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A Year To Remember For The Ioc Family

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A year to remember for the IOC family

Paris (AFP) - There were two clear winners this year with regards to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) – Russia and IOC president Jacques Rogge.

At the turn of the year both would have seemed unlikely candidates to enjoy a successful 2007 but the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi overcame the odds to win the right to host the 2014 Winter Olympics, while Rogge overcame his critics to enjoy a highly successful year and saw his dream of a junior Olympics become reality.

For Sochi it was quite a comeback from being sneered at for being a ‘virtual reality’ bid at the outset to edging a distraught South Korean bid from Pyeongchang in the final head-off – the Austrian birthplace of Salzburg found themselves outspent by the other two, Sochi reportedly spending $80m to the Austrians $13m, and finished third.

Sochi won simply because they ran a superbly marketed campaign – directed by former advertising guru Dmitri Chernyshenko – and successfully played on the fact that a country with such a great record in the Winter Olympic Games had never hosted the showpiece event.

On the face of it that was that but one should not underestimate the role played by Russian President Vladimir Putin – Time magazine’s man of the year – who put up a grandstand performance when it came to the final presentation to the often fickle electorate of the IOC members.

Putin, who was so nervous about his speaking in English before entering the hall – in the unlikely surroundings of Guatemala City – where the IOC members were assembled that his legs were shaking, managed to give a command performance.

“Keep your cool,” commented one journalist to him. “To what?” replied Putin.

And he sure did keep his cool as he delivered his speech in English – the first time he had been known to speak the language in public and ultimately Sochi came out winners by 51 votes to 47 for Pyeongchang.

However, showing incredible fortitude once the dust on their shattering defeat had settled – they were also edged out for the 2010 edition by Vancouver – Pyeongchang said they would be candidates for the 2018 Games and many will be wishing them well, though, third time lucky does not necessarily carry over into IOC voters parlance.

Whilst many doubted that Sochi – where Putin has a dacha – would be able to construct the venues required for the Games on time there were none expressed by the dynamic Chernyshenko.

“We’re not complaining (about feeling the pressure of organising),” Chernyshenko said by phone from Moscow in early October.

“We are soldiers and fighters. I am absolutely delighted to be involved, it makes my parents (who live in Sochi) very proud of me, in creating an historical legacy not only for Sochi but for the world.”

While Putin – who was opposed in Guatemala by both the Austrian Chancellor and the Korean President – may have swung some crucial votes Rogge raised the possiblity that heads of state may never again be allowed to head up the final presentations.

“As regards the Head of state, this is something we will review.

It can have advantages and disadvantages,” said Rogge.

Aside from his reported unsuccessful lobbying for Pyeongchang, Rogge enjoyed as smooth a week as is imaginable for an orthopaedic surgeon at the IOC Session in Guatemala, where practically everything he argued for was delivered.

Rogge can feel satisfied as he won over even the sceptics in pushing through his wish for a Youth Olympics.

The Games will be for 14-18 year-old’s and will include as yet undecided sports and educational programmes. The decision as to who hosts the inaugural one in 2010 is to be taken at the end of February 2008.

“This is a project and I’m not going into the details,” said Rogge. “Will it be easy? No. Will it be a challenge? Yes. Is it an opportunity? Absolutely.

“Will it be perfect from the start? No but we will learn as we go along.”

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With regards to heads of state appearing in the final presentation.

I don't think its an easy decision but I do support it.

Governments pledge significant amounts of funds and in some cases almost all the funds to build facilities and infrastructure to essentially host the games. They even go as far as to underwrite costs in some cases.

Therefore, the head of state, with so much behind the hosting of the Games, and such a key component of actually staging a succesful games, should be allowed to appear in the final presentation.

I think host cities should decide whether or not they need the Head of State, but if that government representative is the head of state then so be it.

Go Obama Bin Barrack.

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Human rights and the sanctity of life mean nothing to the IOC, only profits and looking good.

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