Could the U.S. lose the 2028 Olympics? The most senior member of the IOC is saying it’s a possibility.
The IOC’s ever-outspoken Dick Pound spoke to Reuters last week on the issue. According to Pound, the United States is in violation of the Olympic charter and potentially the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code.
And that, he notes, raises the question of whether the 2028 Games will remain in the U.S.
“We will have to wait and see but at some point, if the U.S. becomes a rogue state I think we will start looking at whether the Games in Los Angeles should proceed,” Pound, the IOC’s senior member, told Reuters.
The U.S. has said it will withdraw WADA funding unless a number of demands are met, including, “more representation on boards and committees, speedier reforms and greater transparency.”
WADA fired back, saying it would create its own rules to sanction stakeholders who pull their contributions, since stakeholders had agreed to comply with its mandates as a condition of being part of the Olympic equation. Specifically, WADA noted, those who were non-compliant with the WADA Code could potentially be barred from hosting and participating at the Olympic Games.
The U.S. already has one strike against it in terms of problems with the IOC. Last fall, Congress passed the Olympic Reform Bill, giving U.S. lawmakers the power to dissolve the United States Olympic Paralympic Committee (USOPC) board. This runs counter to the IOC charter, which prohibits government interference in National Olympic Committees.
Should lawmakers in the U.S. try to use their authority to create change, or more accurately, force change, on the USOPC, it could force the IOC’s hand.
The IOC has previously suspended countries already because of government interference. Kuwait was one of these – and it is unlikely Congress will want to see the U.S. added to the list.
“The Congressional legislation focusing on the U.S. Olympic Committee gives Congress the power to rule over the board of directors is on the statute books and is clearly a violation of the Olympic charter, kind of like it is in Italy at the moment,” Pound told reporters. “All these things are not just going to go away just because it is the U.S.”
The double threat won’t be lost on U.S. officials who are desperately seeking to rebuild tourism, and in particular, sports tourism. It will not be lost on California, either, as it struggles to navigate through being “the epicenter of the COVID pandemic.”
No action is likely to be imminent, unless a more egregious violation occurs on the USA's part. For now, the IOC is focused on working with Tokyo to make the 2021 Games a reality, providing the U.S. with some time to resolve the issues.
Pound (say what you will about him; he’s rarely wrong) believes it is far too early to make a determination on whether the Tokyo Games will go forward. He told reporters the overall signs were good – despite the fact that the virus is surging again in the city that desperately wants to host in 2021.
“The elephant in the room remains the virus,” Pound said Friday in a telephone interview with The Washington Post. “And, you know, if there is an uncontrolled upsurge, well, that will certainly increase the risk. But on the preparations to date and the results to date, it looks pretty encouraging. It may be stripped down a little bit, but the important thing is that they take place so that message gets out to the world that we can beat this thing.”
Pound has noted his belief that vaccinating athletes is critical to being able to stage the Games. Whether the Games will be staged with spectators is an open question; it is likely a decision will be made on that by March.
The Games are planned to run in Tokyo from Friday, July 23, to Sunday, August 8, 2021. There have been calls to delay the Olympics until 2024, which would change the cycle of the Games. Whether that means L.A. would host in 2028 or 2032 has not been explored. Already, Japanese cabinet minister Taro Kono has admitted that a decision on whether or not to host next summer "could go either way."
The IOC has noted it will not make a decision on the fate of the 2021 Games until spring.