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Olympics: Putin not Obama the example of how to woo IOC

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The leaders of Japan, Spain and Turkey leave the G20 Summit in Russia to back their cities' bids for the 2020 Summer Olympics, ahead of the final decision Saturday.

They would do well to heed the lessons of two of their fellow leaders.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his American counterpart Barack Obama had contrasting experiences in their campaigns.

Putin's campaign to win the 2014 Winter Games for Sochi was a spectacular success. Obama's efforts to bring the 2016 Summer Games to Chicago, anything but.

The 100+ International Olympic Committee (IOC) members melted as Putin put up a scene stealing performance at the final presentation in Guatemala City in 2007.

He stunned everyone as he spoke in perfect English, a language most people thought he could not speak.

Sochi prevailed in a shock win over South Korean favourite Pyeongchang.

"Putin being here was very important," Jean-Claude Killy, a French IOC member and one of the main organisers behind the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville, said after the vote.

"He was charm personified. He spoke two languages he never speaks usually, French and English. The Putin charisma turned four votes for Pyeongchang into four for Sochi."

Obama was thought to be the final ace in the pack of his adopted home city of Chicago as he flew in on the day of the vote in Copenhagen in 2009.

Howeverm, while he received a respectful welcome, his powerful oratory and charisma failed to win over the members and less than a year after his becoming the first black president he suffered his first defeat.

It was not just a defeat. It was a humiliation for at just about the time he was boarding Air Force One, after departing before voting began, Chicago were stunningly voted out in the first round.

Part of the reason for this reverse boiled down to the most basic of reasons for several IOC members.

"We knew we were in trouble when IOC members came up to us before the day of the vote and grumbled that did he have to really come as because of extra security measures they had to get up earlier," one member of the bid team told AFP.

"Unbelievable! The most powerful man in the world is coming to plead the case for Chicago to the IOC and they complain that they have to get up earlier becaue of that."

For Putin and Obama read then British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac for the battle to win the hosting of the 2012 Olympics as the two old historical rivals Britain and France battled it out in the form of London and Paris with the latter the frontrunners for most of the race.

However, as the French began to idle in front sensing victory was theirs the never say die attitude of the London campaign - the British fighting spirit as some IOC members put it - plugged away.

Blair added the crucial finishing touches as he arrived early in the week leading up to the vote and wooed the IOC members meeting them one on one in his hotel suite.

"Blair was magnetic, he looked you in the eye and you really believed that you were the most important person in his life," one IOC member said.

"It was an outstanding performance and I would have sold my wife to him if he had asked me to at the time."

Chirac by contrast, a man like Blair who didn't lack in charisma nor the common touch, had already upset the Finnish IOC members by being caught on microphone ridiculing their cuisine.

To make matters worse he had added: "the only thing the British have done for Europe's agriculture is mad cow disease."

He rounded off probably his worst ever campaign by adopting a regal attitude when he arrived in Singapore where the vote took place seemingly awaiting a coronation -- the rudest of shocks awaited him as London won 54 votes to 50 in the final round.

Thus on Saturday when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks on behalf of Tokyo, his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayip Erdogan for Istanbul and Spanish premier Mariano Rajoy for Madrid they will do well to recall the pitfalls that can await even experienced politicians when they go before the IOC electorate.

pi/dw

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130906/olympics-putin-not-obama-the-example-how-woo-ioc