- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
True enough. One talk-show host on radio station KABC (which is owned by the ABC network) has been so consistently anti-Olympics that Roone Arledge, president of news and sports for the network, told a Los Angeles acquaintance, "I tried to convince the station management to make him shut up because we want to bid on these Games. I didn't have any luck at all. He's still knocking them, and I just hope he doesn't kill them."
The air of negativism was strong in L.A. by the weekend of May 13 when a large contingent—including a bitterly anti-Olympics city councilman, Robert Ronka—began arriving in Athens to learn if the IOC would at last accept the city's bid. "Things were very cool," John Argue says. "The IOC gave the Russians a limousine to ride around town, but they made everyone from L.A. take cabs." The environment was worse than cool; it was heavy with anger, for many IOC members had just gotten their first look at the steely language of the L.A. contract as drafted by the city attorney's office. Robert J. Kane, president of the USOC, was first to meet with the IOC executive board and was told that there was no possibility that the Games would be awarded to Los Angeles.
Argue, chairman of the SCCOG, arrived a day or so later. "I was told the IOC executive committee had kicked us out," he says, "but I wanted to hear this from the horse's mouth, so I asked for a special meeting with the IOC executive group. We sat down for four hours and we went over the contract language, point by point. They had said flatly that it was not right, that it was not their style of contract, that it was unacceptable. But in that meeting when we explained the realities of the phrasing, when we spoke about the specific practicalities of what the contract meant to say—well, we found we could agree on point after point after point. When the meeting finally ended, we had only one point of disagreement: the IOC's Rule Four."
Ah, yes, Rule Four. Here is where the politicians of Los Angeles and the politicians of the IOC came to grips over a few words that seem to have far more ceremonial significance than legal force. Rule Four lays down in five fairly succinct paragraphs the lines of ownership and authority regarding the Olympics. There appears no doubt about who is in charge: "Every person or organization that plays any part whatsoever in the Olympic movement shall accept the supreme authority of the IOC and shall be bound by its Rules and submit to its jurisdiction." Flat and authoritarian, no room to wiggle out of that, is there? Well, of course there is. The most blatant recent example occurred in Montreal in 1976 when the Canadian government flagrantly ignored both Olympic custom and law by refusing to allow the Taiwanese team into the Games despite IOC "demands" that they do so.
No, IOC rules are not carved in stone, they are scarcely traced in sand. However, the IOC wants to present the appearance—the illusion—of authority. Thus, after Montreal's deficit, the IOC wrote a clause into Rule Four that said, "The NOC [National Olympic Committee] and the city chosen shall be jointly and severally responsible for all commitments entered into and shall assume complete financial responsibility for the organization of the Games."
This is a sentence grounded almost completely in the theatrics of politics to make it seem that the IOC is taking a tough stand to protect the Olympic credit rating after Montreal. A veteran of Lake Placid's dealings with the IOC over the 1980 Games says that his group had consistently found the committee willing to bend, and often break, its own rules in the face of practical demands. Another veteran observer says, "The rules of the IOC do not, in fact, accurately reflect the real-life manner in which the Games are done."
Unfortunately, despite the progress made by John Argue, real life was not the point in Athens; many IOC members felt they had been insulted by the upstarts from Los Angeles. City Councilman Ronka had been on the phone from Athens back to radio talk shows and the press in Los Angeles, and he issued a constant stream of highly uncomplimentary remarks about the IOC and its policies, at one point labeling the group "archaic and arcane aristocrats and freeloaders." Much of this invective was duly reported to the IOC in Athens.
Thus, when the full membership of the IOC met early one morning to make its final decision on the 1984 Games, Los Angeles was again in trouble. Only the desperate intervention of a few old friends from previous bids—the city has tried to collar the last three Summer Games—managed to save L.A. from being tossed out on the spot. As a way of saving face—and the Games—at least for the time being, the IOC suggested that Los Angeles might want to investigate the possibility of getting an insurance policy that would cover the city in case of any financial losses incurred by the Games. This, of course, bordered on the ludicrous, but it did present at least another soothing illusion that a settlement might be possible. Thus, Lord Killanin announced that Los Angeles was awarded the Games—but only on a conditional basis, and that, local politics and Proposition 13 notwithstanding, a contract would have to be signed accepting some kind of financial responsibility for the Games no later than July 31.
Back in the pressure-cooker atmosphere of Los Angeles, with anti-spending fever rising daily in the intensifying campaign for Proposition 13, local politicians perceived that fierce attacks on the Olympics and the IOC seemed to go down well with voters. Ronka was the first to return from Athens, and he quickly declared to all who would listen that the IOC had "whipsawed," "double-crossed" and "backstabbed" the Los Angeles contingent. Other council members joined the chorus, and City Controller Ira Reiner, known to have ambitions for higher office, announced that he and City Councilman Ernani Bernardi, long a fiscal gadfly and opponent of all manner of spending for the Olympics, were going to launch a campaign to put what amounts to an anti-Olympics referendum on the ballot next spring (the earliest it could be done).
The political winds continued to blow so hard and so hot around this issue that Mayor Bradley finally threw up his hands in early June and named a blue-ribbon citizens' committee to study the situation. "It is no longer the city government's responsibility to resolve this matter," he said. "I want this committee to explore all realistic possibilities for holding the Olympics in Los Angeles without fiscal risk to the city and, for now, I want it removed from all debate in the city council. We have to get the issue outside the atmosphere of city hall, where demagoguery and negativism and transparent political opportunism have made any kind of meaningful debate or decision impossible."