Liam Morgan

It was standing room only on Tuesday (April 4) as the 2024 candidate cities gave their presentations to the membership of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) during the organisation's General Assembly at the Scandinavian Center in Aarhus.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) members, officials and other delegates crammed into the packed conference room to catch a glimpse of Paris and Los Angeles divulging their respective visions for the 2024 Games.

Of course, many of those inside the convention hall had seen and heard much of it before from copious press releases, interviews and other presentations, such as the ones given at the Association of National Olympic Committees General Assembly in Doha in November.

But the strong presence of Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2024, who both sent substantial delegations to the Danish city, provided an extra level of intrigue at the SportAccord Convention. Their presence ensured a fascinating few days of gesturing and public posturing.

Led by the respective Mayors of the two cities - Anne Hidalgo and Eric Garcetti - each team could be seen frantically lobbying each IOC member while courting the press corps that had descended on the convention.

As a result, curiosity had already been heightened before the presentations, the focal point of the event, began. When showtime came, a hush engulfed the room. Nervous bid officials waited with bated breath, hoping their extensive preparation and rehearsals had been worth it.

Los Angeles 2024 went first, delivering a slick, smooth and sanguine presentation that was doused with typical American traits.

In response, Paris 2024 opted for the slightly safer option but were still able to hammer home their message to watching delegates.

The talk and chatter in the meeting space outside of the room seemed to suggest Los Angeles had edged it. My personal view goes along with that; I thought that Garcetti, Casey Wasserman et al had been more engaging and had thus earned a narrow triumph in the battle of the presentations.

What they both made interesting use of was the implied criticisms of the other bid, as well as pushing the boundaries on the IOC's rules.

Interest in the presentations from the two bid cities was high during the SportAccord Convention ©Getty Images
Interest in the presentations from the two bid cities was high during the SportAccord Convention ©Getty Images

Los Angeles 2024's constant references to their Athletes' Village, which does not need to be built, was clearly a reference to the fact that Paris' equivalent facility will need to be constructed from scratch. Garcetti’s mention of not being focused on the past 100 years hinted at the French capital's belief that they should have the 2024 Olympics to mark the centenary of the 1924 Games.

"Now, I've been a banker for over 30 years," chief executive Gene Sykes said. "That means I specialise in reducing risk - and reducing risk is the difference between success or frustration in any complex endeavour. 

"That's why our Village makes so much sense - it takes a huge risk off the table, for everyone."

Paris 2024 responded in kind. One of their key mantras - "we have a team you can trust" - refers to the strong sporting background of their leading officials and was a dig at their opponents' team largely being comprised of executives from the world of business.

"A bid designed for sport by a team with sport in our DNA," co-chairman and IOC member Tony Estanguet said.

"We have leaders such as Bernard Lapasset and Guy Drut, supported by other experienced Olympians in key roles such as Etienne Thobois and Jean-Philippe Gatien - we have a wide team of athletes."

Thobois, chief executive of Paris 2024, also felt the need to raise their "tried and tested" transport plans, a reference to the extensive work being done on the network over in Los Angeles.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with the open denunciation of an opponent. Doing it in such a furtive manner is all part of the fun and gives us journalists ammunition for an interesting story.

Both cities were also guilty of flouting the rules and stretching the regulations to the absolute limit throughout the week, with each presentation surpassing the 10-minute allotted time period.

Los Angeles 2024 were the main culprits as their effort nearly reached the 15-minute mark. In fact, they were nearly out of time when their fourth speaker, bid chair Wasserman, took the floor.

Paris 2024 were not quite as mischievous but still went over, stopping the clock at 11 minutes.

Garcetti himself violated the no video rule when he used a pair of glasses, equipped with social networking platform Snapchat, to film the room from his perspective on stage. A clever trick, it must be said, but a violation nonetheless.

The two candidates also towed the line with moving images during their presentations, which resembled as close to video as you could possibly get.

Los Angeles 2024 delivered a slick presentation to the ASOIF members ©Getty Images
Los Angeles 2024 delivered a slick presentation to the ASOIF members ©Getty Images

Those supporting the American bid were infuriated in the immediate aftermath of the ASOIF General Assembly when a story, which Los Angeles claimed was planted by their rivals, emerged regarding Los Angeles 2024's social media statistics.

Reports alleged they had used the services of fringe internet companies to artificially increase the number of likes on their Facebook page and followers on Twitter. It came after Los Angeles 2024 had hailed their recent growth in social media in a press release announcing they had become the first-ever city bidding for the Olympic and Paralympic Games to attract more than a million fans on Facebook.

How they probably regret that release now. Officials from the bid were forced to strenuously deny wrongdoing on a day which they had hoped would focus on their apparent victory in the presentation stakes.

Admittedly, the story was more about perception than anything else and one suspects a significant portion of the IOC's electorate may not even know what a Facebook "like" is. But the numbers provided deserve scrutiny.

Fans of Los Angeles 2024 in Bangladesh reportedly went from 83 in January to a staggering 104,165 fans in April, with their supporters in Pakistan reportedly growing from 56 to 92,104. Suggestions this was all the result of a perfectly-targeted advertisement campaign are arguably some way off the mark.

We could all understand if, for example, the numbers in Pakistan went from 56 to 5,000 or maybe 10,000. But a spike to nearly 100,000 seems unlikely.

Los Angeles had also been irked by the appearance of several copies of the New York Times, adorned with a wraparound advert from Paris 2024, in the hotel and the Scandinavian Center.

What is evident, judging by the recent week's antics, is that the battle for the Olympic Games is starting to become bitter - a regular occurrence in any bid race. What was even more apparent was the cities knowing they could get away with breaking the rules due to the IOC's weakness and distinct lack of tangible punishments.

The IOC only have themselves to blame. Why restrict the two cities to such a small amount of time? Why weren't they given, say, double the 10-minute time limit? Would there really have been anything wrong with that?

It was only because of a request from the ASOIF that the candidates were allowed to present at all. These childish, inane rules are doing nothing for the process and give the bids added fuel to flout them.

Paris 2024 hammered home their message during the presentation at the ASOIF General Assembly in Aarhus ©Getty Images
Paris 2024 hammered home their message during the presentation at the ASOIF General Assembly in Aarhus ©Getty Images

What was also evident in Aarhus was how the 2024 race has been able to retain its intrigue despite the fact that there might not be a vote at all. Talk of a double award at the IOC Session, which looks poised to be moved from its current location of Lima, has added a different element to the normal process and made for constant political jousting and maneuvering between Paris and Los Angeles.

However, usually at this stage in the race, discussion would wholly be focused on the destination of one event and perhaps some of the gesturing and constant slogans and strap-lines emanating from the two camps has been lost amid all the 2024/2028 discourse.

One experienced bid official told me recently that, if the IOC is to award two editions in one go in September, the organisation should say so. After all, millions will be spent by both campaigns in the coming months - money they would not need to spend if they already knew the outcome.

The IOC are always talking about cutting costs to attract further candidates but they may yet be culpable of self-sabotage if they make the historic decision, as handing out two editions of the Games at the same time would represent a huge snub to small and mid-sized cities considering a bid in future.

It would clearly suggest the IOC believe cities such as Budapest and Hamburg, both of which withdrew from the race for the 2024 Olympics and Paralympics, are not good enough now and might never be.

The IOC have seemingly ignored the logistics, too. How exactly do they go about this double award? IOC President Thomas Bach met with both Mayors at the SportAccord Convention, who also enjoyed a separate meeting, and a deal may already have been struck behind closed doors.

How this is implemented remains to be seen. For now, the allure and appeal of the 2024 bid race, shown by the lack of seating at the ASOIF General Assembly, goes on.