Waiting For The 2010 Short-List, Part 4
This is the fourth and final part of a series that takes a look at the eight 2010 Olympic Winter Games bid cities that hope to be short-listed by the IOC on August 28th.
Eighteen years ago Sarajevo was a proud city hosting the 1984 edition of the Olympic Winter Games. Now, as the campaign begins for the 2010 Games, it’s ironic that the only city out of the eight applicants that has actually put together the Games previously is the one with the poorest plan, most insufficient infrastructure and virtually no chance of succeeding. Two decades later, a lot more has changed than the name of the nation. War has divided the city, destroyed many of the 1984 venues and left the city with staggering debt, unemployment and a long road to recovery.
Sarajevo’s bid is an effort to rebuild national sporting federations, reunite the country and provide hope for the suffering population – even if it’s just in the form of fond memories of 1984. This campaign won’t end when Sarajevo is excluded from the short-list - it will continue towards 2014, and perhaps 2018, in an effort to inspire the nation’s recovery.
Sarajevo’s mini bid-book lists local public support broken down into several demographic groups, all between 90 and 98%. The committee has budgeted US$5.4 million towards the campaign – a number that falls behind only Vancouver and Berne of the seven applicants who reported. While looking through the Games preparation plans in the mini bid-book – it appears these are simply rebuilding plans for the battered city. In the transportation section describing improvements to roads that would need to be made in the area where the Games would be held, a line reads “…it will be necessary to reconstruct the existing network and to supplement it with new elements.”
The bid committee’s official Website is full of content - but consisting mainly of photos, stories and memories of 1984. A welcome message from Sarajevo’s mayor Muhidin Hamamdzic describes the “small eternity” that has passed since the torch went out on those Games, and how the country could once again rise above the pain and suffering and organize a great Games. A counter on the front page indicates that the site has received less than 36,000 visits.
The reality is, even in the best of times for Sarajevo, it would be unlikely that it would have a chance in this highly competitive field. In it’s current state, one would have to wonder whether the US$5.4 million couldn’t be better spent elsewhere. But can you put a price on hope?
For Vancouver it must seem like this bid campaign has been going on forever. Well actually it's been four years - since 1998 - when the Canadian Olympic Committee handed Vancouver-Whistler national rights in favor of Calgary and Quebec City. Calgary hosted Canada's only other Olympic Winter Games in 1988 and Quebec was Canada's last bid, losing to Salt Lake City for the 2002 Games. Vancouver made an agreement with Toronto's 2008 bid to "lay low" until that bid was settled because the COC wanted there to be no confusion about which was “Canada's bid”. Vancouver worked quietly behind the scenes.
For Vancouver, sticking to the rules and being conservative has been evident throughout their campaign so far. Since the fallout of the bribery scandal, most bid committees won’t take any chances. In Salt Lake, Vancouver kept a low profile as the IOC requested - while Pyeongchang officials hung huge banners across buildings. When many of the other bids had released their mini bid-books online, John Furlong - President and COO of Vancouver 2010 told GamesBids.com that he wasn’t sure if releasing the documents was appropriate because the IOC told the applicants that the information would be kept confidential until the process was over. The Vancouver bid committee has been careful to verify anything questionable with the IOC, even when it comes to meeting with media personnel within Canada. And recently, they dropped the Whistler name from their bid to be in accordance with IOC single-city bid expectations. Perhaps they feel the Games are theirs to lose.
Reluctance in releasing their mini bid-book was a sign that this bid feels they have something worth keeping secret. Their path to this point in the bid process had been well planned and orchestrated, despite being forced to show their hand. Big (and some little) things have been quietly introduced and gradually built upon such as the “Legacies Now” fund for amateur sport that was set up in 1998 for promoting the bid. Major financial commitments from both the provincial and federal governments show powerful support - and the use of the URL www.Winter2010.com for their Web site subtly exudes confidence.
And they are confident that they will make the short-list. They’ve already ordered large banners to hang from office towers to be unveiled in September, their final bid book is 80% complete and “Celebration 2010” is planned for Whistler on August 29th and is rumored to include fireworks. Sam Corea, media relations representative for Vancouver’s bid told GamesBids.com that following the short-list announcement, a press conference will be held from their prime location at the Pacific National Exhibition.
Vancouver’s technical merits don’t need much discussion. Whistler as a ski venue is world-class and a pre-built indoor stadium for the opening ceremonies has its benefits. Vancouver organized Expo 1986 and Canada organized a successful Olympic Winter Games in Calgary in 1988. But what stands out in this bid is the strong organization and government backing that reduces risk and worries for the IOC.
In order to maintain confidence beyond the first cut there are deficiencies that must be dealt with that Salzburg – Vancouver’s biggest bid threat - will try hard to put a microscope over. The now infamous “sea-to-sky” highway must be improved, and firm commitments to make the improvements must be announced by the provincial government as soon as possible. Furlong says this will happen in the fall but some critics believe that this project will not be possible in such a short time, or that the funding won’t be available. There is evidence of doubt on the bid’s part – in their proposal they detail a plan of buses and ferries to transport athletes and spectators between Whistler and Vancouver venues.
The bid committee must put its marketing machine in gear to dispel the perception that Vancouver is not a winter city. Competing cities point to skiing events in Whistler that were cancelled due to warm weather, and the fact that Vancouver’s winter climate is comparably mild. Additionally, the committee must effectively manage existing and potential opposition groups that are already on the rise in British Columbia. The mini bid-book describes public support at 80% - that’s a little lower than the IOC usually prefers. And although they’ve been trying, bid representatives need to do a better job explaining to local taxpayers why US$21.5 million is required to beat bids that aren’t spending more than half that. This may give the perception that an organizing committee won’t be able to control spending adequately.
But perhaps all of this intricate maneuvering is for not. With the 2012 Summer Games bid already in the minds of many IOC members – perhaps the 2010 results will be a by-product of that future decision. It is widely believed that a Vancouver Games would eliminate North America from 2012 contention, and reduce the potential revenues from lucrative prime-time U.S. television contracts – thus favoring a European choice for 2010. “Snubbing” Vancouver could result in a Toronto vs. U.S.A. North American battle for dollars. Setting those political agendas aside, Vancouver will make the short-list based on strong technical merits. What the 100 plus IOC members decide is for another time. Write or read comments about this article
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