Montreal's '76 Olympic effort began at 7:30 in the morning of April 27, 1966, the day after the '72 Games had been awarded to Munich. Drapeau was upset, even humiliated at the defeat, and may even then have sensed a flaw in his presentation—he had been too aggressive, pressed too hard. Drapeau routed Snyder out of bed, and they both hustled down to the lobby of their hotel and said a gracious goodby to the departing delegates.
In the next four years the quiet courting ritual continued—at Expo, in Mexico City, at other IOC meetings, at the homes of the delegates. Drapeau and Snyder served the cause virtually by themselves and thus were able to make very accurate judgments as to true delegate intentions. They did not count a vote just because it was promised.
Before the voting at Amsterdam last May, Drapeau estimated Montreal would get 25 to 28 votes on the first ballot, and, after the city with the fewest votes was eliminated (which he figured to be Los Angeles), he predicted that Montreal would win on the second ballot with 37 to 44 of the 70 votes. He was on target. On the first ballot it was Moscow 28, Montreal 25, L.A. 17. Then Montreal won the day 41-28 over Moscow (with one abstention). This also served to remove Vancouver from consideration as host of the '76 Winter Games—the IOC is loth to award both Olympics to the same country—so Denver won a consolation prize for the U.S.
The mayor of Vancouver, Tom Campbell, who is something of a young version of Drapeau and is known as Tom Terrific, admitted with admiration: "It was obvious that Drapeau knew the political intrigues and climate better than the rest of us." The head of the Canadian Olympic Association, Harold Wright, was just as stunned. "The only one there who wasn't surprised was Drapeau," he said.
Drapeau does admit now, however, that Moscow threw a last-round fright into him, for he grew alarmed that the delegates would suddenly develop missionary zeal and start getting visions of the Olympic torch burning the path of freedom on a crusade to Moscow. As a counterpunch, Drapeau had worked up a good act that he could go into at a moment's notice about how politics must be kept out of the Olympics. He had this bit handy because it had long been in his repertoire, ready to be trotted out whenever it seemed a delegate might be moved by the fact that 1976 was the 200th anniversary of the United States.
While casting the opposition as political gluttons, Drapeau began to characterize Montreal as no less than the municipal extension of the Original Amateur Hour. Montreal began to emerge as the embodiment of the Olympic ideal. Since so many necessary facilities had been constructed for Expo, Drapeau emphasized that Montreal could concentrate on the "spiritual" aspects of the Games. A prospectus to the IOC declared unashamedly: "In extending its invitation, Montreal is simply seeking the privilege of serving mankind." Drapeau also took to referring frequently and with authority to Baron de Coubertin, the man who inspired the modern Olympics. Even now Drapeau casually cites "the Baron" at such regular intervals that one begins to assume De Coubertin must be in the next room, reading up on old high-jump records in the AAU handbook.
Drapeau had hardly heard of the Olympics until he stumbled onto an IOC exhibition in 1963, but by now his coincidental discovery of the venture is cloaked in an aura of conversion. "I never practiced any sport," he declares. "I may be the only one who came to sport through the spiritual force of the Olympics. I discovered Olympicism in 1963." When the Games were awarded to Montreal, he cried: "Grandiose, grandiose. We were much in need of the spiritual force that is constituted by Olympicism. God knows, Canada and the rest of the world need spiritual forces."
Despite spiritualism and preparation, Montreal might still have lost the Games but for a spectacular grand finale by Drapeau. Los Angeles always held one trump: it had produced a financially successful Olympics during the Depression of '32. Both Moscow and Montreal were economically suspect. Moscow had backed out of its promise to host the World's Fair that eventually became Expo '67. Montreal was allegedly busted by that endeavor; it was known that the city seemed $27 million short at the end of the previous fiscal year. Under these circumstances, somebody on the IOC decided it would be prudent to ask the competing cities exactly what they could absolutely guarantee for the organization of the Games.
Sam Yorty, the mayor of Los Angeles, was born and bred for this kind of brier patch. After all, it's only money. He told the assembled delegates that $40 million was an absolute guarantee. Mayor Vladimir Promyslov of Moscow got wind of that, and, feeling no pain since the vote was supposed to be in the bag anyway, upped the ante to $45 million. And here comes Johnny Flag.
Entering the room accompanied by the spirit of his friend, the Baron, Drapeau accepted the confrontation and responded with one of the supreme rhetorical adventures in modern Montreal history.