Good-Bye 1996, Hello 2004

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Outside magazine, August 1996

Good-Bye 1996, Hello 2004

As the sun descends on Atlanta, an anxious world turns its eyes to…Puerto Rico?
By Stephanie Gregory

While Boston elbows into position in the race for the 2008 Summer Olympics, the dash for the 2004 Games breaks into its final stretch. On September 5 of next year, 11 would-be hosts will become ten also-rans and one suddenly panicky victor. Here’s the early line on who will win, courtesy of London journalist John Rodda, dean of Olympic reporters, plus odds from the sports book
at London’s William Hill. Note to San Juan: Don’t break out the celebratory rum just yet.

Rome, Italy
Said to be a favorite of Samaranch’s. City’s state-of-the-art stadium won kudos while on display at the 1990 World Cup soccer championship, evidence of a serious commitment to venue building. But the 1960 “been there” factor may hurt Rome’s chances. Odds: 4 to 1 on the Rodda scale, 2 to 1 for the real money.

Stockholm, Sweden
With a long list of narrowly defeated bids, Stockholm may benefit from the always-powerful sympathy vote. A rich Olympic history and generally competent management puts this site on almost equal footing with Rome. Odds: 4 to 1, 12 to 1.

Cape Town, South Africa
Yes, it’s too small, boasts too few sports facilities, and offers a questionable slate of hotels. But the Games have never unfolded on the African continent, a potent consideration in Samaranch’s worldview. Plus, the city is awash in hopeful billboards featuring eager street urchins with fingers V’ed, Nixon-style. Couldn’t hurt. Odds: 12 to 1, 6 to

Athens, Greece
Despite vowing never to seek another Olympics after losing the 1996 Games, Athens launched an oh-well bid for 2004. Pluses: The city can rightly claim an Olympic birthright. Minuses: pollution, traffic, frightful infrastructure. Odds: 15 to 2, 7 to 1.

St. Petersburg, Russia
What advantages the city gains with its rich history and gilded culture, it loses with a lineup of crumbling facilities and shaky organization. Odds: 15 to 2, 16 to 1.

Buenos Aires, Argentina
A first-ever South American Games remains this city’s strongest selling point. Inexperience in hosting all but volleyball and soccer events may nix its chances, however. Odds: 25 to 1, 12 to 1.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
AprŠs-Games would certainly be a blast, but the city’s financial woes and overzealous police force raise too many questions. Plus, street urchins aren’t as celebrated–or welcomed–here as they are in Cape Town. Odds: 25 to 1, 14 to 1.

Istanbul, Turkey
Remember Midnight Express? Political unrest and rights violations do on occasion attract the IOC–which thinks of the Games as a stabilizing influence, Ì la Seoul–but this city’s just too dicey for serious consideration. Odds: 25 to 1, 20 to 1.

Seville, Spain
Returning to Samaranch’s native country so soon after Barcelona might raise charges of double-dipping, so look for the IOC president to quietly quell any upset. Still, bullfighting as a medal sport might be fun. Odds: 25 to 1, 100 to 1.

Lille, France
A drab city that isn’t even mentioned in guidebooks, upstart Lille won’t get past the first round. Besides, for IOC members with epicurean designs, Lyon has set its sites on 2008. Odds: 33 to 1, 50 to 1.

San Juan, Puerto Rico
Tasty beach time for hedonistic IOC members and their spouses ensures that this site will get lots of drop-bys–but little real consideration. Odds: 50 to 1, 66 to 1.

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