International Olympic Committee, IOC, President Thomas Bach from Germany, left, speaks with Australian IOC member John Coates, right, during the 134th Session of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), at the SwissTech Convention Centre, in Lausanne, Switzerland, Tuesday, June 25, 2019. (Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP)

IOC to change process of Olympic bid races, host elections

June 26, 2019 - 7:56 am

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Olympics hosted in multiple cities or countries. Bidders pro-actively invited. Candidates recommended with possibly no opponents.

Radical changes in how and when Olympic hosts are picked were voted in Wednesday as the International Olympic Committee looks to avoid negative headlines and angering local taxpayers following referendum losses and excessive spending on white elephant venues.

Stung by recent public votes in Europe and Canada, the IOC agreed that future bidders could need to win a referendum before entering a race.

"We cannot, I suggest, continue to be damaged as we have in the past," veteran IOC member John Coates said, presenting reforms already tested in the 2026 Winter Games contest.

On Monday, Milan-Cortina in northern Italy beat Stockholm-Are, which tied Sweden to Latvia's bobsled track, in a campaign where support from national and city governments was often shaky.

Future Olympic bidders will be required to use existing and temporary venues and infrastructure, while being steered away from costly construction projects.

A new, flexible campaign timetable will end the Olympic Charter rule requiring hosts to be voted on seven years in advance of a Summer or Winter Games. That rule already had to be waived in 2017, allowing Los Angeles to be picked 11 years in advance of the 2028 Summer Games.

There might not be an election at all.

A key part of the new process is creating new Olympic panels — one each for Summer and Winter Games — which will recommend one or more candidates for an election.

It chimes with IOC President Thomas Bach's wish to avoid "too many losers" — a phrase first heard during the 2024 race as it became a double award. Paris got the 2024 Games, while Los Angeles got 2028.

The new panels will be empowered to have "permanent ongoing dialogue" with potential bidders and pro-actively approach preferred hosts. They will report first to the Bach-chaired executive board, which will pick the members.

Coates said the process targets "developing a significant pipeline" of candidates even beyond the next bidding contest.

The IOC was not being "control freaks" demanding legal guarantees far in advance, said Richard Pound, the longest serving member.

"Once you make a decision on the host city, millions of people start to make plans based on that and hundreds of millions of dollars are committed to it," Pound said.

The IOC's reformed approach to bidding followed Bach's election in September 2013 and after of Russia's $51 billion spending on venues, infrastructure and budget overruns for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

In another decision Wednesday, Athens was chosen to host the IOC's 2021 meeting. That Session, from June 24-26, will include a presidential election with Bach currently expected to get a final four-year term unopposed.

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