2016 cities step up in Denver

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The four candidate cities for the 2016 Olympics wrapped up a rollercoaster week at the SportAccord convention in Denver by pitching their bids for the Games to a packed convention hall on Thursday 26 March 2009, writes The Sport Briefing's Rory Squires.

Chicago, Madrid, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro each made 20–minute presentations to the audience of industry executives, International Olympic Committee (IOC) members and international federation representatives, but the Brazilian city's efforts attracted the most positive reaction from the crowd. Rio spelled out the fact that South America has never hosted the Games, and like Madrid and Tokyo, highlighted the full government financial guarantees supporting the bid. Chicago does not have the luxury of such guarantees, and despite being on home soil, bid leader Pat Ryan later admitted he thought the US city's pitch had been " maybe a little too boring" . The scene of SportAccord was the US city of Denver, Colorado, which no doubt will one day have ambitions of hosting the Olympics itself, despite infamously turning down the chance to host the 1976 Winter Games. The IOC will be carrying out a series of city visits in the coming weeks before voting for the 2016 host city in October, but a simmering dispute with the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) proved to be a more pressing issue in Denver. The USOC's controversial revenue–sharing agreement with the IOC came under the microscope early in the week when the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) presented a resolution, calling for the contract to be curtailed, to IOC president Jacques Rogge. Owing to existing contractual obligations, the IOC is unable to alter terms of the agreement for several years. However, by the end of the week, the two parties had agreed to renegotiate the contract in 2013 ahead of changes to the split of revenues and the USOC's financial contributions to the Games from 2020. ASOIF vice–president Hein Verbruggen, who had been one of the key figures behind the move to put pressure on the USOC, also had crucial developments to consider in his role as president of the General Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF). GAISF announced that it will change its name to 'SportAccord', building on the branding of the increasingly popular annual event, which is co–owned by GAISF, ASOIF and the Association of International Olympic Winter Federations (AIOWF). Rogge also had a busy week – so busy, in fact, that he missed the 2016 Olympic bid city presentations. The IOC president reported encouraging financial figures for the 2010, 2012 and 2014 Games in Vancouver, London and Sochi respectively, and also confirmed the international pre–Olympics torch relay would be scrapped following a series of NGO protests along the route in the build–up to the Beijing event last year. Against the backdrop of so many important announcements, the SportAccord conference itself could have been underwhelming in comparison. However, a stellar line–up of speakers ensured that would not be the case. Media veteran Ted Turner and former world number one tennis player Andre Agassi were among the headline acts, whilst NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol and multi–franchise owner George Gillett gave optimistic appraisals of the health of the sports industry. Ebersol explained that in times of financial hardship, " people look for upbeat news and events" such as the Olympics. Gillett added: " Historically, sport is the last expenditure people cut back on. There are serious financial implications in the world at the moment, but we are fortunate to be involved in sports. " The complexities of the working relationships between international federations and major leagues was also highlighted by a panel which gave International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel and National Hockey League (NHL) commissioner Gary Bettman the chance to lock horns in public. Fasel and Bettman clashed over the issue of NHL player participation in the Olympics, with the former accusing the latter of being " money–driven" . In a different conference session, the IOC's Olympic Games executive director, Gilbert Felli, responded to comments by NBC chief Ebersol that the Youth Olympic Games represented a " missed opportunity" by failing to introduce more emerging, youth–oriented sports to the competition programme. " There are a lot of conservatives within the sports structure, and that makes it difficult to be innovative sometimes, " said Felli. The inaugural Youth Olympic Games will take place next year [2010] in Singapore from 14–26 August, whilst around 3, 000 miles to the west, SportAccord will land in Dubai from 26–30 April. Representatives from the Emirate officially closed the conference by providing a taste of what to expect in 2010, but after having listened to a superb collection of speakers against the spectacular sporting backdrop of Colorado this year, they will know they have quite an act to follow. The Sport Briefing is published by PA Sport and can be found at: www. thesportbriefing. comThe Sport Briefing is updated as and when news happens, from across the global business of sport. The industry's biggest stories have an accompanying email alert, and The Sport Briefing sends subscribers a daily digest to give them an easy–to–read overview of the day's main events. Contact rory. squires@thesportbriefing. com for more information.

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