IOC leader: Protest groups don't deflate Boston's chances
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) In town for the Super Bowl, the leader of the Olympics posed for a picture with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
''I had a ball in my hands, and I was checking,'' International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said.
The verdict: No deflation.
If the leaders of the U.S. Olympic movement have their way, Bach will be back in the United States to inspect more in the near future.
Boston is bidding for the 2024 Olympics amid some early concerns that an organized protest group could hamper the bid. Bach said it's far too early to be alarmed.
''If someone's asking a question, it doesn't mean there's opposition,'' Bach said in an interview Saturday. ''And if Boston came and said, `We have 100 percent support,' that would make the bid look suspicious.''
The U.S. Olympic Committee chose Boston earlier this month over San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington - a surprise choice that could make for more work in introducing the U.S. candidate to the world. The 2024 Games will be awarded two years from now. Rome is currently the only other official bidder, with a German city, either Hamburg or Berlin, among those expected to get in the mix.
Bach is a guest of NBC, which is televising Sunday's Super Bowl and also recently signed a $7.75 billion deal to keep the American TV rights for the Olympics through 2032.
He met with Goodell on Saturday for a photo op and some conversation. The NFL's myriad problems did not come up. The topic of selecting cities for these key events did.
''We talked about, how do you select cities, how do you ensure that the host cities deliver what they've promised?'' Bach said.
Huge as the Super Bowl is, it's dwarfed by the commitment of hosting a Summer Olympics, which is basically a world championship for around 40 sports that involves more than 10,000 athletes from more than 200 countries.
The USOC is counting on Boston to use its strong network of colleges and universities and its compact layout to fit the parameters of what the IOC said it wanted in its new Agenda 2020 bidding outline: Streamlined, not as costly, no costly new stadiums that won't get used again.
''I think it was a bit of a surprise,'' USOC chairman Larry Probst said about the Boston pick. ''It wasn't the obvious choice. ''It's a little more of a selling job with Boston than San Francisco or Los Angeles or DC. But there are a lot of assets there to sell.''
Not surprisingly, Bach, who will head from Arizona to the world skiing championships in Colorado, isn't showing any of his cards during this, the early phase of this bid process. The new guidelines call for the cities to declare by September.
But for those reading tea leaves, there was this: Bach agreed with the notion that the United States, which hasn't hosted a Summer Games since 1996, could be due to host one soon.
Four of seven Olympics between 2008 and 2020 - Summer and Winter - were awarded to countries in Asia.
''It's important the Games rotate because the Olympic movement is global,'' he said. ''We can't have athletes from 205 countries always competing in the same place. Rotation is important.''
By contrast, Bach's predecessor, Jacques Rogge, was asked a similar question in 2011.
''It's important that the games come back'' to the United States and other countries, Rogge said then. ''But we are also very happy to bring games to regions or subcontinents or continents where they've never been organized. One day, the games will be held in Africa and that will be a very important aspect.''
That's as true in 2015 as it was four years ago, and an African city entering the mix would change the math considerably.
''Just speculation,'' Bach called the prospect of an African bid.
He feels the same about the vocal protest groups who want more answers about Boston. One group is calling for a referendum on whether the city should host the Olympics.
Bach says the IOC will do its own polling, but not for at least another year.
''At the end, you need a solid public backing of a bid,'' he said. ''The IOC doesn't want to send athletes to a place they're not welcome.''
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