In London today the International Olympic committee issued its preliminary reports on the handful of cities vying for the right to host the 2012 Olympic Games. The three leading candidates are New York, London and Paris, but not in that order. The preliminary reports seemed to confirm what Olympics insiders have been saying for two years now-- that Paris is a virtual shoo-in to host the Games and become the first city to do so three times. The official IOC vote will take place July 6 in Singapore.
Any chance New York might have had of attracting the Olympics would seem to have taken a bat this morning when the ranking member of the New York State Legislature demurred on support for the West Side stadium proposal, calling it "premature". But even with the new stadium, New York faced an uphill fight.
There is enormous sentiment in favor of Paris, the home of modern Olympics founder Pierre de Coubertin, to take its rightful place as the first three-time host. There is some resistance to bringing the Games back to the United States so soon after the poorly-reviewed Summer Games of Atlanta 1996 and the scandal-ravaged Salt Lake City experience of 2002. And there is built-in resentment against both London and New York on the part of nations angered by the War in Iraq. It will be Paris, and still two major continents-- Africa and South America, will never have hosted the Games. Not to mention, of course, the Middle East, where Teheran continues to try to martial ammunition for a bid, and where, in theory, oil money can quickly conquer any facilities problems.
By 2012 the world will have been awakened to China's massive international sports aspirations, and the Olympics will begin to take on the flavor of a new Cold War. China's athletes are at the moment free of performance enhancement, and they are being expensively treated to some of the best and most creative training and coaching benefits to be found on the planet. They want to win the overall medal count at Beijing, and they have a better shot than most of the sports world recognizes. Paris will be where the Western world responds to whatever the Chinese accomplish on their home turf.
To the degree that international sport serves as a metaphor for global conflict, these battle lines are already clearly drawn. It would have been poetic for the 2008 Games in the capitol of one great superpower to lead directly to a succeeding Olympics in this superpower's financial and cultural capitol, New York. But as Rick said to Ilsa on that foggy runway, "We'll always have Paris."