Review by Mihir Bose, Daily Telegraph Sport (UK)

Michael Payne is that rare Englishman: an Olympic insider. Twenty years ago, when he first arrived in Lausanne, barely 30 people worked at the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee. It was widely considered to be a glorified Swiss finishing school, the IOC were virtually bankrupt and there were doubts about whether the Olympic Games would survive the Cold War between the West and the soviet bloc.

In less than a month's time in Singapore, five of the world's greatest cities will be vying to stage the 2012 Olympics, with French President Jacques Chirac and Britain's Tony Blair pressing flesh in the corridors of the IOC's Raffles Hotel each hoping that is capital wins what London bid leader Lord Coe has called "the greatest prize on earth". The IOC's Lausanne headquarters could not be less full of Swiss debutants, or more lush with money.

Yet Payne, who had been head of the IOC's marketing division and left after the Athens Games to work for Formula One commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone, is filled with foreboding about the movement he helped to create. As he sat in a London hotel cradling his book, Olympic Turnaround, which describes how the Olympics became the most successful sports brand in the world, he warned that the near bankrupt movement of the 1980s was in danger of becoming the ferocious nanny whose fastidiousness could suffocate worldwide enthusiasm for the Games.

Payne said that in 1978, when Los Angeles won the right to stage the 1984 Games, the only other bidding city was Teheran, who withdrew as the ayatollahs took over. Then Los Angles had problems with the IOC and threatened to live the Games back the IOC pleaded with them, knowing no one else was interested.

Now the IOC and their president, Jacques Rogge, are reprimanding cities and even political leaders for being too enthusiastic in their bidding for 2012. "You may be so worried about the petty details that you lose sight of the big picture," Payne said. "I think there is very real risk of suffocating the bidding process and disenchanting the cities. You had a period when you were pleading with heads of State to be supportive and understanding of the Olympic ideal. And now when they are enthusiastic you create a situation when you want to keep them away.

"On July 6 you are going to have one great city winning and four great cities losing. You have to ensure there is benefit in the whole process for the losing cities. The bidding cities are the lifeblood of the Olympics. Only by having a lot of cities wanting the Games can you perpetuate the Olympic ideals. If you create a situation of one city not wanting to bid, the whole thing will very quickly fall off. Don't forget where we have come from - not just the problems of 1998 but of the 1980s, when you couldn't get any city to bid."

Payne has good reason to remember 1998, in particular Saturday December 12 when I, along with other journalists, gathered in Lausanne to hear the Swiss IOC member, Marc Hodler, blow the lid on the corruption involving Salt Lake City and other bidding cities.

Payne recalled: "When it blew up and the world's media was in full flight, you did not know there the next storm was coming from and what skeletons were coming out from the cupboard. You would be going to the office not knowing whether the organisation would survive the way."

It was during those months that Payne witnessed one of Lausanne's most extraordinary moments. Dr Un Kim, the IOC vice-president from South Korea who was under investigation (he is now serving a jail term in Korea nor unrelated corruption charges and recently resigned from the IOC) emerged from an executive meeting and, angered by the investigation, suddenly threatened to karate-kick François Carrard, then IOC director general.

Payne recalled: "I was 40 centimetres away. We had just come out for a coffee break. Tensions were very high. Let's just say that at the time the process was brutal and there was a risk the organisation would implode."

He said the pain was worth it, because it helped the IOC to implement in months changes that would have taken years. But Payne warned against thinking that the whole bidding process was corrupt. "Everybody knew there were issues going on in the bidding process that you wanted to stop. You couldn't stop. You would have cities that had failed to win coming and telling you afterwards this and that, but then you told them to put it writing, there was no hard evidence. Yes, Bob Scott [who led the two Manchester bids] said he told Juan Antonio Samaranch [then IOC president] but where was the smoking gun?"

Back to previous page | Home

web counter
Designed and maintained by DZINEING SOLUTIONS

@ Copyright 2012 Michael R. Payne All Rights Reserved
For more information feel free to Contact Us