid in this way. Accepted there would be logistical challenges with venues a long way apart and the concept of an Olympic Village wouldn’t exist as it does now, but challenges could be overcome and the ‘downsides’ may be a small price to pay if financial costs were substantially reduced. The IOC in its 2020 agenda considers sustainability, and the possibility of allowing countries to bid while nominating a host city would likely help achieve this.

To use existing facilities also eases the legacy challenge faced by a city that is often left with a number of large capacity venues that are not sustainable post- Games. Sadly there are a number of examples of this and I hope that isn’t the case for the Rio facilities. In London we planned the legacy as part of our delivery programme and we can be proud of the transformation of the Olympic Park.

The Olympic Games is a fantastic festival of sport and as it embraces new sports, as it is in Tokyo, there should be greater flexibility in how the Games are hosted to encourage more countries to throw their hat in the ring and bid to stage the Games in future.

"Many countries have ample existing facilities that would allow them to stage a Games if they were able to bid"

Hugh Robertson,

Former Sports Minister,


Hugh Robertson
Hugh Robertson

I feel that if the International Olympic Committee  wishes to remain a global sports movement, it’s important it awards the Games to parts of the world that have not hosted them yet.

I think that the Games should, however, continue to be awarded to a city, rather than a country, because it is the convergence of 28 sports in one place that makes the event so unique.

The key judgement in all of this has to be the athletes – they should remain at the forefront. The Games are – and should be – entirely about sport and the world’s best athletes must be given the best possible stage to showcase their talents.”

"It’s important that it awards the Olympic Games to parts of the world that have not hosted them yet"

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson,

Paralympic legend,

Chair of ukactive

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson

Rio actually was a much better Paralympic Games than we expected, considering the announcement just weeks before the Games that there’d be budget cuts. While you could tell that some aspects of the set-up weren’t as good as they could have been, on the whole the field of play and everything else worked really well.

The one thing that felt weird was that usually there is a newly built athletics venue located at the centre of the Olympic Park. At Rio, that wasn’t the case – the athletics stadium was an existing one and located at least a 30 minutes’ trip away from the park.

From my point of view, I actually think it was a really good decision not to build a new venue. If the IOC wants to encourage smaller cities and nations to bid for the Games, I think they will have to start looking at spreading the Games’ geography slightly. Using existing venues – even if they are outside the host city – will help bring more nations into the reckoning for the event.

There’s an argument that one of the iconic things about the Olympics is the village, and it would be a shame to lose that, but I don’t know any athlete who trains because they wants to stay in the Olympic or Paralympic Village. They train primarily because they want to compete at the Olympic Games.

The IOC should also look at what sports are at the Games. If the Olympics continue to add to the number of sports, it could make things harder for hosts. For Tokyo, we have skateboarding coming in, which is a really cool, but skateboarding already has X Games and some skateboarders don’t even want to be at the Olympics.

So a more compact Games, with the use of existing venues would be the answer to ensure more cities will be able to bid.

"If the Olympics continue to add to the number of sports, it could make things harder for hosts"

Jackie Brock-Doyle,

Executive director of communications, IAAF and former director of public affairs,

LOCOG

Jackie Brock-Doyle
Jackie Brock-Doyle

I think the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is already addressing the need to adjust the bidding process with its Olympic Agenda 2020 document. It has understood that there’s a need and desire for it to engage in more meaty and lengthy conversations with bid cities ahead of the bids being made official.

The bidding process for the 2012 Games, for example, was the first after changes were made to the process following the Salt Lake City Olympic scandal. As is often the case post-reform, the process went from loosely governed to heavily governed. It meant a very regimented approach, where no one from the IOC was allowed to visit the bid cities and the presentations by the cities were made at major events or IOC meetings.

IOC’s Agenda 2020 looks to change that and allow the bid cities to have much more detailed, meaningful and open conversations with the IOC about their ambitions and to define “why” they want to host the Games – rather than just concentrate on the how. It will help because it’s critical to have the support of the local population – more so now than at any other stage in history because of the huge scrutiny not just from informed people but from the biggest stakeholders, the people who live in the bidding city. I think Brazil proved that.

The Agenda 2020 has also potentially opened the door for a multiple city approach for the Games, thanks to its emphasis on sustainability. There is now a readiness to use existing venues.

Interestingly, I think the Rio Games will enhance that, as the Rio organising committee did a phenomenal job with dealing with what was uncontrollable around them – the economic crisis and the political turmoil. What they did was turn around to the individual sports and reduced the service level agreements (SLA) – which include details of hospitality, transport, etc. They went back to the sports and said “we can’t deliver everything we wanted to because of the situation we’re in, so lets focus on the priorities”.

As a result, the Rio Games model was smaller – by default rather than design – which might help in making the Games sustainable going forward. Rio has created a different, smaller-scale template which Tokyo now can (and should) follow.

"The Agenda 2020 has also potentially opened the door for a multiple city approach for the Games, thanks to its emphasis on sustainability"

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