Duncan Mackay

David_Owen_3Eleven entries involving 13 countries: as expected, the simultaneous races to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups look set to be real humdingers.

That spells a potentially busy period for FIFA’s Ethics Committee, which- as the sport’s governing body underlined on unveiling the full list of formal expressions of interest last week - “will be involved in the proceedings”.

Which makes me wonder, in turn, whether Lord Sebastian Coe (pictured), brimming with energy as he invariably is, will have enough time to fulfil his role as Ethics Committee chairman.

Coe, of course, is much better known as inspiration and guiding light of London’s 2012 Summer Olympic project - a role which would in itself be more than enough for most of us to handle.

The crunch period, as I see it, could be from May 14, 2010 - when those in the World Cup race have to submit their Bid Books - to the end of that year, when the two hosts should be chosen.

I cannot believe that this will be anything other than an immensely busy time for London 2012.

Yet, if the World Cup contests are as competitive as seems likely, demands on FIFA’s Ethics Committee could also be intense.

Frankly, from FIFA’s point of view, I also wonder about the wisdom of having a chairman who - though respected all over the world - would presumably have to take a back seat for most rulings regarding the 2018 race simply because his own country is among the bidders.

When I broached the subject with LOCOG last week, they told me: “Seb chairs the FIFA Ethics Committee and has a team of people supporting him.

“We don’t envisage any problems with the time commitment.”

Perhaps time will prove me wrong, but I, personally, would be surprised if the great Olympian does not gracefully step down from his FIFA post at some point in the next 18 months.

China absence leaves way for Olympic bid

One country that was widely expected to enter the World Cup race, but in the end did not was China, the nation which hosted last year’s Summer Olympics.

Expectations will now mount that it will try to win the 2018 Winter Olympics via a bid by the North-Eastern city of Harbin.

According to deadlines established by the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Executive Board, first information on the 2018 bid process should go to National Olympic Committees this month, with the official opening of the process in July or August.

Among those keeping a close eye on Harbin’s intentions will be supporters of the Bavarian city of Munich, host of the ill-fated 1972 Summer Games, which is among Harbin’s most likely rivals.

These include Thomas Bach (pictured), the German IOC member who is probably favourite to succeed Jacques Rogge as IOC President in 2013.

reported in December that Bach had tipped Munich to make history and become the first city to stage both the Summer and Winter Games, saying: “We bid to win and to stage the Winter Games 2018.

“The bid is a good one and most of the venues are already there.”

A whisper has since reached me to the effect that Bach - always assuming that he does, in time, wish to step into Rogge’s shoes - might have made a tactical mistake by publicly endorsing Munich in this way.

The thinking is simply that it might harm his prospects to be associated with a losing bid at a time - 2011 - when Olympic minds will probably be starting to turn to Rogge’s successor.

I can see what my interlocutor is driving at: Munich would most probably face stiff opposition in the 2018 race, especially from Asia, with South Korea’s Pyeongchang again possibly in the frame, as well as Harbin.

Rogge’s successor will probably be chosen in 2013, just two years after selection of the 2018 host.

However, as founding President of the German Olympic Sports Confederation, I don’t really see how Bach could do anything other than back a German bid.

It would be perverse, I feel, if his fellow IOC members were somehow to hold this against him.

The whisper does, though, beg what to me is an endlessly fascinating question: to what extent, if any, are Olympic elections interlinked?

We can never definitively know the answer to this question, since Olympic ballots are secret and it is not disclosed who individual IOC members ultimately vote for.

I would have thought, though, that if there was one issue on which members would be minded to put all other considerations to one side, it would be the matter of choosing the individual who was going to lead the Movement for the next eight or 12 years - a long stretch in anyone’s book.

2018 race will impact on 2016 Olympics

I would suspect that the influence of secondary factors is more widespread in the regular host city votes.

This is simply because it would ill behove the IOC, as a global movement, to stage its showpiece occasions invariably in the same part of the world.

It is, hence, only logical to conclude that the choice of host city for any given Games has some bearing on the contest to stage the next.

Take that incipient 2018 race and how it might impinge on the four-cornered contest to stage the 2016 Games, which will reach its climax this coming October in the Danish capital of Copenhagen. 

Well, I would have thought that supporters of Munich would be keen for Madrid not to beat Chicago, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo in the 2016 race.


Because a Madrid victory in 2016 would result in a third consecutive European Games, after London 2012  and Sochi 2014.

It seems almost inconceivable, given the attractive alternatives that the IOC will probably have, that members would then vote for a European city for a fourth Olympics on the trot in 2018.

David Owen is a specialist sports journalist who worked for 20 years for the Financial Times in the United States, Canada, France and the UK. He ended his FT career as sports editor after the 2006 World Cup and is now freelancing, including covering last year's Beijing Olympics