Thursday
Sep172009

IOC President Rogge: Olympic 2016 Decision Too Close To Call

September 17, 2009: With just two weeks to go until the International Olympic Committee decides which of four bid cities will be selected to host the 2016 Summer Games, IOC President Jacques Rogge said in effect that the race is too close to call.

"The last presentations could sway the decisions of one or two members," Rogge said during a media conference call on Sept. 17. "We will have to wait for the final presentations . . . All being equal between different cities in terms of technicalities, it's the confidence you have in the people who have made the bid and who will be the organizers in staging the games. You give the games to a couple of people, and the charisma of these people is very important."

The four bid cities - Chicago, Tokyo, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro - each will send strategic groups to offer final presentations to the 100-plus IOC members who will vote at a meeting in Copenhagen on Oct. 2. Chicago will be represented by Michelle Obama among others. Rogge said the fact that President Obama could not attend would not affect the voting.

"[President Obama] explained to me the current political situation in Washington did not allow him to participate in the bid in Copenhagen," Rogge said regarding a recent telephone conversation he had with the President. "President Obama expressed in a very clear way his very strong support for Chicago, and you know how charismatic he is when he wants to express the love for his city. He was very clear to say he's totally behind the bid and will remain behind the organization should Chicago get the games."

Rogge said that although the IOC is "very honored by the presence of dignitaries, heads of state, heads of government, [which] is also reassurance that public authorities are behind the bid and will be supportive . . . However, this is absolutely not a requirement of the IOC. If they come, we're glad they come, we're honored, but we don't want them to come [at the cost of other pressing issues]."

Regarding recent situations that may have hurt Chicago's chances, including the U.S. Olympic Committee's push to form a 24/7 Olympic network (which has been put on hold) and revenue sharing conflicts between the IOC and the USOC, Rogge stressed, "I think it will have no negative effect whatsoever. These two things are out of the discussion now, so I don't expect a negative aspect."

"I think the majority of members will vote on the fundamentals," Rogge said. "Is it a good organization, do we trust the people, are the venues OK, is the transportation OK? We want to make sure it's awarded to a city that not only has a very good bid file, but also . . . big support of the local population." 

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