Will IOC swoon for Tokyo bid, too?

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With a week to put things in perspective, a few reflections on the International Olympic Committee evaluation commission’s visit to Chicago and other international sports matters:

1. During the Cold War, a group of specialists called Kremlinologists would read between the lines of cryptic pronouncements by the Soviet leadership. Now we will need a similar group – call them Olympologists – to parse the news conference the evaluation commission gives after its Tokyo visit this week to see if the superlatives match those the IOC doled out freely in Chicago.


2. If South Koreans all share the views of Seoul Times writer Lee Jay Walker, the paper’s Tokyo correspondent, the Japanese capital’s rivals for the 2016 Summer Games should do everything they can to make sure South Korean IOC member Lee Kun Hee is reinstated in time for the host city vote. (Lee, the former Samsung chairman, has been suspended as an IOC member since being found guilty of tax evasion.) Walker called Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara a ‘dangerous maverick who installs anti-Korean and anti-Chinese hatred …a rampant sexist … and anti-foreign in general.’ Tokyo 2016 sent out a news release Monday headlined, ‘Tokyo Governor to play major role during IOC evaluation commission visit.’

3. Tokyo is worried that the city’s notoriously bad Friday traffic could throw timing glitches into their planned venue tour for the IOC evaluators, but that shouldn’t be a factor, since Olympic priority lanes would be created for the 2016 Games. And comparisons to the Chicago experience will be meaningless, because the venue tour in Chicago was on a Sunday.

4. But Chicago did get some good news on the travel front, with questions about its Olympic transport plan apparently answered to the IOC’s satisfaction.
The IOC working group report (which was based on data, not on-site experience) published last June before the 2016 field was cut to the four finalists, had said, ‘Most venues along Lake Michigan ... appear to be some distance from rail stations’’ and noted a lack of detail about transport between the venue clusters.
When I asked evaluation commission chair Nawal El Moutawakel about those concerns during the IOC news conference last Tuesday, she replied, ‘We felt that the whole concept of the Olympic Games within the city of Chicago is very compact, and the transport distance between the Olympic Village (planned on the lakefront) and all other venues is reasonable, and I don’t think there will be any problems.’

5. The answer Mayor Richard M. Daley gave to my question about diversity afterthe IOC news conference showed the mayor knows host city history.It is a simple fact that Chicago is a far more diverse city than its three rivals, and that point was underscored in several videos the bid committee showed the IOC. When I asked Daley if that emphasis on diversity was intentional, he said, ‘We think that’s one of our great strengths, but they [the IOC] went to Beijing.’ In the vote that made homogeneous Beijing the 2008 host, runner-up Toronto gained little traction with its diversity pitch, and New York failed even more miserably after it emphasized diversity in the 2012 race.

6. Harvey Schiller is in a league of his own. Schiller, president of the International Baseball Federation, first tried to get softball to go along with a joint attempt for reinstatement on the Olympic program. But International Softball Federation President Don Porter rejected that idea out of hand in late February, knowing baseball would drag down softball in the eyes of IOC members. Two weeks ago, a desperate Schiller decided to play the gender game, saying women’s baseball has been added to the portfolio. It’s enough of a negative in some eyes that baseball hardly is a universal sport, one of the criteria for being on the Summer Games program, but women’s baseball barely exists anywhere.

7. There is one thing I don’t understand about the latest set-to between Lance Armstrong and French anti-doping authorities: did the tester who arrived at Armstrong’s home try to stop the rider from taking a shower during the 20 minutes while the rider’s team manager, Johan Bruyneel, checked the visitor’s credentials? Or if the tester allowed the shower (which Armstrong said was the case), why didn’t he supervise Armstrong to make sure the rider did not try one of the tricks athletes use to beat dope testing? (After all, testers are present when urine samples are given to make sure the athlete gives his own urine.)
Armstrong may have committed a doping protocol violation if he defied requests to wait or to allow supervision, but the tester has some responsibility, too.

8. Think U.S. Figure Skating could try this? Didier Gailhaguet, who should have received a life suspension for his role in the Salt Lake City pairs judging affair but instead was re-elected president of the French Ice Sports Federation, has told French figure skating star Brian Joubert in no uncertain terms how the federation wants him to prepare for the Olympic season. (Joubert, 2007 world champion and 2008 silver medalist, dumped his coach after finishing third at last month’s worlds in Los Angeles.) ‘I’m not going to put a rope around his neck to lead him (Joubert) where I think he should go, but if Brian rejects our plan, he will no longer have our trust,'Gailhaguet told the French sports newspaper, L’Equipe.

-- Philip Hersh

French figure skating officials have Brian Joubert where they want: on his hands and knees after a fall during the world championships. Credit: Associated Press / Paul Chiasson