Doubts Over Sarkozy Attendance at IOC 2018 Vote; Appeals to Africa

(ATR) French president Nicolas Sarkozy may miss next week's vote in Durban ... Annecy, Munich, PyeongChang pitch African Olympic leaders in Lome, Togo ...

(ATR) French president Nicolas Sarkozy may miss the IOC vote for the 2018 Winter Olympics host in Durban next week, dealing a major blow to the Annecy bid.

Initial calls made by Around the Rings to Sarkozy's presidential office, Élysée Palace, revealed that he may not be travelling to Durban to support the bid from the Alpine town.

"It is not on the program of the president," a presidential press officer told ATR.

Regional French newspaper L'Essor savoyard reported that Sarkozy was not heading to the South African city, saying his no-show "does not bode well for the French bid".

Sarkozy's absence would surely impact Annecy's chances of success in the three-city race for 2018; the French bid is already considered the outsider.

German president Christian Wulff is attending the crucial July 6 vote to lobby for Munich and South Korean president Myung Bak Lee has confirmed he'll make the trip to Durban to boost PyeongChang's bid chances.

The Élysée Palace did confirm that Sarkozy was scheduled to attend the wedding of Prince Albert of Monaco and Charlene Wittstock in the principality on July 2. He would therefore get an opportunity to lobby a number of IOC members who are expected to attend the nuptials.

Annecy 2018 bid chiefs remain hopeful that Sarkozy can still find time in his busy schedule to travel to Durban.

Representatives from all three 2018 candidates on Tuesday addressed delegates at the general assembly of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa in Lomé, Togo.

Bid president Charles Beigbeder shared Annecy's vision for an "authentic" Winter Games set in the mountains of the Alpine town. Also speaking for the bid were Denis Masseglia, president of the French national Olympic committee, and bid vice-president Jean-Pierre Vidal.

"Annecy wants to share its spectacular mountains, its hospitality and its passion for sport so that the 2018 Winter Games inspire the whole world, especially young people," Beigbeder said in a statement following the bid's pitch to ANOCA.

Beigbeder emphasized that Annecy's bid was "open to the world".

"It is because of these very principles that France was one of the first countries in the world to implement an international sporting cooperation policy, particularly in Africa," he added.

"A long-term policy focusing on human development because we believe that sport is a key factor of economic development, a creator of social links and a way of bringing people together."

Masseglia noted that sport and development actions were a "constant preoccupation for France and its sporting movement", which he said went hand-in-hand with education and youth as part of a global international cooperation strategy.

He told delegates that a "Place des Nations" would be set up in Annecy in 2018, where the 205 NOCs can promote their culture and history in a unique setting, while an international training center for high-level athletes would also be established "to provide them with the best of savoir-faire at the foot of the majestic Mont Blanc".

"This center will benefit a whole new generation of athletes and will increase the number of African athletes competing in winter sports. The centre will also provide summer sports training facilities," he added in a statement.

Munich to Extend NOC Outreach in Africa

Munich 2018 took a powerful team to ANOCA where they pledged to build on the German Olympic Sports Confederation’s 50-year program of NOC outreach initiatives in Africa.

Bid chairwoman Katarina Witt was joined on stage by IOC vice-president and German NOC president Thomas Bach and CEO Bernhard Schwank. The presentation team also included two people who have first-hand experience with the NOC project – coach Achim Ecke and Lenwi Karba, one of Togo’s rising stars in managing and coaching athletics.

Speaking in French, Ecke spoke of his work in planning, organizing and running training camps all over Africa. In Togo, he worked with Karba to train 22 Togolese athletics coaches.

Under programs offered by Munich 2018, the successful training camps concept used for the 2009 IAAF World Athletics Championships in Berlin will be expanded. The bid also promises more study scholarships for coaches, athletes, administrators and sports scientists.

Bach urged ANOCA delegates to support Munich 2018. "I am deeply convinced that Munich 2018 will deliver great benefits to each of your Olympic NOCs. Let us renew our historic sports and cultural partnership through Munich 2018," he said.

"Let us build an even stronger future together, for the benefit of millions of young Africans across the next generations."

PyeongChang Lists Africa Among "New Horizons"

PyeongChang pledges to help national Olympic committees in Africa and Asia develop winter sport if awarded the 2018 Olympics.

Bid leaders stressed the slogan "New Horizons" during their 20 minutes on stage at the ANOCA assembly.

"We want to help promote the Olympic Movement and grow winter sport to new regions and connect with new audiences," chairman Yang Ho Cho said during the presentation. "We think that this is unique in this race for 2018, and it is something that only PyeongChang 2018 can provide."

PyeongChang’s delegation also included Korean Olympic Committee president Yong Sung Park, communications director Teresa Rah and figure skating gold medalist Yu Na Kim.

"It would be a great honor for PyeongChang to host the Winter Games in 2018," Kim said Tuesday during her second formal appearance on behalf of the bid. "We are committed to creating a long-term and sustainable winter sport legacy that means more winter sport athletes and fans around the world."

Lome is the last chance for candidate cities to campaign ahead of the IOC decision on July 6.ANOCA membership numbers 53 countries that include 15 IOC members, meaning it’s also among their final opportunities to woo voters before the big day.

Written by Mark Bisson