Sunday, April 17, 2005

Higher, Faster, Stronger

For the last several months, the French media have been stridently promoting Paris 2012. Unless one has been living in a vacuum – or is allergic to news organizations and/or sports – one cannot escape being aware that Paris is one of the shortlisted finalists to host the Olympic Games in the Year 2012. A united front is being presented to the world, although, as is quite usual in France, there are dissenters from the prevailing politically correct view. Strangely, too, no Paris 2012 boosters seem overly keen on pointing out the exceptionally heavy reliance on starry-eyed volunteers during the staging of the 1998 World Football Cup - which kept enthusiasm high chez le peuple while keeping running costs artificially low.

At any rate, the other cities remaining in the running for 2012 are London, Madrid, New York and Moscow. The host city of the Games of the XXX Olympiad will be elected at the 117th IOC Session in Singapore on 6 July 2005, when a secret ballot is held among all IOC members.

Observers "in the know" are saying that the IOC Selection Committee is split. Some members allegedly feel that the 2012 games should go to New York. Why ? Simply because the Olympic selection tradition means that – since the political warfare and boycotts in 1980 and 1984, which threw a proverbial monkeywrench into the selection process - the Summer Olympics "must rotate", i.e., they "must never take place on the same continent at too short an interval".

So … there was Rome 1960, Tokyo 1964, Mexico City 1968, Munich 1972, Montreal 1976, Moscow 1980, Los Angeles 1984, Seoul 1988, Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000, and Athens 2004. Forthcoming Summer Games are in Beijing in 2008. Bringing the Summer Games back to Europe after only eight years (Athens -> Paris) wouldn't be "following the tradition", these members assert. So New York would fit the bill nicely … especially since the gap would be not even be twelve but sixteen years insofar as Summer Games in the USA proper are concerned.

Of course, two of the flies in the ointment are the scheduled Winter Games: Turin (2006) and Vancouver (2010). Will the interval between Vancouver 2010 and New York 2012 (on the very same continent, the Americas) be too short ? Perhaps not, given the Athens -> Turin (Europe) precedent. Another mouche is anti-Americanism, currently exacerbated by events in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Some of these same "observers" are even expecting (!) that London, Madrid and Moscow – among other European national committees – will put pressure on for a New York selection if Paris doesn't win outright on the first round of voting. What's the reasoning behind that ? If Paris obtains the 2012 games, then the Summer Games, if the tradition is scrupulously followed, wouldn't be back in Europe before 2024, or 2020 at the exceptional earliest. Dusseldorf and Leipzig are allegedly preparing very serious bids for 2016, as are, one hears, Barcelona and Budapest. Rumors persist of candidacies being readied in Berlin, St. Petersburg and Warsaw. In a nutshell, a number of European venues are hoping to land the 2016 games and a Paris selection would not be to their future advantage.

One other alleged reason for "not Paris" is Third World members' (and some First World countries' national members') enormous loathing of the Paris 2012 logo, which apparently reminds them of the Rainbow Coalition. The words "Gay Games" have supposedly been muttered more than once in the national corridors of Olympic power. This could be a dark horse factor that will upset the Paris applecart.

One should, however, temper all the negativism with a careful look at those who make their living from being spot on as frequently and as far in advance as humanly possible - the British bookmakers.

Ladbrokes, in Britain, is one good place to start:

October, 2004

Paris at 1 to 2
London at 4 to 1
Madrid at 4 to 1
New York at 8 to 1
Moscow at 20 to 1

April, 2005

Paris at 4 to 9
London at 7 to 4
Madrid at 16 to 1
New York at 20 to 1
Moscow at 50 to 1

The IOC Selection Committee has now visited the all the candidate cities. Paris is still the clear favorite – at least in the bookmakers' eyes. Whether or not the members of the Selection Committee feel the same way, of course, is quite another question and one which we spectators will discover the answer to in less than three months.


Text © Copyright 2005 by L'Amerloque


Blogger Lisa said...

Thanks for your insights on this. As a New Yorker living in Paris (although we'll be back in NY long before 2012), I've been following this story avidly. Of course, we've all noticed the gaudy signage all around Paris, but did you know that in NY there is virtually no sign that an Olympic bid is in the works?

I have mixed feelings about hosting the Olympics in my hometown, as do most New Yorkers. What a pain it would be, trying to get on with our daily lives during the Olympic games! (On the other hand, wouldn't it be cool?) I don't have a sense of how Parisians feel about how the Olympics would disrupt their lives.

I'm glad to see you finally have your own blog. I've missed reading your comments chez Jason.

1:41 AM  
Blogger L'Amerloque said...

Hi Lisa !

Thanks for your insights on this.

You're quite welcome !

... but did you know that in NY there is virtually no sign that an Olympic bid is in the works?

No, I didn't know that. Thanks for the info !

I don't have a sense of how Parisians feel about how the Olympics would disrupt their lives.

Some Parisians I know are 100 pour cent pour, while some Parisians I know feel that there would be an awful lot of disruption if Paris were chosen as the Olympic city. There would be quite a bit of "urban renewal" and "public housing" – especially over in the Batignolles, in the 17th arrondissement. Françoise de Panafieu, the députée from the Batignolles area, was pretty negative about the Olympic bid last week, according to reports in the press. A neighborhood association has apparently sprung up to fight the proposed englargement of the Stade Roland-Garros in the Bois de Boulogne, which would be used for the Olympic tennis matches as well as the yearly Paris Tennis Open.

Other Parisians I know are asking themselves what the precise financial consequences would be for the Parisian taxpayer should the Olympics be awarded to Paris. Will City taxes be raised, and, if so, by how much ? The current team at the City Hall is selling off the properties owned by the City at what observers feel is an alarming rate, to obtain ready cash and avoid, justement, upping taxes. What about regional taxes, too ? How much will they rise ?

Finally, other Parisians shudder at the prospect of the 2012 Olympics in Paris. Not so much because of the disruption they will undoubtedly cause to people's daily lives, or because of possibly increased taxes, but simply because of the media. It is April, 2005, and they are already fed up with hearing about Paris 2012 as though it were the major issue facing the French. If Paris wins, that will be seven more years of media blitz. I must admit they have a point. (smile)

I'm glad to see you finally have your own blog. I've missed reading your comments chez Jason.

I've missed his blog, too, and its absence is one of the main reasons I began this. I'm only going to write once a week, though: otherwise it's too much like work !

Glad to have you as a reader and commenter !


9:25 AM  
Blogger PTA Mom said...

I think this Olympic bidding is exciting. I've never lived in a possible host city and Paris is really putting a lot of effort to get the bid. I'm not sure if Paris really needs to host an Olympic games -- after all isn't Paris the most popular tourist destination already??

12:19 PM  
Blogger L'Amerloque said...

Hi Auntie !

I'm not sure if Paris really needs to host an Olympic games -- after all isn't Paris the most popular tourist destination already??

As countries go, France is on top worldwde by number of visitors. Certainly Paris is right up there among the leaders insofar as cities are concerned. I do remember seeing a report last year that questioned the validity of the tourist statistics, pointing out that there apparently was no way to differentiate the tourists coming to France from the tourists just passing through France. There was also a question as to just how the numbers were reached. Apparently some kind of statistical sampling method is used, rather than counting hotel stays or tickets or individuals at passport control or something on that order;

There's no guarantee that hosting the Olympics will increase the number of tourists. In an article ("Greeks Bearing Games") which appeared in its August 18, 2004 issue, The Economist stated:

Though financial disasters like the 1976 Montreal games are now rare, few Olympics manage to turn a profit. The exceptions, like Los Angeles in 1984, do so by not building many new facilities. The Olympics’ supporters argue that, even if they make a loss, the wider boost the games bring is worth it. The evidence for this is shaky. Robert Baade, an economist at Chicago's Lake Forest College, looked at the perceived benefits of a successful Olympics like Sydney and found that they tend to be offset by the number of tourists who stay away. He also concluded that increased economic activity in the host city comes at the rest of the country’s expense. Add in fast-rising security costs and the economics look even wobblier.

Baade was quoted in a politically correct article ("Paris vaut-il une messe olympique ?") which appeared in the French economic magazine L'Expansion on September 1, 2004. The headline: "L'Expansion a enquêté sans tabou sur l'impact de l'organisation des Jeux à Paris en 2012. Résultat : superflu pour la capitale, vital pour sa banlieue." It's on line at (

Finally, a reader this week pointed out an anti-Olympics article written by one or more New Yorkers at


12:55 AM  

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