There were no smiles at Salzburg's W.A. Mozart International Airport this morning as I waited for my flight, and lots of sad faces. The night before I had watched the 3 hour presentation on Eurosport T.V. as the city, one of three finalists in the quest to hold the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, was eliminated in the first ballot in Guatemala City at the I.O.C. Convention.
It was quite a shock and the second time they had been a candidate city and failed. Kronen Zeitung, one of 2 city newspapers headlined ITS LOST !, the other newspaper, Salzburger Nachrichten headlined PUTIN WINS THE GAMES FOR SOCHI. The Black Sea resort has the Krasnaya Polyana mountains behind it but is noted more as a sunny beach resort. Vladimir Putin, after showing his luck in Kennibunkport, ME at the weekend with the Bushes, and being the only one to catch a fish, was superb with near perfect English, French and Spanish to lead Sochi past the South Korean candidate Pyeonchang in the decisive ballot. Both local Salzburg newspapers had a photo of a sad Burgemeister, Heinz Shaden, in his Austrian costume, being consolded by Gabi Burgstraaur, one of the city bosses (Landeshaupfrau).
Britain's Prince Charles says that he speaks to his flowers and plants, and so perhaps the Alpine flower, The Eidelweiss, which was encorporated into the logo for Salzburg 2014, was able to show emotion and cry. The giant logo was all over the city and on the airport control tower and other buildings. The infastructure is there and most of the event buildings and sites, whereas Sochi is mostly on a drawing board. Pyeongchang had failed before and had been outbid by Vancouver, Canada for the 2010 Winter Games. Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer and South Korean president ROH Moo-hyu had been in Guatemala City for days to lead last minute canvassing. and the final vote was fairly close, 51-47 for the Russian bid.
For many years the I.O.C. International Olympic Committee, with its lavish headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, had tolerated votes sold to the highest bidder under previous I.O.C. chairman Juan Antonio Samarich and the U. S. Congress had had held meetings in the Senate after the Salt Lake City bid process and scandal was uncovered, and many IOC delagates were fired. Under new IOC President Jacques Rogge of Belgium, most of this bidding war was curtailed, with IOC delegates banned from visiting the bid cities and accepting gifts. I was in Birmingham UK at one previous IOC meeting where there were rooms full of costly gifts for all IOC voters and the media, with the big money changing hands away from public scrutiny.
The Guatemala City decision was probably as much a geo-political decision as a sporting one, though with the recent successful bid of Poland/Ukraine for the 2012 UEFA Soccer Championships and the 2010 FIFA World Cup awarded to South Africa, there is possibly an idea of trying new places. Eastern Europe has only once before hosted a Winter Olympics, in Sarajevo, and of course the summer Olympics, boycotted by the USA, in Moscow in 1980. The fact that Incheon, South Korea had already been awarded the Asian Games for 2014 and the World Athletics Championships in Daegu, South Korea 2011 might had had some bearing, but certainly the appearance of Vladimir Putin was the deciding factor.