King Kaufman's Sports Daily

London KO's Paris for Olympics! Stunning fourth-round upset sends 2012 Games Thames-side. Dejected Parisians hint at retirement.


Salon Staff
July 6, 2005 11:00PM (UTC)

Oh, the weeping and rending of garments Wednesday over New York losing out on the 2012 Olympics to London.

But Michael Bloomberg and Hillary Clinton will be all right in a few weeks. The rest of New York is already over it and back to talking about Jason Giambi's three home runs in two days.

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New York got bounced in the second of four rounds of voting by the International Olympic Committee, with London pulling a stunning upset of favored Paris in an exciting final, 54-50. Paris wasted two timeouts in the first half and was never able to find an answer for London's power offense.

London's presentation involved reminding the committee that the city stepped in to host the Games in 1948 as Europe was trying to recover from the devastation of World War II.

"Remind me again," one British presenter said, turning to the French with a raised eyebrow, "what you lot did during World War II?"

London was playing for keeps.

Paris countered with a ready-to-go Olympic stadium, great food, sexy women and hot guys in sandals, but the damage had been done. A free portfolio of sizzling pictures of French supermodel Laetitia Casta might have helped, but was never considered. I only mention it for the sake of page views.

Parisian representatives, including San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker, expressed shock and disappointent at this third rejection in 20 years. Paris also bid for the 1992 and 2008 Games.

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Philippe Baudillon, who led the Paris bid, said, "I guess the Olympic movement just does not want to go to Paris." French sports minister Jean-Francois Lamour agreed, saying, "I think we will have to wait for a long time now before seeing the Olympics in Paris."

Moscow and Madrid were the other cities that lost out Wednesday. In each round of balloting, the city with the fewest votes was eliminated. Moscow went first with 15 votes, then New York with 16 and Madrid with 31 to set up the "Tale of Two Cities" finale.

Note: As of 10 a.m. EDT Wednesday, a Google News search -- which is not necessarily comprehensive -- revealed that only two newspapers, the Scotsman and the Herald, both in the United Kingdom, riffed on "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," an admirable show of restraint by the international typing classes.

I once worked a desk job where I had to try to argue that sentence out of one columnist's work at least once a week, to say nothing of "They say [fill in month] is the cruelest month."

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I digress.

I'd been rooting for long-shot Moscow, which last hosted the Olympics in 1980. I'd hoped the Russians would get the chance to hold a fully attended Olympic Games, since 1980 was marred by the U.S.-led boycott over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. That followed the Nigeria-led boycott of Montreal in 1976 and led in turn to a "Screw me? Screw you!" counter boycott of the Los Angeles Games by the Soviet bloc in 1984.

The whole boycott era was the lowest point in Olympic history that didn't involve Adolf Hitler, terrorism or a post-competition gymnastics exhibition.

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I rooted against New York because holding the 2012 Games there would have meant three Olympics in the United States out of the last eight, which seems a bit much. And that's not to mention the U.S. hosting the Winter Olympics in 1980 and 2002.

OK, we're the big cheese, and we ushered in the modern era of Olympic Games as possible profit generators, but the rest of the world is nice too.

Even having two out of six Olympics in the same country seems like overkill to me, which is why I was also cool on Madrid. Spain just had the Barcelona Games in 1992. London played host in 1908 and 1948. Every half century, give or take, is plenty for any one country, though I was ready to make an exception for Moscow.

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London's bid, seriously, was built around using the Games as the centerpiece for development in Stratford in East London, which fell on hard times in the Middle Ages and just hasn't been able to get on its feet. The price tag would be something like $6.6 billion.

I don't know enough about development in London to know whether this is going to be a good deal for Londoners and English taxpayers in general or yet another sports-related boondoggle, though I have my hunches. One safe bet is that the project will be over budget, as almost all such projects are, so that $6.6 billion figure is conservative.

Columnist Guy Dresser at the British finance Web site This Is Money, admits that it seems "churlish" to ask hard questions at a time of national rejoicing over the Olympics bid. But he also makes a good point when he points out the fiscal dangers and writes, "Our kids won't thank us if their legacy from the Games is a huge financial debt rather than a sporting bonanza."

It'll be years before we know whether those kids will spend their adulthoods paying off that debt, but I think most New Yorkers who aren't personally acquainted with their mayor can agree: Better your kids than ours.

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A clarification [PERMALINK]

Reader Mitchell Below writes in to point out that I passed along an error in Tuesday's column about Major League Baseball's system of meting out punishment.

I quoted San Diego Union-Tribune columnist Nick Canepa writing about Kenny Rogers: "Boston manager Terry Francona shouldn't have named Rogers to the squad, and Commissioner Bud Selig should have stepped in and ordered Francona not to do so."

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Francona didn't name Rogers to the squad. He was named in voting among players, who cast their ballots before Rogers shoved a couple of cameramen last week.

Note: This column has been changed since its original publication.

Previous column: Baseball "justice"

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