IT WAS NEVER MEANT TO BE...

James Deacon July 23 2001

IT WAS NEVER MEANT TO BE...

James Deacon July 23 2001

IT WAS NEVER MEANT TO BE...

Forgive Olympic-minded folks on the West Coast if they

didn’t cry real tears for poor old Toronto last week. Fact is, Hogtown’s pain—it finished second in the race for the 2008 Summer Games-is British Columbia’s gain. Vancouver’s joint pitch with Whistler for the 2010 Winter Games was going nowhere if Toronto had won the International Olympic Committee vote in Moscow, since the IOC would not send back-to-back Games to one country. So the westerners now have the field to themselves. “It gives us the opportunity, now that we are Canada’s bid, to start to go forward,” enthused Marion Lay, chair of the Vancouver-Whistler organization.

Cheap shot, but true: Toronto

now knows exactly what not to do to win the Games. But at least the bidders learned from their mistakes. They muzzled the mayor and tightened the focus of their presentation to voting delegates on their way to making the city a very good candidate. Their team battled gamely to the end, sending redclad Olympians into the corridors and the news conferences at the IOC session in Moscow in a last-ditch effort to beat Beijing. But moral victories were no consolation for the volunteers, sponsors and taxpayers who spent five years and $20 million trying to convince the IOC that their city wasn’t called Toronto the Good for nothing. Top to bottom, they all wanted the big prize. “It tears

your guts out,” said Canadian IOC delegate Paul Henderson.

Their disappointment arrived with alarming speed. Thanks to a new electronic voting system, it took only four minutes after the second-ballot vote began for retiring IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch to stand at the lectern and, in a few halting words of English, crush the dreams of Toronto’s more optimistic if misguided supporters. But the 2008 Games were never Toronto’s to win. Senior IOC delegates preferred Beijing both philosophically and commercially, despite misgivings about human rights violations and public executions. After all, China wanted the Games so much it was willing to commit to greater political reforms, especially regarding human rights. Just as impor-

tant in modern sports, the Beijing victory opens a rich market to the sponsors who pay the IOC’s bills.

To cement the deal, Beijing’s final pitch to delegates last week talked about how the Games would connect 400 million Chinese kids to the rest of the world through sport. It was brilliant. “When I saw the Beijing presentation, I got very scared,” said Toronto bid boss John Bitove, adding: “They had so much more to put on the table than us because they are the world’s largest country and they've never had the Olympics.” In the end, Toronto looked like a nice safe bet while Beijing shone like a glittering jackpot. For the IOC, that was too much to resist.

James Deacon