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.


liki said...

I´m loving your blog. Thanks!

chr04 said...

There are various stories for the 1996 bid of Athens for the Golden Olympic Games.

One story is that an IOC member demanded as a present the chandelier that was at the building of the Hellenic Olympic Comittee.

Another story is that an IOC member wanted to meet the prime minister to get some business in Greece.

It's obvious that the people who run the Olympic Movement today, the majority of them, don't deserve to be there.