IOC green light for Qatar Olympic bid smacks of hypocrisy
Qatar Olympic Committee president Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani (left) at the 2008 Olympics (Courtesy Qatar Olympic Committee / December 16, 2013)
During the McCarthy era witch hunts of the 1950s, when Lillian Hellman was asked by Congress to name fellow artists and writers as communists or communist sympathizers, the playwright answered, "I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year's fashions."
If only there were someone in the International Olympic Committee leadership who thought that way.
Such attitudes lead to hypocrisy like the one the IOC executive board showed in its Friday decision to allow Doha, Qatar to stage a Summer Games between Sept. 20 and Oct. 20 to avoid the intense heat of the desert summer.
A few minutes later, I received a statement from the Qatar Olympic Committee announcing it would bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics, joining Tokyo, Madrid, Rome and Istanbul. The bid deadline is Thursday.
"I wish to personally thank (IOC President) Jacques Rogge and the IOC for guiding us through and supporting the (Qatar Olympic Committee) in entering the bidding race without the disadvantage of dates," said Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamid Al-Thani, the Qatar Olympic Committee president, in the statement.
That is quite a change from the IOC's convenient reason for eliminating Doha from the 2016 Summer Games competition.
When an IOC working group evaluated the original seven bidders for 2016, the results ranked Tokyo first, followed by Madrid, Chicago and Doha.
When the IOC executive board chose the four 2016 finalists in June, 2008, Doha was out and fifth-ranked Rio was in, even though the IOC said Doha "had the potential to host the 2016 Olympic Games."
The rationale was Doha had proposed Games from Oct. 14-30, but the IOC specified July 15-Aug. 31 as the period for the Summer Games, mainly because broadcasters want it that way.
U.S. broadcasters do not want conflicts with college and pro football, which now fill prime time several nights per week and all afternoon and evening on the weekend; the baseball post-season; and the start of the fall season of entertainment programming. European and South American broadcasters do not want conflicts with soccer, which now also includes games several nights per week. With such conflicts, the OIympics would play to a fractured TV audience, making it harder to get big advertising revenues.
So what was in June, 2008 still a very weak Rio bid survived. It would be dramatically improved by the Oct. 2009 vote for the 2016 host, with some of the improvement owing to sub-rosa help from IOC officials. The IOC would argue such help was only in its self-interest, to have a solid Rio plan should the IOC members favor it despite (ongoing) serious issues related to crime and transportation.
Could the reason really have been that Rogge wanted his legacy to include being the person who announced the first Olympics in South America? Was IOC leadership worried what might have happened to Rio had Doha been one of five finalists?
For the answer to the second question, one need only look at the voting for the 2022 men's soccer World Cup.
Amidst allegations of vote trading and vote buying, the international soccer federation picked Doha even though it will stage the event in June and July with the promise of a cooling system in all the stadiums when a dome over the country is what really is needed.
That the natural gas-rich Qataris could afford such a dome goes without saying.
That the IOC has a history of being corrupted by money also goes without saying, no matter how much alleged reform followed the 1999 bid scandal revelations implicating one-third of IOC members at the time.
That the IOC's stated ideals often are empty blather - or full of hypocrisy -- also is evident.
*The IOC insists on no discrimination based on gender, race or religion, yet still allows countries to keep women from their Olympic teams. Among those countries that never have had a female Olympian: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and. . .Qatar.
*The IOC lets Irani athletes fake injuries to avoid competing against Israelis.
*The IOC claims to subscribe to the World Anti-Doping Code, yet makes up holier-than-thou rules about banning dopers from the Olympics that can effectively double the suspensions mandated by the code and lead to a system where punishment is more highly valued than prevention.
*The IOC talks about not letting Olympic hosts build white elephant arenas, yet criticizes Atlanta for avoiding such a costly mess by turning its 1996 Olympic Stadium into Turner Field. The alternative is a moldering 2008 Olympic Stadium in Beijing and several 2004 Olympic venues in Athens going to rot.
*The IOC insisted giving China the Olympics would advance the cause of human rights in that country, then sat idly by during the Games as the Chinese stifled protest and restricted free access of information to journalists.
And now the IOC has done an about-face that gives Doha a chance to host the 2020 Olympics in the fall.
One can only wonder what Comcast / NBC boss Brian Roberts thinks of that, having just agreed to pay the IOC $4.38 billion for U.S. broadcast rights to four Olympic Games through 2020. One would hope Rogge ran the Doha idea by him.
It's more likely the IOC, at its high-handed best (worst?), simply made the decision because it could. Maybe it just was a sop to the Qataris, with the IOC having no intention of allowing them to slake their Olympic host hunger.
Either is unconscionable.
And befitting the IOC.