Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Congratulations Sochi - Bring On The 2016 Bidders

Before I get too critical, I want to congratulate Sochi, Russia for their victory in the 2014 Olympic Winter Bid race. They set a goal, worked hard towards it, and deserved to win. They gave the IOC exactly want they want (and not what they say they want). That brings me to my point.

The IOC and their Executive Committee keep insisting that they want future Olympic Games to include less "white elephants" and have less risk by reusing existing venues or making temporary venues. They say that they want to keep costs down to make the Games more accessible by more countries. That's what they say.

Then they vote today for the 2014 host and immediately reject Salzburg, the one city who offered this.

Then, they elect Sochi, the bid spending the most money with the biggest risk.

Well, the 2014 bid is over - take note 2016 bidders, now you know the score.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Medal Round of the Toughest Olympic Sport


The 2014 Olympic Winter bid committees have spent over two years developing their bids and running first domestic, then international campaigns. They’ve logged hundreds of thousands of travel miles, shaked thousands of hands and made hundreds of presentations.

But now it starts again.

Over the past two years they have just produced a foundation upon which to campaign during the final two days of the bid.

Voting International Olympic Committee members who have already made up their minds can still be swayed. Undecided members are potential trophies for the bid marketers. The press and other media still need to be nagged in order to publish compelling reasons why one city is better than another in hopes that an IOC member might happen to see the piece and make a decision while drinking his election morning coffee.

Then at the final turn on the final day – the bid presentations can be the deciding factor. Is there one element that appeals to one IOC member that she hasn’t been aware of before? Will it capture her vote?

That’s what it all comes down to. This entire race could be decided by a single vote. With only 97 eligible first-round voters in Guatemala, the only thing certain is this race will be close.

Last time around with more eligible voters, PyeongChang missed clinching the first ballot by only three votes then fell two votes short on the final round against Vancouver – and PyeongChang was not considered a contender. For the 2012 Olympic bid Paris was only two votes shy of creating a final round tie with London.

It’s all still up for grabs.

At the end nobody will know what put the winning bid over the top. Perhaps it was a firm handshake with an Olympic gold medalist. Maybe it was a kind word from a national leader. Possibly it was a vote swapping deal with a supporter of a 2016 bid – or one from 2012. Or perhaps an image in a final presentation struck the right emotional chord of a voter.

Most likely, it will be a combination of several of this elements occurring during the final two days in Guatemala. That’s why the bids are pulling out the stops, sometimes driven by momentum, other times by frustration.

At the end the first gold medal of the 2014 Games will be awarded in what has become the most competitive Olympic sport.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Why We Should Love The New London 2012 Logo


I'll admit it, I was very tempted to write yet another "that new London 2012 logo is horrible" blog. It would be so easy.

Then, since it has already been done to death, I figured I would skip it altogether - especially since it isn't even Olympic BID related which is the main focus of this blog.

But why should I miss out on all of the fun? I've approached it from a new angle.

Here is my top 10 list of why we should love the new London 2012 logo.

10. If you sign the "Keep The London 2012 Olympic Logo" petition, people will actually see your name from among the sparse few who have added their names. Try finding your name in the OTHER petition with over 40,000 names.

9. The new Simpson's movie is now a must see! I'm sure the creators are doing a last minute edit of the final print in order to include some crude reference to the London 2012 Olympics.

8. Just when you thought William Hill ran out of things to open a book on - now we can wager on a brand and get 5-1 odds that it will be scrapped before the end of the year.

7. Since the logo is offered in several different colours, it will be easier to coordinate it with your new summer wardrobe.

6. The "everyone" theme really comes through since everyone will be able to draw the logo.

5. Most people can enjoy it without fear of hospitalization.

4. If you stare at it for several minutes, it doesn't change.

3. If you stare at it for a few years it will very gradually change into something different (without the big teaser campaign, and hopefully without anyone noticing).

2. Finally, we'll get some use out of the magenta ink cartridges in our printers.

And the number one reason why we should love the new London 2012 Olympic logo...

1. It's so much fun jumping on the bandwagon to hate it!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Interpreting The 2014 Olympic Bid Evaluation Report


Today the IOC released the 2014 Olympic bid evaluation report - an 84-page document outlining the details of each of the three bids gleaned from the bid books and site evaluation visits.

Shortly after its release, news reports rolled out giving various opinions of "who's in the lead".

My first comment is: most IOC members don't read the evaluation report. Those who do read it will still cast secret ballots on election day and vote according to their own motives, agendas and interests. Unless the report documents a severe lack of qualifications for a bid, it will have very little impact.

However, in an ironic twist, the media's reaction to such reports could have an impact if the IOC member is easily suggestible.

Some reports, such as this piece from Reuters, have put Salzburg and PyeongChang ahead of Sochi based on some wording in the "concept" section of the evaluation report. While Sochi's concept was described as "very good" the other two bids were said to have "excellent" concepts. But the bid's concept is only a small portion of the overall plan. In the IOC Candidature guide the concept refers only to strategies and vision for the Games, such as venue layouts and plans.

In the past the IOC published an final overall opinion in the report that would refer to a bid's ability to organize the Games - terms such as excellent, good and very good could be used to differentiate the bids. But this method is no longer used and it seems some reporters have erroneously misdirected this qualitative tool.

This CNN International report seems to draw the same conclusion as above.

Bloomberg reports that PyeongChang had the best evaluation due to lack of criticizm in the report. This is from more of an overall perspective and likely a lot more valid.

From my perspective, Salzburg seemed the weakest out of this report. The bid was criticized more frequently and more harshly than the other two bids including the almost unnecessary comment that "presentations lacked detail". It almost seems the IOC was trying to make a point.

Other more critical comments were notes on the lack of various guarantees required by the IOC and below-minimum accomodation standards as well as a possibly insufficient budget and underestimated security requirements. Perhaps the most damaging information about Salzburg was the low 42% public support received by the bid in an IOC poll. These are not minor items.

While the IOC is legitimately concerned with Sochi's mammoth construction plans, there were few other significant deficiencies mentioned - and their concept was only "very good".

PyeongChang seemed to come out of this process the most unscathed. The only real criticizm seemed to be a venue with too many seats, something that could easily be resolved. With the top public support numbers in the IOC poll and general praise throughout, it seems the Evaluation Commission has made its subliminal choice.

But "winners" of evaluation reports don't always win the bid. Over 100 IOC members vote on election day and they really don't care what the Evaluation Commission thinks.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

June 4 Is a Busy Day For Future Olympics

I won't get much rest tomorrow. I'm not sure who sets schedules at the IOC but someone missed a conflict.

I'll be in North America but I'll be working on European time as the focus of future Olympic Games will be on London, Lausanne and Paris.

First in Lausanne, Switzerland the evaluation report for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games bids will be released to the bidders at 8:30am local time and then released to the rest of the world at 9:00am. Shortly after that in Paris, the Sochi bid committee will hold a press conference about their results.

The release of this report autuomatically occurs 1 month prior to the bid election that has long been scheduled for July 4.

Then, at 11:00am local time in London, the organizing committee for the 2012 Olympics will release their new brand and logo on the Internet - then they will "officially" release it at 11:40am at Roundhouse in London. This is typically a huge event of much significance - the new brand will arguably become one of the most recognizable symbols in the world.

With the tight 2014 Olympic bid race possibly hinging on the content of the evaluation report and the release of a new logo and slogan for the 2012 Olympic Games, the look of an entire quadrennial of Olympic Games could be shaped within 180 minutes Monday morning in Europe.

It's kind of a big day.

GamesBids.com will be among the first to publish the 2014 evaluation report and display the new London 2012 logo online. We'll have some exclusive interviews and comments so be sure to drop by.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Commonwealth Games Association of Canada CEO Lashes Out at Criticism Over Halifax's Demise

Shortly after the collapse of Halifax's bid for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, I used my monthly column in the SportDecision newsletter to discuss some frustrations that some of my readers and colleagues had about how the Commonwealth Games Association of Canada (CGC) handled the situation and the overall bid process. The collapse was a major failure that could have a lasting impact on amateur sports in Canada and potentially future large-scale bids, and it was time to take a hard look at what went wrong and how it can be corrected for the future.

Yesterday, SportDecision published an official response to my piece from CEO Thomas Jones of the CGC. While a response to such a critical piece is both expected and welcome, I was disappointed with the quality of the letter that seemed desperately defensive and lacking of any relevant answers that would support his argument. His unfounded shots at my credibility come even as he admits that the CGC is "acknowledging its shortcomings, and taking decisive steps to apply the lessons learned going forward" - almost identical to my conclusion that the "CGC will quickly determine where they went wrong and initiate the change required."

While Mr. Jones' letter seems in its entirety to be an attack on my credibility - I have indeed never met or spoken to this man, or even exchanged emails. His comments and suggestions about what I have or have not considered and whether I have made certain assumptions or not, put his premise in a vulnerable position.

Please read my original piece and the official CGC response letter below and then continue to read what I believe to be the key unanswered questions.


CGAC to Blame for Halifax Failure

Find the comments and analysis of Robert Livingstone from GamesBids.com about major sports bids every month in SportDecision.

March 2007 - “Here is where it all begins” has become an ironic epitaph that can now be found when surfing the Web site of Halifax ’s failed 2014 Commonwealth Games bid; below it is a letter from bid CEO Scott Logan that explains his organization’s withdrawal, but fails to answer many key questions.

The phrase, meant to be an inspirational message designed to bring athletes and facilities to Nova Scotia, can now be used to indicate the starting point of certain reform within Commonwealth Games Canada (CGC). The bid’s failure has exposed many weaknesses with Canada’s participation in the Commonwealth Games bid process, most clearly the failure of CGC to recognize the rapid growth of the Games, its demands and the national association’s responsibility to become integrally involved in the process from start to end.

Even within the last few years, the Games have grown to a much larger scale with more athletes and more sports; costs for security and transportation have increased and the emphasis on sustaining the environment has added additional overhead to preparations. As a result, hosting the Games has moved beyond the financial reach of most Canadian cities, obviously including Halifax.

Sadly, Halifax’s three domestic competitors had access to more financial resources and would have still been in the race today if they had been chosen instead. York Region (part of the Greater Toronto Area and a bid that would likely have gone on to be known as Toronto 2014), Ottawa and Hamilton all have a greater population base and would have been supported by the province of Ontario. The previous two Commonwealth Games were held in Manchester, U.K. and Melbourne, Australia and had access to huge populations. Similarly, the next instalment in 2010 will be held in New Delhi, India.

Unfortunately when bids are conceived, they are often driven by the dreams of municipal leaders who don’t have the experience and understanding of what is required – or they simply get bad advice and lack the initial resources to make the right decisions. This seems to have been the case with Halifax’s bid and a start-up team that grossly underestimated what was required until skilled resources were brought on board to shed some light. But by then, it was too late.

It is CGC’s responsibility to provide the initial resources required to assess and qualify a bid – then to nurture and deliver the selected Canadian bid to the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF). It seems they failed on both accounts and at the end they must take full responsibility for that failure.

The CGC will quickly determine where they went wrong and initiate the change required, but unfortunately they must wait another four years for the opportunity to bid again. Don’t expect the CGF to automatically send the 2018 Games to Canada though. This opportunity is now gone and Canada is owed nothing.


Robert Livingstone,
Producer GamesBids.com





Commonwealth Games of Canada Response

May 2007 - Commonwealth Games Association of Canada (CGC) asked SportDecision for the right to respond to the recent article CGAC to Blame for Halifax Failure from Robert Livingstone – GamesBids.com . Here is the official answer from Thomas Jones, CEO, CGC :

To Alain Hotzau - SportDecision Editor:

A column in your April newsletter may have left readers with an inaccurate and unbalanced view of Canada’s Bid for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. While the author, Robert Livingstone of Gamesbids.com, is entitled to his opinion, his conclusions, in many cases, are based on factual errors and flimsy speculation.

Firstly, Mr. Livingstone pins most of the blame for the failed bid on the Commonwealth Games Association of Canada (CGC). There can be no doubt that CGC must accept its share of the responsibility for the demise of the Halifax 2014 bid – and we have publicly done so on numerous occasions.

But it is na├»ve – to put it mildly – to suggest that one organization should be held exclusively accountable for an initiative that was enormously complex, politically-charged, and highly competitive.

Mr. Livingstone demonstrates an obvious lack of understanding when he suggests that CGC had not been “integrally involved in the process from start to end.” To the contrary, CGC was fully engaged every step of the way, from the domestic selection process – which was more rigorous and transparent than ever before – through every stage of the international bid until funding was abruptly cut off in early March.

We enjoyed a respectful and highly productive working relationship with colleagues at the Halifax 2014 Bid Society and we collaborated on virtually every aspect of the bid competition. In fact, CGC has built excellent working relationships with virtually every key stakeholder – from the Commonwealth Games Federation, to national sport organizations across Canada, to the 70 Commonwealth Games Associations around the world.

To add insult to injury, Mr. Livingstone echoes a regrettable, but common misconception – that cities the size of Halifax are somehow too small to stage an event like the Commonwealth Games. If he had taken the time to review the detailed bid documents released in March by the Bid Society (and posted on the Web site), he would have quickly realized that, to the contrary, Halifax would have been an ideal location for the Games.

In fact, by winning the right to host the 2014 Games, Halifax could have created opportunities for other, similarly-sized Commonwealth cities to benefit from staging this major international event.

He also failed to acknowledge the results of an economic impact report, commissioned by the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM), that concluded the Games would produce $2.4 billion in economic activity across Nova Scotia, generating $750 million in household income, and creating almost 18,000 jobs.

When all is said and done, the demise of the Halifax Bid is a great disappointment for anyone with an interest in building Canada’s sport system, providing desperately-needed facilities for summer sport athletes, and leaving a lasting legacy for Atlantic Canada.

Sadly, Canada has missed an opportunity that may not surface again for many years. Yes, CGC is taking a hard look at its role, acknowledging its shortcomings, and taking decisive steps to apply the lessons learned going forward.

One of our biggest challenges is to address the many misconceptions that linger in the aftermath of the bid’s demise. It has been a difficult task, particularly since some observers, like Mr. Livingstone, have chosen to accept the superficial, simplistic conclusions of Bid critics, rather than seeking out a more balanced and factual interpretation.

I trust that your readers are more interested in the latter.

Sincerely,
Thomas Jones
Chief Executive Officer
Commonwealth Games Association of Canada



In his letter, Thomas Jones claims that the CGC was "engaged every step of the way" in a process that was "more rigorous and transparent than before". If so, since the CGC is ultimately responsible for the Commonwealth Games brand in Canada - they must accept full responsibility for what happens with the bid. He denies this because it is "naive ... that one organization should be held exclusively accountable for an initiative that was enormously complex, politically charged and highly competitive." Wow - I guess that it would also be naive to believe that they were ready to run an organizing committee to host the Commonwealth Games.

Shortly before the Canadian bids for nomination were finalized, Calgary pulled out of the race when they concluded the costs were too high and that federal funding was questionable. When a relatively large, rich city that has solid sports bidding and hosting experience ('88 Olympic Winter Games) comes to this conclusion, you’d think the CGC might take note, and properly advise other bidders to take a hard look. Apparently they didn’t because it took Halifax several more months and they came to this same conclusion.

As a partner in the process, the CGC should have understood that in the early stages bid committees don't fully comprehend the bidding process and the scope and costs of the Commonwealth Games. This is where and when the CGC should get involved, especially at the domestic bid level. They are entrusting one group with the CGC franchise so they must do proper due diligence before they make any selection.

But perhaps the CGC doesn't have the proper experience on board. Mr. Jones continues to insist that it is a "common misconception" to believe that small cities will have difficulties staging the Commonwealth Games. Then he references the bid documents to back up his claim.

Mr. Jones, isn't the budget that caused doubt among stakeholders among those same bid documents?

Those familiar with the bidding process know that the Commonwealth Games are growing rapidly and thus have growing infrastructure and venue demands. Recent bid winners such as Manchester, Melbourne and Delhi have show the increased tendency for the Games to be contended in larger cities. The scope of the Games have increased by the numbers of countries, atheletes and sports contended. There have been increased requirements for technology, security and transportation. Costs have skyrocketed.

I'm not doubting that had they won the bid, Halifax would have done a good job hosting the Games. But in reality, that's only a small part of tendering and winning a bid.

The conclusion I've drawn is that the CGC made a poor choice when they elected Halifax for their national nomination. Indeed, myself and many others were confused with this choice when it was originally made. Whether it was fueled by politics, marketing or misinformation - the CGC made that choice.

While the subsequent events might have been out of their control, the CGC must now realize that they need to be more involved and properly vet the validity of bids before their nomination.

So instead of attacking my credibility Mr. Jones - why not come up with a constructive response that explains why Halifax was chosen; how the CGC did their due diligence before the selection; and why the CGC shouldn't be fully accountable for their choice?

Friday, April 13, 2007

USOC Set To Pick 2016 Olympic Bidder

Saturday, the United States Olympic Committee will choose their 2016 Olympic bid candidate from Chicago or Los Angeles.

They say they that processes are in place to make the competition constructive, credible and fair. They say that they will watch presentations, look at scores from several technical categories and then vote for the best bid. That's what they say.

Unfortunately since San Francisco is no longer in the running after being forced to withdraw from the competition when stadium plans fell apart - the USOC won't be able to correct their error from 2002, when they selected New York to represent the United States for the 2012 bid. Back then, selection committee chair Charles Moore surprised the electorate with a controversial last minute twist - he told them to disregard San Francisco's biggest strength - a large project surplus. New York won.

Although the USOC later vowed to "reform" the process - now that we're approaching election hour there doesn't seem to be much change for the better. The media are being kept away from key last minute presentations and meetings even though the International Olympic Committee allows full exposure of these events in the "real" 2016 election. You could argue that the USOC wants to keep the secrets of its winning bid under wraps to maintain a competitive advantage over their international competitors; or you could conclude that they don't want the general public second-guessing their decision. Maybe it's a bit of both.

I want to see the presentations because I want to know how Los Angeles will convince anyone that they deserve to host for the 3rd time. Yes, London just recently won the rights to host for a 3rd time - but the last time was in 1948 when they were the only viable post-war option. Los Angeles hosted only 23 years ago, recently enough for many Olympic fans to clearly recall.

If they win the domestic bid, the question will come up over and over - "why a 3rd time?"

It will become annoying and tiresome for the bid committee to answer. And its something that can't be fixed and won't go away. Los Angeles will need a good answer.

For that reason, Chicago should win. They have two years to market their bid and resolve any issues. Chicago's bid is a fresh, new concept - a clean palette on which to paint a potential winner. There is no baggage.

But it doesn't matter what I think. Tomorrow the USOC will figure out a way to make a decision and then they'll tell the world. Then the world will ask, "why a third time"?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Halifax's Scrapped Commonwealth Games Bid Another Canadian Failure


As I write this, the news of Halifax's scrapping of their bid to host the 2014 Commonwealth Games is very fresh, but the implications are already huge.

I can already feel the anger resonating from Hamilton, Ottawa and Toronto area York Region who were defeated by Halifax as the choice to represent Canada in this bid. The reaction is justified as the three rejected bids were all viable and potentially formidable foes to Glasgow and Abuja - the remaining two cities who will now fight for the hosting privilege. It is now too late for the Canadian Commonwealth Games Committee to submit a new candidate for 2014, a year widely believed to be Canada's turn to host the Games.

This turn of events will likely leave a black mark on Canada and future bids for various international events. Canada will host the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver in 2010, but that might be the last big event in Canada for some time.

The Canadian City of Toronto failed in two attempts to host the Olympic Games before Vancouver won the privilege - but since then the leadership in Toronto has changed and the current Mayor couldn't even create a rally behind an intended bid for the 2015 World's Fair and elaborate plans were dropped just a day before the submission deadline.

Now Halifax, after already investing millions of dollars in their bid, has cowardly backed out after the City and the Province of Nova Scotia shied away from committing to increased costs for the project. This sets a very dangerous precedent in Canada that will likely be referenced by other potential city bids for international events in the Country for years to come.

The door may now be shut to Canada for other Commonwealth Games in the near future. The next bid will be for 2018 but will Commonwealth Games Committee voters still have confidence in a Canadian city then? That might not even be an issue should the Games spread to other continents such as Africa and the informal continental rotation rule continue leaving Canada's turn behind.

There will be much more on this issue to come and bid organizers will have many questions to answer. But I'm sure celebrations have erupted in Glasgow - now the odds on favourite to defeat Abuja in the November vote making the remaining 2014 Commonwealth Games race a non-story.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Olympic Bid Evaluation Visits Don't Get The Message Across

This month in PyeongChang and Sochi, the IOC 2014 Olympic Winter Bid Evaluation Committee conducted site evaluations to complement the information gleaned from the bid books they received last month.

The committee will repeat this process next month in Salzburg.

The panel of IOC members, sports leaders and technical experts listened to presentations, visited existing and proposed venues, experienced local culture and asked several questions. Somehow they will convey all of this information to the 100-plus IOC members who are forbidden from officially visiting on their own.

Technically, the absent voting IOC members will get the information from an evaluation report that is published about a month before the bid election. They're intended to use this document that fills about 15 pages per bid as a basis for their vote - one that could shape the future of a city and even a nation.

But how can IOC members be expected to make this decision from ink on paper?

The issue is this: In the fallout of the Salt Lake City vote-buying scandal the IOC Executive Committee agreed to ban official visits of IOC members to bid cities in an effort to curb possible corruption. Basically, the IOC doesn’t trust its own members.

It becomes the job of the Evaluation Commission to be the eyes and ears of the IOC members who will end up casting secret ballots at the July host city election in Guatemala City.

The bid committees know that they cannot rely on the evaluation process to get their messages across to the IOC members who are scattered across the globe. To address this, the IOC has identified several international sports meetings and conferences where bid committees can attend and officially liaise with the IOC members who are present. While extremely important these meetings are limited and may provide only a single opportunity and just a few minutes of face time with key decision makers. Bids are often given only 10 or 15 minutes to present to the group – not nearly enough time to properly convey the value of their complex bid proposals.

The result? Host city election results rarely mirror the reported quality of the bids.

Perhaps this is due to the varied backgrounds and agendas of the voters – some representing specific national Olympic committees or international sports federations, others providing favours for friends especially if their specific interest is in a sport that’s in the other Olympic season. But these conflicts can only be amplified by the absence of more direct decision making opportunities.

So what can the bids’ use as a last resort? The Media.

While extremely inefficient, bid committees must use the mass media to send their targeted messages to the small group of IOC members scattered worldwide. Strong bid promotion domestically has always been an important tool in order to gain local support which is helpful in signing up sponsors and acquiring government backing, but international promotion is now more important then ever, especially for lesser known cities such as PyeongChang and Sochi.

When I spoke with PyeongChang 2014’s Executive President Jin-sun Kim during the IOC visits, he emphasized that one of his fundamental strategies was to relay the bid’s message through the media.

"We will try to communicate without visits; we can utilize the media a much as possible and we hope that the IOC will make a responsible choice.

"It is my sincere belief that if IOC members were to make visits they would make the right decision. Our wish is that the IOC make on-site visits but I see it will be difficult to change the ethics code."

So as much as the pomp and circumstance of the evaluation visits were used to sway the members IOC Evaluation Commission - they were also directed towards the members of the international media who's reporting, images and video may have an even greater impact on IOC members than 15 pages of dry text that may or may not ever be read.

Perhaps the day will come when the IOC regains trust in its members, relaxes the bid visitation rule and give the opportunity for voters to make more informed decisions. Until then cities that vie to host the Olympic Games must be aware – most of your promotional efforts, while necessary, might be wasted.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Struggling Olympic Winter Bids Look To London 2012 For Inspiration

As the IOC site evaluation visits to potential 2014 Olympic hosts draws closer, the bid race seems to be tightening.

With a history full of unpredictability and surprises, the Winter Olympic bid dynamic is not an easy one to understand, and the value of any small advantage is that it can reap huge rewards – especially if you consider that a mere two-vote swing would have resulted in a different winner in the last two Olympic bids.

So what’s a bid to do? It seems they're looking to past winning bids, especially London 2012, for tips - and are following by example.

Sochi, the only current contender that wasn't a finalist last time around, came into this race an underdog. But with nothing to lose and much to gain the team has been very aggressive and have somehow formulated an inspirational Winter Games plan modeled after London's winning Summer Games plan. By creating a massive Olympic park, organizers will ensure that many of the sports venues will be just a stone's throw from the Athletes' Village and the Medals Plaza - just the way everyone likes it. London's winning concept was very similar, and will help revitalize the City's East End and leave a valuable legacy.

But Sochi isn't denying this coincidence. To the contrary, the bid committee chose to unveil their plans right in London just to drive home the point that their bid is backed by winners.

Additionally, the Russian city's bid committee will be sending President Valdimir Putin to the July election in Guatemala to help lobby the IOC members just as Prime Minister Tony Blair did for London at their last mile. It is widely believed that dinner and drinks with IOC members helped Blair swing two or three votes - just enough to put London over the top.

Salzburg's bid came into the race as a soft favourite, but nobody, especially the bid team, could have predicted the rise of Sochi and continued determination of the bid from 2010 runner-up, PyeongChang.

Some of the deficiencies identified by the IOC in Salzburg's proposal have been rectified - and the strong qualities of the bid remain - but the apparent lead seems to be eroding without anything compelling enough happening to stop it. Unless it has already happened in disguise.

Last week Salzburg announce the resignation of bid CEO Fedor Radmann due to reported health problems and amid rumours of a conflict of interest involving a connection with a Sochi sponsor. The bid team responded quickly by appointing Olympic Downhill Champion, national hero and skiing legend Franz Klammer as Chairman International in the interim while a new CEO is found.

Flashback to 2004, the pre-election days of London's 2012 bid when American Barbara Cassani stepped down to allow national hero and Olympic Champion Seb Coe to take over the reigns. At the time, London's bid seemed to be in disarray, often critisized to be hopelessly trailing the favourite bid from Paris. This move, by all accounts, was the clear turning point in the entire 2012 campaign that rerouted London to eventual victory. It seems Olympic heros are the right people to lead Olympic bids, and maybe Salzburg officials were paying attention.

So what about PyeongChang?

Last time around PyeongChang was more like Sochi is this time - an underdog with nothing to lose. The bid was aggressive, took chances and offered lots of surprises. Now the Korean bid finds itself in a precarious situation - since coming in a very close second to Vancouver for 2010, PyeongChang is the de facto bid to beat

In a similar position as Paris while bidding for 2012 (the best remaining candidate from the previous bid), PyeongChang seems to be playing it a bit cautiously - just as Paris did. This is not a comfortable situation for the normally aggressive Koreans who came up with surprise after surprise during their previous campaign, a style that suits them.

But in this intense race it seems that PyeongChang may be getting back into old form. Just last week they announced a partnership with Samsung, the same company that helped them in the final stretch for the 2010 Games.

For 2014, we now have a race with no clear favourite. Any bid can win.