Vote for Me!
The IOC is set to choose a host for 2008 and a new president
On July 13, at the International Olympic Committee session in Moscow, the IOC's 122 members will pick the host city for the 2008 Summer Games. Three days later they will choose the successor to Juan Antonio Samaranch, who at age 81 is stepping down after 21 years as IOC president. In both elections the candidate receiving the fewest votes in a given round will be eliminated and another vote taken until a candidate receives a majority. Here's a handicapping of both races, starting with the one among the five finalists for 2008.
Beijing. After losing to Sydney by two votes on its first try to host a Summer Games eight years ago, Beijing returns with a bid bolstered by strong public support in China, financial guarantees from the government and the feeling among many IOC members drat the world's largest nation deserves to host the Olympics. In what the country's national news agency called "one of the largest construction projects in China since the Great Wall," the government is prepared to spend $20 billion to build a light rail system in Beijing and expand the city's 134 miles of expressways to 435 miles by 2008. "The big issue is whether we're ready to go to China," says IOC presidential candidate Richard Pound, alluding to the politically charged issue of China's human rights record. Expect the IOC to close its eyes, cringe at the thought of another Tiananmen Square and take the chance.
Toronto. The city with the most impressive bid unfortunately also has a penchant for shooting itself in the foot. The aquatics center would seat a combined 40,000 spectators in separate swimming and diving halls, 25 of the 28 venues would be within a 3.5-mile radius and 10% of all tickets would be earmarked for children. Yet last August, Canada turned down visa requests by competitors from Belarus, Bulgaria and Russia shortly before the world marathon canoe championships in Nova Scotia. In March, 11 members of the IOC's site evaluation commission were trapped for 80 minutes in an elevator in a Toronto hotel. Finally, last month, before traveling to Mombasa, Kenya, to lobby African IOC delegates, Toronto mayor Mel Lastman told the Toronto Star, "What the hell do I want to go to a place like Mombasa [for]?...I see myself in a pot of boiling water with all those natives dancing around me."
Paris. Plans to hold beach volleyball at the base of the Eiffel Tower and equestrian show jumping in front of the gold-domed Invalides chapel underscore the bid's romantic appeal. The 80,000-seat Stade de France, site of the 1998 World Cup final, would serve as the main stadium. Existing public housing would be converted to an Olympic Village that would be within a five-minute drive of competition sites for more than half the Games' athletes. IOC members who plan to vote for favorite Jacques Rogge of Belgium as the next IOC president, however, may not want to choose a European host city as well, especially with Games already scheduled for Athens in 2004 and Turin in 2006. What's more, Claude Bebear, the businessman who runs the Paris bid committee, was implicated in a money-laundering scandal in June, though he has denied any wrongdoing.
Osaka. The bid would entail building an athletes' village, a press center and six major sports venues on three man-made islands in Osaka Bay. The IOC fears traffic jams and costs that might exceed the projected $3.5 billion. Poor attendance at the East Asian Games in May confirmed the city's reputation for sporting apathy.
Istanbul. Pick your concern: air pollution, terrorism, traffic or the unstable Turkish lira, which lost a third of its value in March. Look for the three-time bidder to be the first city eliminated.
Who Will Be The Juan?