I watched this morning’s too-close-to-call International Olympic Committee (IOC) vote with friends in London and while these normally self-deprecating Londoners are elated to bag the $3bn prize of hosting the 2012 games, there’s also a feeling that the city’s rivals choked on the final lap. French president Jacques Chirac may have delivered the coup de grace to Paris with some tactless comments this week about the Brits, while state authorities knocked-out New York’s chances by nixing Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to build a stadium near Madison Square Gardens.
But London owes a debt of thanks to another American, Boston-born Barbara Cassani. The forgotten woman of the London bid, Cassani — former CEO of no-frills airline Go! — put together the concept and assembled the bid team. I interviewed an ebullient Cassani a few weeks into her appointment when she and her skeleton crew were still awaiting office furniture. A year later, having laid the foundations, Cassani stepped aside, admitting that she wasn’t up to the schmoozing and flesh-pressing needed in the latter stages of an Olympic bid. She wasn’t schooled in the unofficial rules of Olympic bar-fly lobbying, such as the unspoken obligation never to leave a bar while there’s still an IOC member in it.
It was the right decision and since she took a back seat, London’s campaign has gone from strength to strength. But the episode says as much about the ridiculously arcane machinations of the IOC voting process as it does about Cassani’s capacity for candid self-assessment.