Universiade bid fails

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:12 AM ET

There will be no Edmonton 2015 because of the difference of 35 Euros a day.

There will be no Universiade here because Eric Newell's University of Alberta bid committee got outhustled, out-thought, outplayed and outspent.

The Edmonton bid committee gave up $400 million of financing by the three levels of government - $300 million worth of legacy in the form of facilities and national training centre creations - because of a difference of 35 Euros a day per athlete, or $55 Cdn.

Unbelievable!

Edmonton's bid failed in a vote yesterday in Brussels, losing to Gwangju, Korea, because the members of the Edmonton committee were caught with their heads down.

"The significant difference in the two bids was the low per-day, per-person cost," said Stefan Bergh of Sweden, the head of the site inspection team.

"Gwangju's was substantially lower," he said of the room and board in a telephone interview with Sun Media.

The charge, he said, is usually around 60 Euros.

"Edmonton went lower to 45 Euros. Gwangju's was only 10 Euros."

There are 10,000 athletes, coaches and officials involved. Do the math. At a difference of 35 Euros per day, per person, Edmonton lost $400 million in government backing and $300 million in legacy for basically under a million dollars.

And they didn't see this coming?

In all of international sport, the two Games with the worst reputations for various forms of vote buying are the Universiade and the Pan-Am Games. Forty-five Euros to 10 Euros?

"That was entirely it," said Ed Zemrau, the man who ran Universiade '83 here and was a FISU (International University Sports Federation) member for decades.

"Nobody had any idea they'd go that low. We thought at 45 Euros, that would be enough with all the other things involved to swing it. We didn't expect the 10 Euros."

For 48 hours prior to the voting, there were whispers of vote buying - of the Salt Lake Olympic scandal variety - which had leaked back to individuals with international sports connections in Edmonton, but Zemrau says that problem isn't what it used to be.

"That kind of thing might have happened. But there was no need to do that."

Not when you can buy Games for a difference of 35 Euros per person per day.

Zemrau said maybe they should have seen it coming.

"They're big spenders. They want to do the same thing they did before Seoul '88 and that's hold a Universiade as a lead-in for a bid for the Olympics."

Why didn't Edmonton offer athlete room and board for free? The Olympics are free. The Commonwealth Games are free. The recent IAAF World Championships in Athletics here was free.

"Why charge money for athletes to compete?" is fair comment, said Zemrau.

Mike Mahon, the U of A dean of Phys. Ed., said he believes the Koreans also included travel subsidies greater than the incentives that were the part of the Edmonton bid, which lost on the first ballot with the Koreans getting at least 14 of the 27 votes.

Zemrau thinks FISU blew it.

"I really think FISU made a mistake," he said. "You can't truly be international if you are constantly holding your Games in one or two continents."

Indeed. This was a wonderful opportunity for FISU but they totally ignored the big picture.

Politics probably played a part, too, with Gwangju having lost the 2013 Universiade to Kazan, Russia, in a political deal involving that city being the home of the Russian prime minister.

And the short-sighted voters were not swayed by the fact that the Edmonton bid, with support of all three levels of government, was not there to be put back on the table. Nor should it be.

This event would have been a hard sell here, although a worthy one because of the legacy.

But to get rejected like this, especially with a second chance to make an impact in North America in the city that took the event to a level it had never been before back in 1983, would be impossible to sell after this.

Not that it is an option.

"We can't go back," said Mahon.

Edmonton should return to the tried, tested and true philosophy this city has had since the 1978 Commonwealth Games and 1983 Universiade of hosting a regular run of single-sport major world championships.

Meanwhile, the Universiade can continue the run of hosting their events in places like Fukuoka, Japan; Sicily, Italy; Palma de Mallorca, Spain; Daegu, Korea; Izmur, Turkey; Belgrade, Serbia; Shenzhen, China; Kazan, Russia; and Gwangju, Korea, without anybody anywhere other than Europe or Asia paying any attention.

Their loss.

TERRY.JONES@SUNMEDIA.CA


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