Here’s an interesting piece by David Miller – the world’s eminent Olympic historian and award-winning former sports journalist at The Times. The story was first published by Sport Intern on Saturday.
After one hundred and twenty-five years of IOC bureaucratic gymnastics at host city elections, have the Swedes properly understood the drift of IOC Members regarding world sports?
To a considerable extent Monday’s event is equivalent to Florida holidaymakers voting for a weekend on Everest: it’s not exactly their cup of tea, many of them knowing little if anything about winter sports and having no intention of staying beyond the Opening Ceremony, apart from maybe doing a bit of shopping … if there are any shops around.
The truth of the vote for the Winter Olympic Games of 2026 is that the IOC owes Sweden an overdue favour by one hundred and seven years: the time since the Stockholm Games of 1912 emblazoned modern Olympic virtues across a global audience, under the patronage of the King, in the wake of equivocal, exploratory festivals in Athens, Paris and St Louis, and a chauvinistic staging in London. Sweden carved a cultural gold medal as hosts, yet have never since been granted either Summer or Winter award.
This should be Stockholm-Are’s emotional platform on Monday, never mind that their presentation will be graced by social and political heavyweights: Crown Princess Victoria, heir to King Carl Gustav and member of the International Paralympic Committee honorary board, and by Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, plus enough regional mayors to form an ice hockey team. Make no mistake.
Although many IOC Members – an increasing number owing their position to the patronage of President Bach – will be conscious of the imperative rationale of his Agenda 2020 principles of economic and strategic modernisation of the Games, history can and should wield influence.
Of the 12 Winter Games staged by Europe since the inaugural Chamonix in 1924, three have been held in France, two each in Austria, Italy, Norway and Switzerland, one in Germany … and none in Sweden. In Winter medals ranking, Sweden lie fifth behind monoliths USA and Soviet Union/Russia, former GDR and Norway. Sweden boasts twenty per cent more medals than Italy.
At the election of Rio in Copenhagen in 2009 for the Summer Games of 2016, one moment was starkly significant: a video global graph of continental Summer Games hosting … with South America blank. You could hear the IOC’s conscience rattle.
I hold no specific opposition to Milan’s bid. Italy has always been a strident source of Olympic heroes across the sporting landscape, and has provided past acknowledged wisdom in IOC Members Giulio Onesti and Mario Pescante. Yet Italy has hosted the Winter Games as recently as 2006: it is metaphorically ‘not their turn’.
Sweden will necessarily, be making many promises, many guarantees on what they will deliver in technical facilities. That is standard practice, notwithstanding that expectations are not always upheld – witness Rio and, next year, Tokyo.
Besides, promises to the demands of International Federations carry little weight: mostly these have no voting number. When Stockholm bid for the Summer Games of 2004, eighty per cent of IFs supported the glorious Scandinavian city. They finished fourth! – behind winners Athens (IOC feeling guilty for having ignored Athens in the Centenary vote in 1996), Rome (energetically led by athletics supremo Primo Nebiolo) and Cape Town (an emotional gesture to Nelson Mandela).
What Sweden offer to the Olympic Movement lies so much deeper than facilities, not forgetting that the original Stockholm stadium of 1912 is to be a feature of 2026. What Sweden gives to sport is integrity, in the shape of IOC Members such as Sigfrid Edstrom, mastermind of 1912, and later Bo Eklund, Gunnar Ericsson, Sven Thofelt, Arne Ljungqvist and latterly Gunilla Lindberg, she an influential arm of the Association of National Olympic Committees. Now is the moment for the IOC once more to heed its collective conscience.