‘Populist surge impacting on Olympics image’
The anti-establishment surge that led to Brexit and Donald Trump becoming US President has also impacted on bids to host the Olympic Games, British Olympic chief Hugh Robertson told AFP in an interview on Monday.
There has been much debate about the health of the Olympics brand with just two bidders left in the race for the 2024 Summer Games – Paris and Los Angeles.
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Rome and Budapest dropped out due to a perceived lack of popular support to host them.
Robertson, a former Conservative lawmaker who was Sports Minister in the lead-up to and during the 2012 London Games, said the present political mood did not see the Olympics in a favourable light.
“All political cycles rise and fall and we are in a period where establishments are on the back foot,” the British Olympic Association (BOA) chairman told AFP.
“You’ve seen that whether it be Brexit, Trump and also look at what is happening to a lesser extent in Germany and a greater extent in France, indeed right across Europe.
“This won’t last for ever. There are establishments for good reasons. It’s not because people want to club together and protect themselves as is commonly held to be the case at the moment.
“Establishments are a means of doing politics, doing government and doing business that tends to work for people.
“The sense at the moment is that it has broken down. I sense that at some point there will be a gravitation back to the establishment.”
– ‘The caravan to move on’ –
Robertson, who went on to become a Foreign Office minister before stepping down from his seat in 2015, says with the mood as it is he believes it would be wise for International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach and the members to allocate the 2024 and 2028 Games to Paris and Los Angeles when they convene in Lima in September.
“There is a very very strong argument, if members want it, to sit out this present mood by securing their future for as far forward as possible.
“Also looking from the outside the attraction to the IOC to award two Olympics would be to give themselves commercial security and knowing what they are doing a decade out must be an extraordinarily attractive option.”
Robertson, who said one of London’s innate strengths was that they had an all-Party binding agreement to first support the bid and then the delivery of the Games, said casting the Olympics as part of the establishment was wrong.
“Voting against the Olympics as a tool of the establishment is a profoundly illogical thing to do,” said Roberston.
“In amongst everything else that happens at an Olympics you can forget what an Olympics is which is at its core 28 world championships in 16/17 day period.”
Robertson, who was ennobled for his part in the successful delivery and hosting of the Games, said it was time for the IOC to remind people that sport is the essential ingredient of the Games.
“Probably part of the error in as much as an error has been made has been to lose sight of that (the sporting side) and if you brought it back to its DNA that it becomes a sports competition then it would be much more palatable.
“You don’t see too many people revolting against hosting a football World Cup in anything like the same way.
“So getting it back to its core values is a big part of the solution.
“Even if the IOC were to take my advice and wait for in that great modern phrase the caravan to move on (allocating the two Games at same time) it would be worth going through this process in stripping the Games back so it becomes just 16/17 days of sport.”