Tom Degun: It was an historic game-changing SportAccord Convention in Québec City
Wednesday, 30 May 2012
But even by the high standards of the event that have been established over the last decade, the 10th anniversary edition of the gathering in the beautiful Québec City was particularly special, with several of the announcements made last week in Canada set to have a major impact on the global sporting landscape for many years to come.
It is hard to start without discussing the bid race for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. From day one, the lobby of the Québec City Convention Centre was a buzzing hive of activity with the five bid cities of Baku, Doha, Istanbul, Tokyo and Madrid at the heart of things, delegates hurrying to talk to every single International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board member and key media outlets about the immense strength of their respective bids.
In an uncertain economic climate, which saw Rome pull out of the race earlier this year due to their lack of finances, it seemed for all the world as if all five would make the shortlist and sail comfortably through to the next phase of the process.
But as D-Day approached last Wednesday (May 23), whispers started to filter through, as only they can at an event like the SportAccord Convention, that only three had made it.
It was left to the Olympic Games executive director Gilbert Felli and the IOC director of communications, Mark Adams, to officially break the news that had already leaked out in the Convention Centre lobby – that only Istanbul, Tokyo (pictured below) and Madrid had progressed from the Applicant City to Candidate City phase.
Baku, Azerbaijan's foremost city, said the IOC Working Group report, simply didn't have the facilities or infrastructure at this stage in their development to host the Games while Doha's omission was far more of a grey area.
The report suggested in the small print that the Qatari capital did not have the backing of American television, the all-powerful, big-money providers, as they objected to the dates – outside the usual July/August window – proposed by Doha to stage the Olympics and Paralympics.
It was intriguing, given that Istanbul has problems with a potential Turkish Euro 2020 bid in the same summer that could derail their Olympic and Paralympic dreams, and that Spain's economy is in such a bad way that the country may not even be able to afford the Games, even if the IOC awards them to Madrid.
So could we get to the final vote in Buenos Aires in the summer of 2013 and see Tokyo awarded the event by default as the only bidder left standing?
It is highly unlikely, but only time will tell us if the IOC Executive Board decision to axe both Baku and Doha, the two bidders with the strongest financial resources to host the Games, was brave or foolish.
Just a day before the 2020 bid announcement came another significant piece of news in Québec City that the increasingly influential International Boxing Association (AIBA) President, C K Wu of Taiwan, had been elected to the IOC Executive Board by the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF).
It came during an historic ASOIF General Assembly where Italy's Francesco Ricci Bitti, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) President, was unanimously elected as the successor to ASOIF President Denis Oswald of Switzerland.
But due to Ricci Bitti's age - he turned 70 this year - he will be forced to leave the IOC in December and another candidate was therefore required to take the organisation's seat on the IOC Executive Board.
After months of speculation, it was just Wu and International Cycling Union (UCI) President Pat McQuaid of Ireland who put themselves forward. But the race ultimately proved an anti-climax and Wu, the 65-year-old English-educated billionaire, crushed his only rival by 20 votes to eight.
It may yet prove significant when IOC President Jacques Rogge steps down from his role next summer, but if the talk in the corridors of SportAccord is to believed, one would not want to look far beyond the powerful Thomas Bach of Germany, the IOC's current vice-president and one of sport's most intelligent operators, as the Belgian's successor.
Speaking of Rogge, he was noticeably absent for the first few days of SportAccord, leaving it to Felli and Adams to make the key 2020 announcement.
But when Rogge finally emerged in front of the world's media on Thursday (May 24), he did so for arguably the most significant announcement at the event, and maybe in the world of the Olympics, for the last few years.
That announcement, of course, was that after years of painstaking negotiations, the IOC and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) had finally reached an agreement in their long-running revenue sharing row.
The issue has caused huge tension between the two powerhouses for several years, and this was illustrated big style when the IOC eliminated New York's bid for the 2012 Games in the second round of voting before humiliating Chicago by axing them in the first round of the race to host the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics.
But now, the "roadblock", as the USOC chairman Larry Probst (pictured above, on left, cementing the deal with Jacques Rogge) described it, for a successful American Olympic and Paralympic bid is now out of the way.
The removal did come at a cost to the USOC, however.
Under the previous deal, which was set out in an open-ended contract in 1996, the USOC received a 20 per cent share of global sponsorship revenue and a 12.75 per cent share of US broadcast rights deals, which the IOC believed was too excessive.
The new deal, which will begin in 2020 and run for 20 years, will see the USOC retain its 20 per cent share of global sponsorship revenue but have its share of US broadcast rights deals cut to seven per cent on any increases in broadcast deals.
The USOC's marketing share has also been slashed by half to 10 per cent on increases in sponsorship revenue.
In addition, the USOC has agreed to contribute to the administrative costs of staging the Games and they will provide $15 million (£9.6 million/€12 million) up to 2020 and $20 million (£12.7 million/€16 million) after 2020.
The new deal also covers issues related to the ownership of Olympic rights, trademarks and historic TV footage.
"We made financial concessions but I think we made them in a way that will still allow us to provide the same level of support to our athletes," USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun told me after the announcement, which we had known was coming a few days before.
"But it demonstrates the commitment of the United States and the USOC to the worldwide Olympic Movement."
Alluding to any plans by USOC to host the Olympics and Paralympics in the future, he said: "In terms of a bid, this removes a barrier.
"I think it would have been difficult for us to mount a successful bid while this was still hanging over our heads, but now it has gone.
"So now I think we can have an open discussion and make the best decision for the United States."
The announcement came after Blackmun told me at the Team USA Media Summit in Dallas just a week earlier that "positive news" was on its way. The USOC chief executive deserves huge credit, having largely negotiated the historic deal with the IOC's top men by himself, leaving both parties very happy.
Denver has been touted as a possible 2022 Winter Games candidate but the 2024 Summer Games appears a more likely target for the USOC, with Los Angeles, New York and Chicago just some of the cities thought to be interested in staging the event.
So, as well as reshaping the race for the 2020 bid race, the 2012 SportAccord Convention has also given us a glimpse of what to expect in 2024 when America (most likely) comes knocking.
This news came amid numerous other announcements, including:
- Hein Verbruggen to stand down as SportAccord President next year
- Saudi Arabia's female athletes to be able to compete at the 2012 Olympic Games under the IOC Flag
- London 2012 preparations going well – in the worst-kept secret of all time!
But major news at the top end of sport is no surprise when you're at SportAccord.
Roll on the 2013 SportAccord Convention in the Russian city of St Petersburg...
Tom Degun is a reporter for insidethegames. To follow him on Twitter click here.