Paris, Los Angeles in Denmark to press 2024 bids

Paris and Los Angeles delegations met with Olympic chiefs in Denmark on Monday as the race to stage the 2024 Games enters its final phase.

Paris, Los Angeles in Denmark to press 2024 bids
Aarhus' mayor Jakob Bundsgaard (R) shows his Los Angeles counterpart Eric Garcetti around the Danish city on Sunday. Photo: Axel Schütt/Scanpix

The 2024 rivals held talks with International Olympic Committee vice-presidents ahead of presenting their bids to international federations in Aarhus on Tuesday.

Over 2000 international delegates will attend the SportAccord convention at the city’s Scandinavian Centre, reports broadcaster DR.

“Decision makers from across the international sports world are coming to Aarhus. We’ve never had anything like this in Aarhus before,” Visit Aarhus director Peer Kristensen told DR.

Aarhus will be host to “the most exciting conference in the city’s history,” Kristensen said.

READ ALSO: Why you'll want to visit Aarhus this year

A talking point at the convention will be the IOC's review into the Games designation process which could see both the 2024 and 2028 Olympics awarded at the same crunch vote in Lima in September.

The IOC is exploring the option in order to capitalise on the Paris and Los Angeles bids at a time when fewer and fewer cities are willing to take on the financial and logistical responsibilities of staging an Olympic Games.

Both Paris and Los Angeles emphasis they are focussed on 2024, whilst at the same time offering support to the IOC's review.

The Los Angeles delegation, led by Mayor Eric Garcetti, commented: “We remain committed to bidding for the 2024 Games and look forward to future discussions with the IOC Working Group as the bid progresses.”

His Paris counterpart, Anne Hidalgo, said: “Paris lends its support to the IOC to review the designation process for candidate cities.”

The IOC review is “interesting and legitimate,” she added. “We are going to accompany the IOC in this process.”

On Tuesday both cities will present their bids to international federations assembled in Aarhus for the 15th SportAccord convention.

Previous host cities include London, Berlin, Beijing and Madrid.

“This is really a world event… major media from all over the world will be closely following the decisions that the delegates will be taking. We will show that big congresses can easily be located in Aarhus,” Kristensen said.

Visit Aarhus has placed welcome committees in both Billund and Aarhus Tirstrup airports, reports DR.


Could Scandinavian countries lead the way in taking stand against Qatar World Cup?

Vehemently opposed to Qatar's hosting of the 2022 World Cup, football federations in the Nordic countries are putting pressure on Doha and FIFA to improve conditions for migrant workers in the emirate.

Workers during construction of the Lusail 2022 World Cup stadium in December 2019. Football federations in Nordic countries led by Denmark have spoken out against Qatar's hosting of the event.
Workers during construction of the Lusail 2022 World Cup stadium in December 2019. Football federations in Nordic countries led by Denmark have spoken out against Qatar's hosting of the event. Photo: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

Together with rights organisation Amnesty International, the federations of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland have ratcheted up the pressure in recent months, raising their concerns and presenting recommendations in letters, meetings with officials and pre-game protests.

“We are against holding the World Cup in Qatar, we thought it was a bad decision,” the head of the Danish federation DBU, Jakob Jensen, told AFP.

“It is wrong in many ways. Because of the human rights situation, the environment, building new stadiums in a country with very little stadium capacity,” he said.

Denmark is the only Nordic country to have qualified for the tournament so far. Sweden face a playoff next year to secure a place and Norway, Finland and Iceland have been eliminated.

Leading the charge, the Danish federation regularly publishes the Nordic countries’ letters sent to FIFA and holds talks with Qatari officials, including an October meeting with Qatar head organiser Hassan Al-Thawadi.

The main concern is migrant workers’ rights.

Qatar has faced criticism for its treatment of migrant workers, many of whom are involved in the construction of the World Cup stadiums and infrastructure.

Campaigners accuse employers of exploitation and forcing labourers to work in dangerous conditions.

Qatari authorities meanwhile insist they have done more than any country in the region to improve worker welfare, and reject international media reports about thousands of workers’ deaths.

The Nordics have also raised other concerns with al-Thawadi, Jensen said.

“Will homosexuals be allowed to attend the World Cup? Will men and women be able to attend the matches together? Will the press have free access to all sorts of issues to do investigations in the country?”

“And all the answers we received were ‘yes’. So of course we’re going to hold him responsible for that,” Jensen said.

The Danish federation said its World Cup participation would focus on the games played on the pitch, and it will not do anything to promote the event for organisers.

It will limit the number of trips it makes to Qatar, the team’s commercial partners will not take part in official activities there, and its two jersey sponsors will allow training kit to carry critical messages.

In Norway, whose qualification bid fell apart when its best player Erling Braut Haaland missed games through injury, the issue culminated in June when its federation held a vote on whether to boycott the World Cup.

READ ALSO: Norway’s economic police call for boycott of Qatar World Cup

Delegates ultimately voted against the idea, but an expert committee recommended 26 measures, including the creation of a resource centre for migrant workers and an alert system to detect human rights violations and inform the international community.

Like other teams, Norway’s squad also protested before each match by wearing jerseys or holding banners like the one unfurled during a recent match against Turkey, reading “Fair play for migrant workers”.

But the Nordic countries have not always acted in line with their own campaign.

Last month at a Copenhagen stadium, a Danish fan was ordered to take down his banner criticising the World Cup in Qatar, as FIFA rules prohibit political statements.

And Sweden’s federation recently scratched plans to hold its winter training camp in the emirate as it has done the past two years.

Sweden’s professional clubs had protested against the hypocrisy of holding the camp there while at the same the federation was leading the protests with Nordic counterparts.

The professional clubs wanted to send a “signal”, the chairman of Swedish Professional Football Leagues, Jens Andersson, told AFP.

Individual players have also spoken out. 

Finland’s captain Tim Sparv last week issued a joint appeal with Amnesty demanding that “FIFA must ensure that human rights are respected”, adding: “We are in debt to those people who have worked for years in poor conditions.”

So far, none of FIFA’s 200 other member federations have joined the Nordic campaign.

“Hopefully all these Nordic neighbours of ours and us taking these steps will have an impact on other countries,” Mats Enquist, secretary general of the Swedish Professional Football League, told AFP.

“We need to ensure that all the aspects of football, not just the richest, are really taken care of when we come to a place.”