Paris then Los Angeles? Or Los Angeles then Paris? These are two sussed and serious Olympic bids, and it could go either way when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) members put it to the vote at their Session in Lima on September 13.
During the course of this week’s IOC Evaluation Commission visit to the French capital, the announcement from the new French President, Emmanuel Macron, that he would be present at the IOC debriefing in Lausanne and would then travel to Lima in support of the Paris 2024 bid caused a stir.
"This is evidence of commitment. It is not just a word, there is a unity up to the highest level of the state," commented the Paris 2024 co-president Bernard Lapasset.
"This could help our candidacy for sure - the new president, who receives the commission just two days after his nomination, and who is the same age as our co-president Tony Estanguet.”
More than one experienced observer of matters Olympic concurred with Lapasset’s view. More than one experienced observer of matters Olympic then turned their mind to the potential impact on the Los Angeles bid of the President of the United States, Donald Trump, making a personal appearance.
It is hard to avoid the thought that this last would require an immediate LA24 hashtag change from #FollowTheSun to #EclipseOfTheSun.
It was widely reported that the active and focused role the then British Prime Minister Tony Blair played during his visit to Singapore in 2005 ahead of the IOC Session vote for the 2012 Olympics was a genuine factor in London’s whisking the prize away from the incoming favourites, Paris.
The thoroughness of Blair’s briefing and his cute deployment by the London Organising Committee maximised his effectiveness, albeit that he had to depart before the actual vote in order to attend the G8 Summit in Gleneagles.
By contrast, the favourites’ champion, French President Jacques Chirac, had embarrassed Paris 2012 officials with reported comments from a meeting with Vladimir Putin in Russia the weekend before in which he declared that the only thing the British had ever done for European agriculture was to give it mad cow disease, adding: “You can’t trust people who cook as badly as that. After Finland, it’s the country with the worst food.”
This, added to the fact that Chirac appeared pretty hard-boiled himself during his brief time in Singapore, has been cited as something which helped tip the balance against a city that was bidding for a second successive time.
Anybody who has witnessed Macron’s supercharged rise to power, anybody who watched his angry but controlled dismantling of the character and policies of his rival Presidential candidate, the National Front’s Marine Le Pen, in the two-and-a-half hour TV debate before this month’s final vote, will know that he will be a Blair rather than a Chirac in Lima.
But will it matter, in the final event?
One of those whose vote will help decide the Games destination this autumn has claimed that it won’t.
In the wake of Macron’s news, delivered to members of the Evaluation Commission over coffee and croissants at the Elysee Palace, St Lucia’s IOC member Richard Peterkin tweeted a response which indicated a limited value to the presence of national leaders.
“So, looks like I get to meet President Macron in Lausanne and maybe Lima. No word yet on President Trump. Makes for good selfies and pics," he said.
Peterkin followed up with another tweet which claimed: “To be honest, neither the presence of Macron, nor the absence of Trump will determine members vote. It's what they say and do that counts.”
Los Angeles and Paris have been saying and doing all the right things as the IOC Evaluation Committee has run its rule over them. Neither has been found lacking in any serious regard.
Those arguing against Paris being given the 2024 Games concentrate most of their attention on the fact that the French capital still has to construct its Athletes Village, and that such topics historically run over time and over budget, while Los Angeles already has student accommodation which can serve this purpose.
Significant alterations are being made at the LA Memorial Coliseum, which would provide the same centrepiece to a future Games as it did in the 1984, but by and large Los Angeles, even more than Paris, which has still to create its Aquatics Centre, has its venues up and running.
In that sense, the 1984 Games, which created a new trend in Olympic history by making a profit, also created a huge legacy – that of the potentiality for a future Los Angeles bid.
But if Los Angeles 2024 is the beneficiary of that legacy itself, its own legacy is less clear.
Another profit? Maybe. But by its very nature, and given its manifest preparedness, the Los Angeles Games of either 2024 of 2028 will not be transformational in the way that the 1992 Barcelona Games, or indeed the 2012 London Games, were. Or that Paris 2024 or 2028 will be.
Last July, I travelled with the Paris 2024 team members to Lausanne to make a first official presentation regarding the bid to the IOC.
In the course of our three-and-a-half hour train journey from Paris-Gare de Lyon, I was escorted up to the first class carriage in which the key team members were gathered and invited to speak to another individual already making a serious impact on this process in terms of status and personality – namely the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo.
Under the benevolent gaze of Messrs Estanguet, Lapasset, Guy Drut, Étienne Thobois and Denis Masseglia, I ventured to question, in faltering French, my poised and chic travelling companion over the key points she planned to make to the IOC President Thomas Bach.
“The first point we want to make is that Paris 2024 is fully engaged with all its athletes to ensure these will be a Games that has them at its centre,” she said.
“That is very important.
“The second point is to emphasise the huge level of commitment towards the bid at all levels in Paris, and across the country. We are engaged in a consultation exercise with our population which is unique in its depth and scope.
“Thirdly we will speak of the important place sport has in French society, and of the many places for sport which we already have.”
The other key point was the way in which an Olympics, and the development it would entail, would fit into Hidalgo’s wider vision of renovation and improvement of some of the most needy parts of Paris – in this case, the St Denis area.
Speaking after the meeting, Bach made it clear that Hidalgo had been an effective communicator.
Asked by insidethegames to mention the aspects of the presentation which had most resonated with him, Bach responded: “You can see that this approach really serves as a catalyst for the sustainable development of Paris and the regions.
“There are different projects around there as the Mayor has mentioned - the sport programme for schools, the cleaning of the River Seine - and you have many other projects where the candidature really serves as a catalyst.
“Plus the fact that the candidature is proposing Olympic sites which are 90 per cent or more than 90 per cent already in place. This is another great example for Olympic Agenda 2020 and sustainable development.
“And we experience here a candidature which is showing the great unity of Paris and the French people, even among the politicians. All the politicians are unified with the worlds of sport and the economy.”
This is not to say Paris is a better bet than LA for 2024. But it does seem to be a more profound bid.