‘No bids invited’ invites suspicion

Handing the 2021 world athletics event to Eugene without inviting bids was a controversial move .

    Was it fair and ethical for Eugene to be handed the event? [AP]
    Was it fair and ethical for Eugene to be handed the event? [AP]

    The only thing to be afraid of is lack of opportunity.

    I've often used this advice for people before job interviews or tv screen tests. They are terrified of the process and potential failure, rather than seeing the chance they have to prove themselves.

    But what if you don't get a chance to prove yourself? In sport, are we starting to see more of the 'done deal' and the 'closed shop'.

    Recently, I was intrigued by the story that emerged of the 2021 world athletics hosts: An event given to Eugene in Oregon, near Nike’s home.

    Now before this looks like criticism of a part of the world that has a fine athletics tradition, let me remind you of the eyebrow-raising point in this story: There was no bidding process.

    This is a fascinating situation that requires proper probing. Is it fair and ethical? Why has the IAAF decided on this? Its president, Lamine Diack, was explicit about the desire to reach out to the US.

    The US market

    Athletics has suffered a long decline in its biggest market, a saturated sports market, as the American audience has reacted to a lack of big stars, lack of medals and no shortage of big doping scandals.

    If Flo-Jo was a fake, if Gatlin is a doper but allowed to continue, why actually bother watching?

    And the US has never hosted a world athletics championship so it's definitely not before time. Also, to the IAAF's credit is the history of Eugene in athletics. The renowned University of Oregon is here, a genuine athletics hotbed. The stadium is used for Diamond League meetings and will be improved. Talent is still coming through from the US.

    Eugene and Oregon are the real deal and have been unlucky not to have already hosted it.

    We should also bear in mind the prejudices that can come all too quickly when a story like this emerges. The US? No bidders? Must be suspicious.

    The same kind of sniping directed at the Middle East landing the big sports events.

    But I don't remember sniping the last time the IAAF did this, giving the event to Osaka without inviting other bidders in 2007.

    It's clear on the surface why the governing body has done this. But that doesn't make it entirely satisfactory, does it? Ask the European governing body, which quickly expressed its dismay that Gothenburg wasn't allowed to bid.

    How can you not be allowed to bid for a sports event? They reacted by demanding the event is staged in Europe in 2023 - remember London has it in 2017.

    Then there's the Nike link. Is it a happy coincidence or have things been said behind closed doors about it being 'time to take the event to a heartland' where they will have a track and field day in the marketing stakes, the very marketing that appeals so much to the IAAF.

    And this 2021 'deal' comes uncomfortably quickly after another big American move in the sports world. Fox was being given 2026 World Cup rights without other bids being invited. That caused consternation. Why would Fifa do this? Well the 2026 will almost certainly be in the US and Fox are sitting pretty. That makes moving of Qatar 2022 into their domestic sports season suddenly not a matter for compensation or open dispute.

    So is the 'no-bids please it's already a deal' era arriving, where the best match for the organisers is chosen privately?

    Naturally money will be behind it. Even when there is bidding, there is always the threat of corruption so a one-team race is bound to cause unease.

    But I hope opportunity can remain open to all. Because lack of opportunity and not being allowed in the race, that’s a genuine concern.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera



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