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Inside Olympics

July 16, 2001
July 16, 2001

Table of Contents
July 16, 2001

Inside Olympics

Vote for Me!
The IOC is set to choose a host for 2008 and a new president

This is an article from the July 16, 2001 issue Original Layout

On July 13, at the International Olympic Committee session in
Moscow, the IOC's 122 members will pick the host city for the
2008 Summer Games. Three days later they will choose the
successor to Juan Antonio Samaranch, who at age 81 is stepping
down after 21 years as IOC president. In both elections the
candidate receiving the fewest votes in a given round will be
eliminated and another vote taken until a candidate receives a
majority. Here's a handicapping of both races, starting with the
one among the five finalists for 2008.

Favorite

Beijing. After losing to Sydney by two votes on its first try to
host a Summer Games eight years ago, Beijing returns with a bid
bolstered by strong public support in China, financial guarantees
from the government and the feeling among many IOC members that
the world's largest nation deserves to host the Olympics. In what
the country's national news agency called "one of the largest
construction projects in China since the Great Wall," the
government is prepared to spend $20 billion to build a light rail
system in Beijing and expand the city's 134 miles of expressways
to 435 miles by 2008. "The big issue is whether we're ready to go
to China," says IOC presidential candidate Richard Pound,
alluding to the politically charged issue of China's human rights
record. Expect the IOC to close its eyes, cringe at the thought
of another Tiananmen Square and take the chance.

Contenders

Toronto. The city with the most impressive bid unfortunately also
has a penchant for shooting itself in the foot. The aquatics
center would seat a combined 40,000 spectators in separate
swimming and diving halls, 25 of the 28 venues would be within a
3.5-mile radius and 10% of all tickets would be earmarked for
children. Yet last August, Canada turned down visa requests by
competitors from Belarus, Bulgaria and Russia shortly before the
world marathon canoe championships in Nova Scotia. In March, 11
members of the IOC's site evaluation commission were trapped for
80 minutes in an elevator in a Toronto hotel. Finally, last
month, before traveling to Mombasa, Kenya, to lobby African IOC
delegates, Toronto mayor Mel Lastman told the Toronto Star, "What
the hell do I want to go to a place like Mombasa [for]?... I see
myself in a pot of boiling water with all those natives dancing
around me."

Paris. Plans to hold beach volleyball at the base of the Eiffel
Tower and equestrian show jumping in front of the gold-domed
Invalides chapel underscore the bid's romantic appeal. The
80,000-seat Stade de France, site of the 1998 World Cup final,
would serve as the main stadium. Existing public housing would be
converted to an Olympic Village that would be within a
five-minute drive of competition sites for more than half the
Games' athletes. IOC members who plan to vote for favorite
Jacques Rogge of Belgium as the next IOC president, however, may
not want to choose a European host city as well, especially with
Games already scheduled for Athens in 2004 and Turin in 2006.
What's more, Claude Bebear, the businessman who runs the Paris
bid committee, was implicated in a money-laundering scandal in
June, though he has denied any wrongdoing.

Long Shots

Osaka. The bid would entail building an athletes' village, a
press center and six major sports venues on three man-made
islands in Osaka Bay. The IOC fears traffic jams and costs that
might exceed the projected $3.5 billion. Poor attendance at the
East Asian Games in May confirmed the city's reputation for
sporting apathy.

Istanbul. Pick your concern: air pollution, terrorism, traffic or
the unstable Turkish lira, which lost a third of its value in
March. Look for the three-time bidder to be the first city
eliminated.

Presidential Vote
Who Will Be The Juan?

At stake in the presidential race is not only an eight-year term
as IOC boss, renewable once for four years, but also the chance
to shape the 21st century Games.

Favorite

Jacques Rogge, 59, Belgium. An orthopedic surgeon and three-time
Olympic yachtsman who speaks five languages, Rogge is viewed as
Samaranch's preferred candidate. Supporters like his spotless
record and statesmanship. Critics fear his indecisiveness and
point to his struggle, as chairman of the commission overseeing
the 2004 Athens Games, to whip Greek organizers into shape. Rogge
believes an African city should soon host the Olympics and says
he wants to shrink the Games to make hosting them less expensive,
thereby courting votes from both Africa and Latin America. He is
also the head of the association of national Olympic committees
of Europe, the continent that has produced seven of the IOC's
eight presidents and casts 58 of the 122 votes.

Contenders

Un Yong Kim, 70, South Korea. The politically savvy head of the
World Taekwondo Federation and a former operative in South
Korea's CIA, Kim lost Samaranch's support last April when he
opposed a Samaranch-backed ban on IOC-member visits to bid
cities. In 1999 Kim received a "most serious warning" from IOC
after his son, John Kim, was indicted in the U.S. for allegedly
trading his father's vote in the 2002 site selection for a job
arranged by Salt Lake City organizers. (Both father and son have
denied any wrongdoing.) A Kim victory could spook corporate
sponsors, but he will get votes from sports-federation heads and
from Eastern Europe. He donates money to Olympic Solidarity, an
organization that directs sports aid to developing nations, many
of whose members are expected to support him.

Richard Pound, 59, Canada. The former IOC vice president, a
Montreal tax lawyer and former Olympic swimmer, is the
straightest shooter of the candidates. He negotiated most of the
IOC's TV and sponsorship deals and is chairman of the World
Anti-Doping Agency. Pound has strong support from the IOC's 15
athlete members, but he has offended colleagues with his
bluntness and his actions as chairman of the commission that
expelled 10 IOC members in conjunction with the Salt Lake City
bribery scandal. Kim says that in March he and Pound, an old
nemesis, "reached an understanding"--interpreted by observers to
mean that whichever of the two drops out of the voting first will
urge his supporters to back the other in an attempt to defeat
Rogge.

Long Shots

Anita Defrantz, 48, U.S. A tireless advocate for athletes'
rights, the former Olympic rower ascended to IOC vice president,
becoming the highest ranking African-American and woman in
international sports. Many committee members, however, find the
Los Angeles attorney aloof and are uncertain of what she stands
for. Her candidacy will also be hurt by anti-American fallout
from the Salt Lake City scandal and the poorly run Atlanta Games.

Pal Schmitt, 59, Hungary. The only gold medalist among the
candidates, he was Hungary's ambassador to Spain and Switzerland
after retiring from fencing. Schmitt's platform of rotating the
Games among continents will cost him the few anti-Rogge votes
available in Western Europe. He'll be eliminated quickly.

COLOR PHOTO: GUANG NIU/REUTERS Despite China's questionable human rights record, Beijing has a leg up on the rest of the field.COLOR PHOTO: PETER JONES/REUTERS (MOSES) An altitude tent has Moses breathing deep. COLOR PHOTO: AP Sludnov swims the 100 in less than a minute.