IOC praises Annecy's revamped plans
An IOC evaluation commission acknowledged the efforts made by Annecy officials in their bid for the 2018 Winter Games.
On the last day of a four-day inspection of the proposed venues of the French bid, IOC member Gunilla Lindberg of Sweden, who chaired the panel, congratulated the Annecy team for its new setup.
''I think the bid committee of Annecy has listened to the comments from the IOC that were made in June and it has been a big improvement of the bid, especially in not having so many competitions venues as it was proposed,'' Lindberg told a news conference on Sunday.
The Annecy bid has been struggling from the start and is considered the outsider in the three-way race against Munich and Pyeongchang, South Korea. Annecy only narrowly made the list of finalists last June when the IOC criticized the bid's spread-out venues.
Since then, Annecy officials have revamped their plans with a more centralized project centered on two main hubs, Annecy and Chamonix.
Lindberg refused to get into the details of the technical evaluation and said a full report will be made available in May when city officials meet IOC members in Lausanne, Switzerland. IOC members will elect the 2018 host on July 6 in Durban, South Africa.
''On behalf of the IOC evaluation commission, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the entire staff chaired by Charles Beigbeder, for that excellent and highly professional cooperation and hard work,'' Lindberg said.
Annecy was the first stop on the commission's tour. The panel will head to Pyeongchang next week before visiting Munich in March.
Lindberg also underlined the strong government backing for the bid after French president Nicolas Sarkozy and several high-profile cabinet members made the trip to Annecy to meet with IOC members this week.
Despite receiving good feedback from the commission, French sports minister Chantal Jouanno admitted Annecy needs a bigger budget if it is to make a successful bid.
Jouanno said the $29 million budget needs to be increased to allow the French bid to be competitive against its two rivals.
''We don't have a big enough budget,'' Jouanno said, adding that she is hoping to secure an extra ($5.4 million) from private companies by July 6, when the IOC will select the host city in Durban.
Former Annecy bid CEO Edgar Grospiron resigned in December amid a dispute over funding. He was replaced by French entrepreneur Charles Beigbeder, who is trying to secure new sponsorships deals.
''I think we are going to reach ($33.8 million),'' Jouanno told a small group of reporters. ''It will be private money. At first, (private companies) didn't believe in our bid. Now companies are confident. They can see that our bid can be trusted.''
Jouanno said the extra money is likely to come from banks and big companies.
''We have a lot of companies making profits,'' she said. ''But in France we don't have the habit of using private money for bids or big sporting events. In this bid, more than half of the funds are coming from public money.''
Besides money, one of the biggest hurdles Annecy will have to negotiate is the IOC's trend of rotating between continents, after the Russian city of Sochi was awarded the 2014 Games.
Jouanno said Sarkozy tried to convince IOC members that Sochi should not be regarded as a proper European city.
''They can't just say now it's time for Asia and Korea,'' Jouanno said. ''There is this strange belief that Sochi is in Europe. For the French president, it's also on the other part (of the world) and it should be time for Europe and old countries to have the Games.''
Jouanno said there had been ''no strong criticism'' from the commission of the technical side of Annecy's bid, and its main task now was to promote the bid internationally and to launch into an effective lobbying.
To convince IOC members, Annecy officials have appointed a new communications team and hired Andrew Craig as a bid consultant. Craig is a Briton who worked as a senior adviser on winning Olympic bids for Vancouver, London and Sochi.
Jouanno added that France had learned from the failure of the Paris' bid to host the 2012 Summer Games, saying ''we were too proud and too sure that we were going to win,'' and also hinted that if Annecy loses, a French city would bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics.
''Nothing is granted today,'' she said. ''If we win the Games we won't bid. If we don't, probably. It's been too long that France has not organized the Games.''
Annecy is making its first Olympic bid, although France has staged the Winter Games three times - Chamonix 1924, Grenoble 1968 and Albertville 1992.