While the selection of host city for the Olympics is always of great interest to sports minded people around the world this time around the selection was only of passing interest to the U.S. This is because unlike the last two selections for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics the U.S. had no city competing to host. This is not to say there was no interest and the selection of Tokyo has implications for a 2024 bid. In particular, the selection of Tokyo means that a European city (potentially Paris hoping for a sentimental 100th anniversary selection) will be the likely competition. Whereas an Istanbul or Madrid selection for 2020 would have probably ruled out a repeat trip to Europe 4 years later and a 2024 selection campaign vs. Tokyo. This assumes quite a bit, and other 2024 possibilities include a bid from Qatar, South Africa and Toronto. Qatar or South Africa would mean the Olympics being hosted in a new region of the earth and Canada hasn’t hosted a summer Olympics since 1976.
Looking Back (2016 Host City Selection): The devastation of the Chicago loss
For USA Team Handball the possibility of home based Olympics has always been a big deal because it means automatic Olympic qualification and the exposure, increased funding and sponsorship opportunities that come along with it. Four years ago in 2009, the Federation was devastated by the non-selection of Chicago for the 2016 Games. Although it was never explicitly stated preliminary plans were already in place for a residency program and marketing campaign focused on the Chicago area.
After his departure in 2011 former USA Team Handball General Manager told me it was pretty much a given that he would have moved to Chicago to directly oversee operations there. With his Chicago based connections it’s probably safe to say that USA Team Handball’s financial situation would be in a lot better place today. Most likely we would also have residency programs fully established in Chicago and competitive National teams. I doubt that we would have qualified for the 2012 Olympics, but with some decent recruiting I suspect that qualification might have been possible for the 2013 World Championships. Perhaps we would even have TV exposure for those national team contests much like USA Rugby now has. But, as we all know Chicago wasn’t selected and coupled with the Great Recession and some questionable management decisions it was the start of the downward spiral that led to the end of the Esch-Pastorino era for USA Team Handball.
Today (2020 Host City Selection): Tokyo, not that it matters
This time around in 2013, the host city selection was essentially meaningless to U.S. Team Handball. Assuming no major changes is in the qualification process, the U.S. will simply need to win the Gold Medal at the 2019 PANAM Games. As an aside, next month the selection for those games will be made and the candidate cities Ciudad Bolivar, Venezuela; Lima, Peru; La Punta, Argentina and Santiago, Chile. It’s tough to project out 6 years, but heading down to South America to win Gold will surely be a challenging prospect for Team USA.
Looking Forward (2024 Host City Selection): Automatic qualification for Team USA?
While this time around the host city selection didn’t mean anything it’s pretty easy to foresee the host selection in 2017 (for the 2024 Olympics) as a future pivotal event for USA Team Handball. In all likelihood the U.S. will have a city up for bid and on paper that city should be a very strong candidate for selection. By 2023 I’d like to think that our National Teams will have improved to the point that we can travel to a PANAM Games and compete for a Gold Medal, but there’s nothing like an automatic guaranteed spot. “Maybe, is replaced by “reality” and that will make it easier to secure funding via sponsorships years in advance of the games. Not to mention the increased media exposure that should facilitate recruiting.
With the apparent decision to start a residency program at Auburn University in the near future it would appear that USA Team Handball will not be repeating the all the eggs in the basket Chicago strategy. On the one hand this would seem to be a prudent course of action. U.S. selection is by no means guaranteed and to keep the old sayings flowing, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” But, on the other hand the potential of setting up shop in one of the potential candidate cities (Dallas, San Francisco, L.A., Boston, Philadelphia and others) has some appeal that Auburn, Alabama might struggle to match.
The competition to be the USA candidate city is sure to be fierce and the USOC has indicated that it will winnow the field to 2-3 cities this winter then make its decision later in 2014 in order to give that city plenty of time to market itself to the IOC. It remains to be seen whether that marketing will pay off with a U.S. selection, but rest assured around 4 years from now the entire USA Team Handball community will be on pins and needles waiting to hear newly elected IOC President Thomas Bach announce where the 2024 Olympics will be.