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Olympic officials targeting return to Australia for 2032 Games

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In a move that could sidestep the traditional bidding process, the International Olympic Committee has tabbed Brisbane, Australia, as its preferred choice to stage the 2032 Summer Games and will enter into "targeted dialogue" to sort out hosting rights.

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The IOC executive committee approved the measure Monday, acting on a recommendation from its Future Host Commission. While the decision gives Australia the inside track as the likely host of the 2032 Games, Olympic officials said the selection process remains open and encouraged other interested countries to continue their efforts.

"This decision is not a decision against anybody. This is just a decision in favor of one interested party at this moment in time," IOC President Thomas Bach said on a video conference call with reporters Wednesday.

The decision means that the IOC can begin detailed discussions with the Brisbane 2032 Committee and the Australian Olympic Committee about hosting plans and also sends a signal to other nations that the IOC' sights are currently locked in on Australia, which last hosted a Summer Games two decades ago.

For years, the IOC encouraged a bidding process that pitted interested nations against each other in pursuing hosting rights. But with substantial cost overruns and an increasingly skeptical public, that model has faced scrutiny in recent years. Citing the coronavirus pandemic, the IOC said it's making this early step "given the uncertainty the world is facing right now," but the move is also a tacit acknowledgment that its traditional bidding system is not as effective as it once was.

Bach said that targeting Brisbane this early could make "the whole procedure more low-cost, to prevent any undue interference, to make it less political, to make it more sober."

Officials would not commit to any sort of timeline, though Kristin Kloster Aasen, chair of the IOC Future Host Commission, said, "This is not something that I foresee is going to take years." The IOC traditionally has chosen an Olympic host seven years ahead of time, but it's possible the executive committee votes on Brisbane as early as this summer. The IOC said if the targeted negotiations with Brisbane are unsuccessful, discussions with other countries could continue and potentially escalate.

The IOC would not reveal other nations who might continue through the process, though several have previously expressed an interest in hosting the 2032 Olympics, including Germany, Qatar, Indonesia, India and a possible joint bid from North and South Korea.

The IOC has previously shown some flexibility to its rigid selection process and taken a long view on potential hosting rights. In 2017, Los Angeles was awarded the 2028 Games, the same day Paris was chosen as the 2024 host, after several countries bowed out of the process early.

In singling out Brisbane, the IOC praised its early cost-effective plans, which include utilizing 80-90 percent of existing and temporary venues, plus its experience hosting international events, favorable summer climate, and strong government support. The early plans call for most events to take place in Brisbane with others being staged along the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, plus some soccer matches in Sydney, Melbourne and other venues.

"The reason for us to recommend the Brisbane project is that they're a very advanced project; there's number of criteria that sits very well with us," Kloster Aasen said. "They have an excellent master plan. . . . There are many, many things that made us want to put this forward."

If Brisbane is awarded the 2032 Games, it would mark the third time the Olympics have been staged in Australia, following the 1956 Melbourne Games and the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Published : February 25, 2021

By : The Washington Post · Rick Maese