Olympic bid process 'dead' and needs revamp: ex-IOC official

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Paris and Los Angeles are the last two cities in contention for host of the 2024 Olympic Games (AFP Photo/Lionel BONAVENTURE)
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London (AFP) - The Olympics needs a reboot to regain the confidence of the public in the bidding process because the current model is "dead", a high-ranking former IOC official says.

Michael Payne, widely credited with transforming the International Olympic Committee brand and its finances through sponsorship, told AFP there was no problem with the end product of the Games itself.

But the 59-year-old Englishman, a former director of marketing at the IOC who is advising Los Angeles in their 2024 bid, said that was not the case when it comes to convincing the public that they want the Games in their city.

The race for the 2024 Summer Games has only two candidates left standing -- Los Angeles and Paris -- after the likes of Boston, Rome and Budapest dropped out due to a perceived lack of popular support at home.

This contrasts to the six candidates that the 1992 and 1996 Games attracted and the 2000-2012 editions drew five candidates apiece.

"To clarify: the bidding process as we know it is dead," Payne said on the sidelines of SportsPro Live in London, a conference on the commercial, political and operational aspects of sport.

"The present system that there is a nice beauty contest and then two of them turning up at the altar is dead."

Payne, who after leaving the IOC in 2004 performed a similar role with Formula One, said the power of social media had left bidding for the Games open to unprecedented scrutiny and people wanted to know more than before what public money was being spent and why.

Budapest abandoned its 2024 bid after young activists collected over a quarter of a million signatures.

Fearing spiralling costs and the risk of corruption, the activists said taxpayers should decide how their money is being spent.

"I think the bidding process for all major events needs radical overhaul and the understanding of hosting them also needs a radical overhaul," Payne said.

"Until recently budget promises during the bidding process were not put under the microscope but the social media environment we are now living in is forcing far more under the microscope.

"Everyone has to do a much better job of explaining in the case of the Olympics.

"It is not that the end product is broken, the audience ratings at the end of Rio were as strong as they have ever been.

"But the journey getting there and post Games report if you get it wrong is a lot more brutal and undermining confidence in the future."

- 'Reboot the process' -

Payne, who was an adviser to the successful Rio 2016 bid and subsequently brokered a massive broadcasting deal with Brazilian media giant Globo, said the LA 2024 bid enjoyed high public approval.

"Los Angeles is currently at 85 percent (public) support," said Payne.

"Why? Because there is still the memory of 1984 (Games in the city) and what it did for Los Angeles."

According to Payne, the people of Los Angeles wanted the Olympics in 1984 but only if it was privately financed -- and they got their way.

"LA rewrote the model and created such a success with a $250 million profit that it led to Barcelona bidding (1992) and Sydney (2000)," he said, calling for another revamp to get a sceptical public in cities all over the world back behind the Olympics.

"Los Angeles created the modern Games and buried the memory of the bankrupt city of Montreal and the 1976 Olympics which made nobody want the Games.

"There is a sense of Groundhog Day... you've been there, done that, now reboot the process."