President Thomas Bach
IOC President Thomas Bach
In July, 2015, there were only two cities vying for the 2022 Winter Games: Almaty, Kazakhstan and Beijing, China. Just 10 months before, Oslo, Norway, the host of the 1952 Winter Olympics, pulled out of the running. Sochi a year before famously cost $50 billion, and the Norwegian government was expecting the cost for their city to be billions more than they had an appetite for.

That left Almaty, a city generally unknown, and Beijing, a well-known city that gets very little snow.

With the ugly photos coming out of Rio de Janeiro of the crumbling Olympic infrastructure after only some 7 months, more and more city denizens and governments are convinced they don’t want an Olympics in their metropolis. In fact, Budapest, Hungary, which submitted a strong bid for the 2024 Summer Games, withdrew its bid a week ago on March 1.

So like the 2022 bid, now there are only two for the 2024 Games.

This must be causing considerable heartburn for leaders of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The bidding process has resulted not in a celebration of city pride with the hopes of bringing the biggest sports tent their way, but in opportunities for large numbers of people to publicly and loudly proclaim their disenchantment, if not diffidence with having the Olympics in their back yard.

Rio Swimming Venue Before and After
Rio Swimming Venue Before and After
Fortunately, the 2024 has two solid prospects: Los Angeles and Paris. As Tim Crow writes in this great article, “And Then There Were Two“,

LA is the most compelling, with its vision of Californian sunshine, West Coast tech innovation and Hollywood storytelling power combining to ‘regenerate the Games’ and ‘refresh the Olympic brand around the world’.

Paris is more traditional, a classic piece of Olympic realpolitik, invoking de Coubertin in a ‘new vision of Olympism in action’ in the grand old city, linked to those time-honoured Olympic bid promises of urban regeneration and increased national sports participation.

So, as Crow extrapolates, if the president of the IOC wants to avoid further embarrassment of the citizens of the Great Cities open scorn, at least for a while, he may encourage his fellow leaders to decide the next two Olympic hosts when the IOC meet in Lima, Peru in September, 2017. As has been gossiped about for the past several months, Crow believes the IOC will select either Paris or LA for 2024, and the other one for 2028. By so doing, that would guarantee great Summer Olympic hosts throughout the 2020s, as well as avoid unwanted anti-Olympic discussion that would most certainly lead up to the 2028 process, that is currently scheduled for 2021.

Crow also speculates that the IOC may award the 2024 Summer Games to Paris, and the 2028 Summer Games to Los Angeles. Here are the three reasons why:

  • One, because an LA 2028 Games will give President Bach the ideal timing to play the American market for the IOC’s next US broadcast deal beyond NBC’s current contract.
  • Two, because it will also give Bach significant leverage in his attempts to persuade his six US-based TOP sponsors to extend their current deals, all of which end into 2020, for eight years.
  • But most of all, because it will buy Bach and the IOC both time and two key partners in its battle to find a new relevance and credibility for a new era and a new generation.

That last one is the tricky one. Can the Olympics be saved for the next generation?

phones
There be gold in them thar phones!

If you’re living in Japan, and you buy smartphones like you buy a fashionable spring jacket, then you’ve got a bunch of phones in your cabinet that are just gathering dust.

Tokyo2020 wants your phone! Starting April, Japan telecommunications conglomerate, NTT Docomo, will set up collection boxes in over 2,400 NTT Docomo stores across Japan. Additionally, the Japan Environmental Sanitation Center, will also set up collection centers to collect old PCs, tablets, wearables, monitors, and other electronic devices that can be mined for metals.

The goal is to collect 8 tons of metal, which will yield 2 tons of gold, silver and bronze, and eventually result in the production of 5,000 medals for winners in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Said Japanese gymnast Kohei Uchimura of this initiative, “computers and smart phones have become useful tools. However, I think it is wasteful to discard devices every time there is a technological advance and new models appear. Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic medals will be made out of people’s thoughts and appreciation for avoiding waste. I think there is an important message in this for future generations.”

Sustainability will be a key theme of Tokyo2020. And my hope and expectation is that Tokyo2020 will be a shining model of how to present the Olympics, as it was in 1964. Tokyo2020 will stand in stark contrast to past Olympics.

For example, there are already signs of decay in Rio de Janeiro as venues used for the 2016 Rio Olympics have been abandoned. This is an oft-told tale, with plenty of photographic evidence of waste from past Olympics. Only six months later, the main venue for the Rio Olympics is an empty, pilfered and unused shell of a stadium.

The IOC knows its reputation and perhaps its long-term survival are dependent upon making the Olympics more in line with the host country’s economic plans and means, and more conscious of its obligations to be more socially tolerant and more purposeful in driving sustainability.

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Kohei Uchimura’s next gold medal might be made from recycled smartphones

Since its inception in 2014, IOC President, Thomas Bach, has driven home the 40 tenets of his vision – The Olympic 2020 Agenda – a list of priorities, principles and actions that will guide the IOC in the coming years. Some of the hopes is to help ensure that host cities do not end up with an overly burdensome budget to hold the Games, to make the bidding process less complicated and less expensive, to ensure non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and to drive greater sustainability.

The IOC has been working closely with Tokyo2020 to bring its operational budget down from USD30 billion, which is four times the budget put forth in the 2013 bid for 2020. The current goal is to get the budget down to under USD20 billion, which is far under Sochi’s USD50 billion spend, Beijing’s USD40 billion spend, and more in line with London’s USD20 billion spend. I believe that Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike is making an honest attempt to drive the budget down, as well as create a legacy of sustainability and inclusiveness in Japan.

If you’re in Japan, you too can help! Look for your old smartphones, and the signs at NTT Docomo. Donate a phone, and ensure that a piece of your property becomes a piece of the winning medal for Olympians in 2020.

pat-hickey
Pat Hickey

I suppose selling tea wasn’t quite doing it for Minoru Ikeda. This enterprising tea dealer from Utsunomiya, Tochigi was indicted during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics for scalping tickets, according to The Japan Times of October 20, 1964.

Ikeda bought the tickets fair and square, 60 through his local Japan Travel Bureau office and through direct mail orders to the Tokyo Olympic Committee. Apparently he pulled in a cool JPY150,000 in profit, re-selling four third -lass track and field tickets for the outrageous price of JPY10,000 each. I actually have a third-class ticket from those Games, and it states the price is JPY1,000. According to the article, Ikeda sold 52 more tickets for another JPY200,000.

But that pales in comparison to the reports that came out of the 2016 Rio Olympics when a senior member of the International Olympic Committee, Pat Hickey, was arrested on August 17, 2016, for ticket touting, or scalping.

Hickey was imprisoned for 11 days in Bangu Prison, and was released, primarily due to the fact that he was a 71-year-old in poor health, and his passport had been taken away. After about 4 months in Brazil, Hickey was allowed to return to Ireland, no longer the head of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI), a position he had resigned soon after his arrest.

scalping
The Japan Times, October 20, 1964.

Hickey had been the head of the OCI since 1989 and had apparently ruled Irish Olympics with a firm hand. And as an executive board member of the IOC, Hickey received such benefits as a USD900 per diem during Olympic Games. But that apparently wasn’t enough. Since Hickey apparently he collaborated with the organizations that was responsible for the selling of Olympic tickets in Ireland, he and Kevin Mallon (another person arrested in Rio), had access to the most valuable tickets at the Rio Games, the opening and closing ceremonies.

According to The Guardian, police seized over a thousand such tickets, which would could be sold at exorbitant prices. The article claims that Mallon’s company, THG, was looking to pull in a profit of USD10 million. That is definitely an improvement on JPY200,000, even accounting for inflation!

Hickey, who asserts his innocence in the charges, is awaiting the start of court deliberations on his case in Rio. If found guilty he could face prison time.

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U.S. President Donald Trump (C) signs an Executive Order establishing extreme vetting of people coming to the United States after attending a swearing-in ceremony for Defense Secretary James Mattis (R). Reuters/Carlos Barria
When the IOC formed a team of refugee athletes to compete at the Rio Olympics, to highlight the plight of stateless people globally, it was an act for which the IOC was rightfully praised. Through its existence, the modern-day Olympics have symbolized and strived to model tolerance and inclusion.

In recent history, countries that have enforced state-sponsored discrimination have been banned from participating in the Olympic Games. South Africa was banned from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics due to its apartheid laws, and was not allowed back until apartheid ended, re-entering the Games at the 1992 Barcelona Games.

Indonesia was suspended from the IOC, prior to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. The Asian Games were hosted in Jakarta, Indonesia in 1962, and then-president Sukarno refused entry of athletes from Israel and Taiwan. IOC president Avery Brundage insisted that the Olympics were an opportunity to bring all nations’ athletes together, not split them apart, and so suspended Indonesia from the IOC.

Sukarno responded by creating an alternative sports tournament called The Games of the New Emerging Forces (GANEFO), which of course, did not include athletes from Israel and Taiwan. The IOC then banned any athletes who competed at the GANEFO games from participating at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Unwilling to pull their GANEFO athletes, both Indonesia and North Korea boycotted the Games.

As we have heard recently, President Donald Trump has made entry to America off limits to citizens from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – Muslim countries all. The American government is stating that protecting its borders is vitally important to its security, and inferring that anyone who is a Muslim, particularly from those seven countries, are potential terrorists.

To me, this executive order runs contrary to the spirit of the Olympics. And while this may be a low rung on the totem pole of priorities related to immigration and national security, I wonder if the Los Angeles bid for the 2024 Olympics is at risk. Will President Trump’s ban, and his rhetoric of America first put a damper on IOC members’ enthusiasm for an Olympics in a country where tolerance and inclusion become lesser values?

I think that is a possibility.

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Chen Shih-hsin of “Chinese Taipei”

At the 2004 Athens Olympics, Chen Shih-hsin won Taiwan’s first ever gold medal. But as the taekwando lightweight stood on the podium after accepting her medal, neither the national anthem she listened to, nor the flag she saw rising were Taiwanese. They were symbols of a compromise Taiwan accepted when the IOC agreed to have Taiwan compete under the name “Chinese Taipei”, recognition that the People’s Republic of China was the only lawful representative of China.

National flags and anthems can be problematic at times because of the emotion they evoke.

We learned of another example recently.

One of the golfers in the world, Rory McIlroy, decided to forego with the Rio Olympics in August, stating that his concerns over the zika virus were enough to keep him home. McIlroy was not alone in that decision, but it was only recently learned that the mosquito-borne virus was not his chief issue. He stated recently in an interview with the Sunday Independent that the IOC told him that if he decided to attend the Rio Games he would have to decide under which flag he would compete: the flag of Great Britain or of Ireland.

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Rory McIlroy

McIlroy is from Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, but not part of Great Britain. I won’t go into the politics of this area, primarily because I don’t understand it well enough to try. But McIlroy felt the decision to participate in the Olympics was a decision to openly declare allegiance to a particular sovereignty, something he felt uncomfortable with.

“Not everyone is driven by nationalism and patriotism,” he told the Independent. “All of a sudden it put me in a position where I had to question who I am. Who am I? Where am I from? Where do my loyalties lie? Who am I going to play for? Who do I not want to piss off the most?” he said.

“I started to resent it and I do. I resent the Olympics Games because of the position it put me in, that’s my feelings towards it, and whether that’s right or wrong, it’s how I feel.”

Apparently, McIlroy explained his feelings in a series of texts to his friend and gold medalist of the Rio Olympic golf competition, Justin Rose.

Justin, if I had been on the podium (listening) to the Irish national anthem as that flag went up, or the British national anthem as that flag went up, I would have felt uncomfortable either way. I don’t know the words to either of them; I don’t feel a connection to either flag; I don’t want it to be about flags; I’ve tried to stay away from that.

logos-1964-and-2020

Tokyo2020: It’s still three-and-a-half years away! It’s only three-and-a-half years away!

 

Usain Bolt and the Holy Redeemer

    Usain Bolt and the Holy Redeemer

The bigger picture at the Rio Olympics:

Cambridge Bolt and Brommel