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SPOKESMAN: And the games of the 30th Olympiad in 2012, are awarded to the city of London. IAN WILLIAMS: There was joy, but also surprise. The London bid team did have a sense of things moving their way, but few quite believed they would wrench the prize away from the favorite, Paris. The defeated French could only look on.
Until this announcement, the voting had matched predictions: Moscow eliminated, followed by New York, and Madrid. The London pitch today had as its starting point not the greatness of the city, but the poverty of an African slum, and the need to inspire young people to take up sport.
SEBASTIAN COE: So London’s vision is to reach people, young people, all around the world; to connect them with the inspirational power of the games so that they are inspired to choose sport.
IAN WILLIAMS: It was a theme threaded throughout the presentation. It was a dramatic contrast to the grand French video made by Luc Besson. The result this evening was close, 54-50, after perhaps the fiercest competition in Olympic history. The first step tonight, signing the formal contract for the British capital to host the 2012 games.
GWEN IFILL: Ray Suarez has more.
RAY SUAREZ: For perspective on the international Olympic committee’s decision, we turn to Olympic historian, John MacAloon. He’s a professor of social sciences at the University of Chicago who’s written widely on the Olympic movement. He also served on the IOC Reform Commission that put today’s election procedures in place.
Professor, welcome. This is a process you’ve been watching closely and, no doubt, you’ve heard that Paris was a favorite for over a year. Are you surprised at the choice of London?
JOHN MACALOON: I am a little bit. As to how it came down in the final round, of course, Paris did exceptionally well, increasing its performance by over 30 votes from the last time when it lost so badly in the contest against Beijing.
But it was in the end not enough. In the final round, London managed to edge forward, proving this was a bit more of a middle distance run with which its leader, Sebastian Coe, is very familiar, than a strategic soccer match, perhaps a better metaphor for how Paris played their cards in the end.
RAY SUAREZ: How was the process different this time? How was it changed in order to make it less vulnerable to charges of corruption?
JOHN MACALOON: It actually was a far more transparent process than ever before. Not only are member visits to the bid cities forbidden in most cases, but the technical product of the evaluation team, which visits each host city and publishes its report was more thorough, more straightforward, more transparent than ever before. Paris came out exceptionally well. So did other cities, all perhaps but Moscow, in that evaluation. So at that point, each city could host a good Games and then the intangibles would come into play, intangibles which would prove very much in London’s favor this time.
RAY SUAREZ: One of the people who voted, a member of the IOC, called it “the strongest peace time competition between five of the greatest and historic cities in history, not just Olympic history.” With all the problems around funding the games, the post-9/11 world challenges of security, why do cities want the Olympic Games so badly?
JOHN MACALOON: Well, the main reason — and this is clear in London’s bid as your opening piece suggested — was what we call the Barcelona effect now. The ability to get the political capital to do perhaps 20 or 30 years of urban renewal in a period of seven years. The London bid, which coupled the redevelopment of Stratford and the East End London with the really important themes of youth mobilization through sport and the alleviation of poverty, was clearly attractive to some IOC members.
Paris’ bid, on the other hand, chose to de-emphasize infrastructural transformation, the creation of new urban centers and neighborhoods, in favor of a lighter Olympics, Olympics with more temporary facilities. And the IOC members seem, at least some of them, to have reacted against that.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, New York’s bid was also one that promised a lot of urban transformation. It also brought a lot of star power to bear. Do you think New York was a little surprised at being of the first city to go out after Moscow, which nobody took seriously?
JOHN MACALOON: Well, I’m not sure whether our colleagues were surprised or not in New York. It was a bid that got very far, given the fact that it’s a rookie effort. In recent times, first-time bidders have not done as well as New York did, and that’s to a great extent a credit to what probably is the most talented and the most resourceful and certainly the most multilingual Olympic body ever put together in the history of this country.
The leadership was enormously effective around the world in getting New York to the point where it was. Of course, they had the West Side Stadium difficulty, but I’m not sure that that really had much effect on the IOC members. It was, rather, a question of the leadership of London, and in particular the personality of Sebastian Coe, which in the end provided the margin.
RAY SUAREZ: Now, they’re talking about renewing the bid in some of the disappointed cities, but it looks like New York may be folding up shop. They took their best shot and now talking in a very discouraged way about not renewing for 2016.
JOHN MACALOON: At least that seems to be the message so far from Dan Doctoroff, the leader of the bid, from Jay Kriegel, Charlie Battle, the other extraordinary characters who brought New York so far. We’ll see if when the disappoint settles in that they reconsider or not.
I think it would be a shame if they didn’t go forward, but certainly they provided a model for American cities as to the kind of leadership, the kind of talent, the kind of international vision you need in order to be competitive.
Not one of them is Sebastian Coe, of course, the great Olympic icon, middle-distance runner, former member of Parliament, who led London to victory. What people have to realize — and I think it’s an important factor in the result today — is that Sebastian Coe was a leader of bringing active Olympic athletes into membership, active membership of the IOC. And today, clearly, many of his colleagues, his beneficiaries paid him back.
RAY SUAREZ: Professor John MacAloon from the University of Chicago, thanks for being with us.
JOHN MACALOON: My pleasure, Ray.