Chances grow of two-for-one Summer Games (2024-28) deal

IOC President Thomas Bach (dais, left) and communications director Mark Adams at a Friday press conference in Pyeongchang, South Korea.  (IOC / Greg Martin.)

IOC President Thomas Bach (dais, left) and communications director Mark Adams at a Friday press conference in Pyeongchang, South Korea.  (IOC / Greg Martin.)

The chances have increased substantially for the hosts of both the 2024 and 2028 Summer Olympics to be named at the same time this September.

That was the takeaway both from an action the International Olympic Committee executive board took Friday and also the statements IOC President Thomas Bach made in a press conference after the meeting at the site of the 2018 Winter Olympics, Pyeongchang, South Korea.

In his first public comments directly on the possibility of a joint award to Los Angeles and Paris, the 2024 candidates, Bach made it clear the IOC would do well “to exploit a positive situation” of having “two excellent candidates from two major Olympic countries.”

The next step, which Bach said was approved unanimously by the IOC executive board, is turning the idea over to a working group chaired by the four IOC vice-presidents, with a report due at the 2024 Candidate City Briefing July 11-12 in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The IOC members are scheduled to vote only on 2024 at their September meeting in Lima, Peru.

While three of the four VPs expressed either reservations or opposition about the idea to an Inside the Games reporter last month, it is unlikely Bach would be moving forward without knowing there is support for a double-decision plan he has stopped just short of publicly endorsing.

Both Los Angeles and Paris officials have said they are focusing solely on 2024.

"While the IOC has established a working group to consider its options, the bid process remains unchanged, and we will continue to focus on why Los Angeles is the right partner for the 2024 Games." L.A. 2024 spokesman Jeff Millman said in a Friday email.

“Paris 2024 acknowledges the IOC statement today about the Olympic Games bid process," a Paris 2024 spokesman said in a Friday email.  "This is a matter for the IOC, and Paris 2024 is not in a position to comment further on this specific matter.

"Our bid is moving forward very well, and we are totally focused on the remaining months of the campaign. Our only objective is to win the right to host the Games in 2024.”

Asked if L.A. and Paris have been or will be consulted, Bach said that would be up to the working group.  Of course, it is almost certain the idea has been broached in private discussions between the IOC and the cities.  The most logical scenario would seem to be a 2024 Games in Paris to celebrate the centennial of its last Olympic host role and the 2028 Games in L.A.

At a time when far more cities, especially in the west, have dropped bids to be a summer of winter Games host than have pursued them, Bach knows that it would be foolhardy to leave cities like Los Angeles and Paris out in the cold.

This is the first time since the bidding for the 1988 Summer Games that there have been just two final candidates for a Summer Olympics.  Three cities who filed applications for 2024 left the race: Hamburg and Budapest because of public opposition; Rome because the mayor did not support it.  And Boston, the initial U.S. candidate, also withdrew because of public opposition.

Bach alluded indirectly to those changes of heart when he cited global circumstances as factors in the 2024 – 2028 discussion.

“We have an opportunity,” he said.  “Two excellent candidates from two major Olympic countries.  “This is the position you like to be in.

“Even more so, if you look at the world at this moment where you see a lot of instability, fragility, uncertainty. . . with this, we are in a comfortable situation.”

Comfortable, because both L.A. and Paris are appealing cities with bid plans that make extensive use of existing facilities and seem relatively certain not to turn into billion-dollar boondoggles like Beijing, London and Sochi, even if Paris has more risk in its project related to building the Olympic Village (Los Angeles wisely changed its mind on such an idea, deciding to use dorm rooms at UCLA.)

At a time when self-inflicted discomfort on many other fronts – doping, Russia, conflicts of interest – is a major problem for the IOC, it would be silly not to seize the opportunity presented by L.A. and Paris for two primary reasons:

1.  It would bring the Games back to the west at least twice after three straight Games in Asia - Pyeongchang, Tokyo (2020 Summer) and Beijing (2022 Winter.)  “Which already is a message,” Bach said, although he did not elaborate on the exact meaning of the message, nor was he asked about it by reporters.

2.  It would give the IOC breathing room to make a much better analysis of how the Olympics can look in the future, with an eye on keeping down costs, than the rushed, nothing-but-hot-air Olympic Agenda 2020.  Both South Korea and Tokyo are struggling with Olympic budgets; Beijing, capital of an authoritarian country, will spend whatever it wants, as the country did ($40 billion) for the 2008 Summer Games.

Sure, some cities thinking of bids for 2028 might grouse about not getting the chance.  But the only significant downside in the idea of a joint decision is how much could happen locally, nationally or globally in the 11 years before 2028.  Yet even a seven-year gap does not preclude political upheaval, acts of God, or terrorist attacks, all of which have befallen recent host cities.