Bad timing for NY-NJ Olympics bid

By: Evan Weiner

Many of the Olympics committee voting members come from countries that have grievances with the Bush administration. THE RACE for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games has started as nine countries have submitted proposals to the International Olympic Committee outlining their plans to host the Games. New York is one of the nine bidders and the timing of the beginning of the two-year sprint to convince the IOC that the city and Northern New Jersey are perfect hosts could not be worse from an International standpoint. The International Olympic Committee will award the 2012 Games on July 6, 2005. So the New York Olympic Committee has two years to persuade more than 100 countries that it is the perfect place to hold an Olympics.

But many of the IOC voting members come from countries that have grievances with the Bush administration on numerous issues from rejecting the Kyoto Treaty to the Iraq War. Those voters could summarily dismiss New York not on the basis of its proposal, but on the basis of their perception of the our government’s policies.

That may carry far more weight in determining who gets the 2012 Summer Games than the IOC’s recent decision to give Vancouver, Canada, the 2010 Winter Olympics. There is a theory that the IOC will not award a continent consecutive Olympics, but that isn’t true as Athens will host the 2004 Summer Games and Turin, Italy, has the 2006 Games. Another theory making the rounds is that New York won’t get the 2012 Summer Games because the United States has hosted the Olympics four times since 1980. But that shouldn’t be much of a factor when you consider how much money American television, General Electric’s NBC unit, is giving to the IOC for the broadcast rights to the 2010 and 2012 events.

NBC would prefer to show the Games in real time in the United States, which is what Vancouver and a New York Olympics will offer. Money talks in sports, particularly in Olympic bidding.

New York’s competition will come from Havana, Istanbul, , Leipzig (Germany), London, Madrid, Moscow, Paris, and Rio de Janeiro.

The list of nations is both interesting and intriguing. The United States and the United Kingdom were, of course, the only coalition partners who fought in the Iraq war. France, Germany, and Russia opposed the Iraq military action. But Paris was an International Olympic Committee favorite before the Iraq action and remains that way.

The most intriguing bid will come from Havana.

How can one of the world’s poorest countries bid for an Olympics that will cost billions upon billions of dollars? But Cuba’s bid may signal that Fidel Castro wants to get involved with the world’s business community.

There is no way that Cuba can win the bid, but Cuba could be using the Olympics as a negotiating ploy to get the United States to drop economic sanctions against the country.

The Olympics are more than an athletic competition. The Olympics are a corporate bazaar where multi-national corporations show off their products in a 17-day advertising campaign that is televised worldwide. The Olympics also provide a political platform for many groups who are looking to move up in the world order or air grievances.

So there are a few ways of looking at the Cuban decision. Cuba wants the Games for whatever prestige it would bring. But more importantly, politically and economically, Cuba wants to join the rest of the world. The Havana government may be using China as an example. China is hosting the 2008 Games and has to open its borders and its government to the world.

China is also investing billions to put its best foot forward.

The International Olympic Committee will take about two years to sift through the various bids, and this could be a highly charged and emotional decision because of the Bush administration’s dealings with Iraq. There was a huge split in the United Nations’ 15-member Security Council about disarming Iraq with force. A good many of those countries along with the other governments who were opposed to military action in Iraq are International Olympic Committee members and will vote in this process.

The New York Olympic Committee may feel its has the best chance of landing the Games, but it may find out that politics and diplomacy – and not a strong bid – is much more important when these Games are awarded.

Evan Weiner is a commentator on the “Business of Sports” for Westwood One’s Metro Networks.

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