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Bob Scott, 46, is a bearlike charmer of a man, a theater impresario who runs two houses in Manchester and has come to serve as the chairman of the Manchester Olympic Bid Commission in the same way he does everything else in his life—with exuberant enthusiasm and high-spirited theories about what's really going on. "I find this bid is like a 1930s film," he says. "I'm an outsider approaching a lit mansion. Inside there's a party. It's a Busby Berkeley musical filled with exotic people dancing—the members of the IOC. I walk in wearing a trench coat, like Humphrey Bogart. And I have two years to get to know each one of those people."
Scott was in Seoul for the 1988 Olympics, when the lowliest underdog, Lillehammer, Norway, won the right to be host city to the 1994 Winter Olympics. Scott says, "I, like everyone else, was thunderstruck. The first thing I did when I got back to Manchester was to call the people from Lillehammer and make an appointment to talk to them. I spent two days there. I'm the only city that did that. That's amazing to me. They confirmed some things for me: Timing is critical. And if you peak too soon or too late—if IOC members visit so early they forget you or so late they have already made up their minds—you're dead."
Scott does not believe outright bribery of IOC members is—or ever has been—a serious factor in getting votes. "It's a world where people are tremendously polite to each other. It's a present-giving world. I've collected cabinets of the stuff. The idea that the system is corrupt is absurd. The killer of the bribery scenario is that it's a secret vote. Why should a gift make any difference?"
Scott is careful to build IOC members' visits around England's great sporting events—Wimbledon, the FA Cup, the British Open and the Henley Regatta, the last of which IOC members adore, because the Olympic Code is based on the rules of Henley. But Manchester's shortcomings are almost too overwhelming even for a man of Scott's optimism and vitality. Among other things, there is a great shortage of hotel rooms, British hooliganism frightens everyone, and Manchester has 17 of 34 venues still to build. Ever candid, Scott says, "We're uncharismatic. That's why it's very important for us to get members to come. Our real strategy is to be everybody's second favorite." Manchester has spent $9 million toward that end.
Paul Henderson, an aggressive, stocky, shaved-headed engineer who likes to call himself "a simple plumber," has run the Toronto bid with a monkey-wrench grip since 1986; he's a one-man gang who comes on with a raw pragmatism that some of the gentler IOC souls find abrasive. He says flatly, "The IOC has to come to this part of the world because of the money available for television rights. It cannot afford to stay away from this market. The 1992 Games are in Barcelona, the 2000 Games could be in Beijing or a unified Berlin. To miss this time zone in 1996 means going from 1984 in L.A. to at least 2004 without having the Olympics in North American prime time."
Henderson, like Payne, believes that heavy IOC visitation is the key to success. He pitches the cosmopolitan quality of his city ("I'm sure we have the only restaurant in North America that specializes in the cuisine of Somalia"); escorts visitors to the SkyDome, where their names appear on the world's largest scoreboard; and takes them out sailing in his boat (he is a former Olympic yachtsman) on Lake Ontario or on blimp rides over the city. Toronto's bid budget is $12 million.
Henderson's most serious problem is public dissent over the hosting of the Olympics. Many of Toronto's civic groups have banded together under the banner BREAD NOT CIRCUSES to protest the idea of having a billion-dollar Olympic party while 80,000 people in Toronto line up each month for food handouts. Polls show the Olympics have about 70% support from the public, but an aura of protest—however limited it may be—generally is anathema to the IOC.
The slogan here is Time for Another Continent. The only instance of the Games being held in the southern hemisphere was the Melbourne Olympics of 1956, and the general feeling Down Under is that Melbourne should have the inside track for '96 unless the IOC gets caught up in a great wave of emotion for Athens. John Landy, the former world-record holder in the mile and the chief of technical affairs for the Melbourne Olympic Candidature, says, "Some of [the IOC members] probably made up their minds 20 years ago to vote for Athens. But we have some tradition going, too. It was in Melbourne that the Olympic closing ceremony was invented."