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Well, there is tradition and there is tradition. Max Roger, the Melbourne candidature's CEO, faces a far more skeptical press than does Payne. The Sunday Age rates Melbourne as an 8-1 shot, with Toronto and Athens at 3-1 and Atlanta the favorite at 2-1.
When the first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens, from April 6 to April 15, 1896, 285 participants from 13 countries competed. In the lobby of the Hotel Princesa Sofia in Barcelona early in June, about that many participants from the six bidding cities were milling about trying to buttonhole IOC voters. The occasion was a meeting of national Olympic committees. There were only about 50 members of the IOC on hand.
"I feel like I'm part of a piranha pack," said Young. Then, asked to compare the IOC with other political bodies he has known, he said, "It is like the UN to some extent, because there are 73 nations represented. But then it isn't like the UN. In the UN, you could always use the national politics of a delegate to give you some clue about his vote. In the IOC, national politics mean almost nothing. Also, there isn't any real bloc voting you can depend on, either.
"The Soviet bloc is gone. People are rooted in their cultures, of course, and in that sense they vote as representatives of nations. In the UN, you could predict votes and sometimes be right. Here? I have no idea at all."
He paused, thought, then chuckled to himself and said, "This is more akin to electing a pope than anything. You just have to go after cardinal by cardinal, one by one, until you get a majority. And there is no knowing, until the white puff of smoke shows up."
And so it went for four days in Barcelona. Cardinal by cardinal. One by one. Every handshake, every wink, every whisper could be read as a plus or a minus in the voting to come. Only late on the afternoon of the last day did a rumor of real substance sweep the lobby of the Princesa Sofia: The IOC evaluation commission had completed rigorous investigative visits to all six cities and had delivered its report to IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch. And for the first time ever, the rumor went, the commission had rated the bids in order of their competence. Samaranch, it was said, had been furious at this breach of neutrality by an official IOC group and, according to the rumor, had ordered all copies of the report to be shredded.
But he had kept one copy for himself, and....
A few weeks later word spread that the commission has lumped together Athens, Belgrade and Manchester as much less qualified than the other three cities. And of the top three, the order of the commission's preference was 3) Toronto, 2) Melbourne and 1) Atlanta.