The International Olympic Committee has awarded the right to stage the 2014 Winter Olympic Games to the Black Sea resort of Sochi. It was the Russian city’s first candidacy for the right. At present, its athletic facilities are almost nonexistent. It presented an innovative plan to combine ice-related athletic facilities and an athletes’ village by the Black Sea, where the climate is mild, with snow-related facilities in the cold and snowy Krasnaya Polyana mountains about 40 km away. This plan attracted many votes. What was decisive, though, in Sochi’s selection as the 2014 Winter Games site was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s presence at the IOC session.

Mr. Putin took a cue from former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who greatly helped London win the right to stage the 2012 Summer Olympic Games with his presence at an earlier IOC session. Mr. Putin took the challenging job of addressing the IOC session in Guatemala City in languages other than Russian. He delivered his speech in English, French and Spanish, offering the Russian state’s full support of Sochi’s plan. His performance won the hearts of IOC officials.

South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun and Austrian Prime Minister Alfred Gusenbauer also lobbied in Guatemala City for their candidate cities — Pyeongchang and Salzburg. After Salzburg was eliminated in the first ballot, Sochi won 51 votes against Pyeongchang’s 47 votes in the second ballot. Four years ago, Pyeongchang had lost to Vancouver for the right to stage the 2010 Winter Games by just three votes.

What happened in Guatemala City shows that — besides attractive plans — money and political power count toward winning the Olympic nod. A country whose political leader lacks global recognition is likely to have difficulty gaining enough IOC votes. Russia will spend an equivalent of 1.5 trillion yen to turn Sochi into a Winter Olympics site. It apparently hopes to use the Olympic Games as a chance to improve Sochi’s tourist infrastructure. IOC must devise ways to enable smaller countries with less money and political clout to stage Olympic Games.

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