The pros and cons of each bid for the 2016 Olympics
Tokyo is more financially secure than Chicago, but has less public support
Rio de Janeiro needs infrastructure, but would be the first South American host
Madrid and Tokyo may suffer from their countries having hosted Olympics
On Friday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will choose the city that will host the 2016 Summer Olympics. Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo, the four finalists, will each make a 45-minute presentation before the IOC members Friday afternoon in Copenhagen. They are likely to highlight their bid's assets and address some of the questions raised in the IOC's site evaluation report released earlier this month. The winning city should be announced between noon and 1 p.m. Eastern Time in the U.S.
Here's a look at each of the cities and some of the positives, negatives and uncertainties surrounding each bid.
The global economic crisis has not spared the Olympics. The IOC recently said that it would help cover an expected shortfall in Vancouver, the 2010 Winter Games host, which is falling short of projected sponsorship revenues. The bill for the 2012 Summer Games in London keeps growing. Many of the facilities in Sochi, the 2014 winter host, have yet to be built and shortfalls are likely there, too. Chicago's selection would bring more money into the IOC and its Olympic partners than any of the other bidding cities. The U.S. television rights for the 2014 and 2016 Games have yet to be awarded (it will likely be either NBC again or a combination of ABC and ESPN), but any U.S. network would pay more if Chicago got the Games. (Rio would attract the next largest fee because those Games would take place in a time zone favorable for a U.S. network -- an hour ahead of Eastern Time.) Chicago figures to bring in the most sponsorship money, too.
As mentioned in a previous column, the appearance of Barack Obama in Copenhagen to stump for Chicago will likely carry more weight than the presence of other heads-of-state. Tony Blair's appearance on behalf of London's bid at the IOC selection meeting in Singapore in 2005 and Vladmir Putin's for Sochi at the meeting in Guatemala City in 2007 helped those cities land the Games. Obama is not only popular overseas, but also a sports fan who also happens to hail from the bidding city.
When Moscow was unable to host the World Boxing Championships in 2007, Chicago stepped in at the 11th hour and rescued the International Boxing Federation. The championships weren't perfect, but they enabled the federation to save face. This earned points in the international community for Chicago, which, like most U.S. cities, does not have an extensive track record of hosting international sports events.
This is a sticky problem for any U.S. city that bids for a Games. IOC rules require each bid to guarantee financial solvency -- in effect, to provide a guarantor to cover any potential shortfall. Most cities simply have a government branch (city, regional or national) sign off on the guarantee. U.S. cities can't rely on the national government to be a safety net. (The U.S. is the only country that relies entirely on private money to fund its Olympic teams.) The Chicago committee's $3.8 billion budget includes a $450 million contingency charge and it secured $1.45 billion in private insurance policies to enable the city to sign the IOC's financial guarantee contract. The city still needs to construct a main stadium, a velodrome and an aquatics center. The cost of building a 38-acre Olympic village on the site of a closed hospital will run another billion, but it is technically outside the Olympic budget.
In March, U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) CEO Jim Scherr suddenly resigned after a bitter power struggle and was replaced on an interim basis by Stephanie Streeter. For an organization with a history of unstable management, the appearance of further instability was poorly timed for Chicago's bid. Later in March, the IOC and USOC got into a public dispute over the percentage of television revenue that the USOC should receive from the $2.2 billion domestic rights fees NBC was paying to televise the Olympics. On top of that, this summer, the USOC announced it was starting an Olympics television network despite the IOC's stated concerns, including that the new network would conflict with IOC partner NBC. After the IOC expressed displeasure with the new network, the USOC agreed to postpone its launch. If IOC members perceive the national Olympic committee of the host city as disorganized, it could turn them off the bid.
The Samaranch Factor
At age 89, Juan Antonio Samaranch, the Spanish-born President of the IOC between 1980 and 2001, is no longer the commanding presence he used to be, but he still carries some weight within the committee. He is an avid supporter of the Madrid bid and his son Juan Antonio Jr. is currently an IOC member. Four years ago, Madrid just missed nabbing the 2012 Games, and the city is capable of mobilizing significant support in Copenhagen.
While there is some debate about the accuracy of the polling, public support for Madrid's bid is roughly 88 percent, higher than for each of the other cities. This was also the case in 2005, when numbers reached 91 percent. Madrid's budget, $5.6 billion, has a full guarantee against overruns from the Spanish government.
A tenant for the stadium
The proposed Olympic stadium would become the permanent home for the Club Atletico soccer team -- IOC members like venues that will have some defined purpose after the Games. The Olympic village and many of the venues are within walking distance.
Mexico's Mario Vasquez Rana, a member of the IOC's executive board, may be the most influential member on the entire committee. Vasquez Rana is the head of PASO, the Pan-American Sports Organization, which oversees Olympic sports in the Americas. He controls or influences which cities host the Pan-Am Games in pre-Olympic years, which get to host world championships and other major competitions, which Central and South American Olympic Committees have access to revenue sources and so on. Publicly, IOC members will say that voting blocs don't exist, but groups of less influential members from within particular regions can easily be coaxed to vote for certain cities to gain favor with stronger IOC members.
In 2005, New York City was bidding against London, Paris, Madrid and Moscow for the right to host the 2012 Olympics. During a Q&A session generally reserved for technical queries from the membership, Vasquez Rana took the microphone and promised his support for the bid from New York -- the lone bidding city from his PASO region. Behind the scenes, though, the long-time Samaranch ally had thrown his support to Madrid, which then outlasted Moscow and New York and nearly displaced the two favorites. Of the four cities bidding this time, only Tokyo figures to have no support from Vasquez Rana, who will likely support Madrid anew, but could still throw his weight behind his PASO brethren from Rio or Chicago. Nobody's vote is more important.
Spain has had more recent issues with performance-enhancing drugs than any of the other bidding countries. It recently strengthened its anti-doping laws, but the stench still remains from a 2006 raid on two Madrid clinics where, though no charges were filed, as many as 100 athletes were said to have been clients.
Subway bombs set by Muslim extremists in 2004 killed almost 200 people in Madrid.
Spain held the Games in 1992. This may work to Madrid's advantage -- many count the Barcelona Olympics among their favorites -- or its disadvantage because a 24-year gap may not be long enough for some members to grant the Games to Spain again. It would also mark the fifth time in seven Summer and Winter Olympics that the Games would be held in Europe.