The International Olympic Committee (IOC) clan has gathered in Lima, Peru for 5 days of meetings on an agenda focusing on rubber stamping on Wednesday of the dual Summer Games award to Paris for 2024 and LA for 2028. It will also see the induction of 9 more members into the IOC Pantheon. Along with them, a bunch of investigators have also arrived in Peru, stalking IOC Family members accused of foul play. Investigators are equally interested to see who will skip the IOC Lima Session to avoid possible extradition from Peru to Brazil, the USA or elsewhere, thus implying guilt.
A number of IOC members and National Olympic Committee leaders stand accused in scams involving Games ticket re-sales and vote-buying surrounding the Rio 2016 Olympics alone. Among them, Ireland's Patrick Hickey and Brazil's Carlos Nuzman have spent time in jail already. Others, like Senegal's Lamine Diack and Namibia's Frankie Fredericks have already stood down from their IOC positions in disgrace. The sheiks of Kuwait and Qatar are also evading their IOC duties, while the Association of African National Olympic Committees is embroiled in the intricacies of its internal elections in Djibouti. Sheikh Ahmad was seemingly identified as a co-conspirator by the United States Department of Justice in the FIFA bribery scandal.
The IOC was not immune from the repercussions of the scandals which engulfed the world governing bodies of Football (FIFA), Athletics (IAAF), Weight Lifting (FIA) and its own anti-doping agency (WADA), since many of the same actors have footholds in more than one governing body, enabling them to broker multitier deals. Lamine Diack, in his 16 years as president of the IAAF and member of the IOC, is known to have been involved in bribery schemes for marketing contracts, doping cover-ups, the award of World Cup hosting rights and the Rio Olympics vote buying scheme. Sep Blatter, the disgraced FIFA president and IOC member for 16 years as well, may die of anguish before incarceration.
And, of course, this dragnet has also gone after sport's major disease, doping. The "drugnet" uncovered systemic, state-sponsored doping among Russian athletes, who have since been banned from entering international competitions.
Who Are these People?
The men and women who run world sport are mostly old, arrogant and out of touch. Few were athletes of Olympic distinction. There are 94 IOC members today, soon to be increased by the election of 9 more during the Session. They used to call themselves "the immortals" since their task was to guard and guide the Olympic Movement until their death. They were mostly nobles or held positions of power in their own countries. Out of them, an Executive Board is formed under the President, which basically runs the show. The president of the IOC used to –and still gets- the treatment of a Head of State.
There is now a "retirement" age of 80 for the old members, 70 for the new members, who are now elected for an 8 year maximum tenure. Already, Australian member John Coates, 67, is poised to create a loophole which would extend his tenure beyond these limits. Meanwhile, England's Princess Ann, 67, heads the recruitment and selection process of the new members. So much for injecting new, youngbloods into the System...
Olympic Geopolitics and special interests still guide the byzantine machinations of ascent to Olympic glamour as the IOC is preparing to move its staff of 600 in its new $200 million headquarters in Lausanne. Member representation remains intriguing. Great Britain and China have four IOC members each, while USA and Canada three. Greece, the birthplace of the Olympics and founding member of the IOC hasn't had a single member for nearly two years, nor is scheduled to elect one in the near future.
Whereas Greece is pointedly absent from the fold, Princess Nora of Lichtenstein and Prince Albert of Monaco add to the Olympic relevance that Greece apparently lacks... More Olympic relevance and expertise can be found among the current IOC members from Burundi, Djibouti, Fiji, Papua NG, St. Lucia and Zimbabwe! The members from Aruba and Nigeria are slated to move up to the coveted Executive Board. The Greeks would be right to refuse to hand over the Olympic Flame in October for the 2018 Winter Game. So, it could be lit instead in Oman or Palau, as a representative from each of those sporting giants are about to take a seat at the IOC. They can all, then, demonstrate their gratitude for having been elevated to membership and enjoying perks not found where they live, by towing the line of the guiding majority, while making little side-deals for themselves. They get to decide, among other matters, who will be the next Olympic host.
Thomas Bach has claimed the credibility issues the IOC is facing again particularly after evidence of vote buying surrounding the Rio 2016 award surfaced, are the fault of individual members, and not the governing body itself . But he neglected to attribute fault to the members' selection process!
Paris, LA and the IOC; What Deal?
The LA Bid Team stayed on in Lausanne last July to negotiate concessions by the IOC in hosting the 2028 Summer Olympics, since the 2024 Games went to Paris on the tripartite deal IOC President Thomas Bach brokered. The President from Germany had managed to put the two contestants in a corner with the challenge: "Either we all sort out the hosting order (i.e. Paris in 2024 and LA in 2028) or take your risk with a membership vote on the order of hosting in Lima".
The IOC still wants to dictate terms. But all that was achieved was face-saving by rigging the result of a two contestant race and declaring them both winners for lack of other entrants. This cannot continue and the IOC needs major reform.
It is Paris and LA who must jointly lead the Olympic Stakeholders in dictating terms to the IOC, the self-proclaimed Trustees of the Olympic Movement, not only on their behalf but for the benefit of the longest running Festival in the world.
Baron Pierre De Coubertin from France and Constantine Vikelas from Greece, established the IOC in Paris in 1894 and launched the modern Olympics in 1896, while bid-leader Peter Ueberroth steered the Olympics into its commercial era in LA in 1984. The 2024 Summer Games will mark the 130th and 40th Anniversary of those two thresholds, 2800 years after the first Olympiad was inaugurated in Olympia, Greece.
It is French and US justice who began investigating and unraveling the corruption at FIFA and IAAF, which reached into the sacred space of the Olympic Movement. It is France and the US which bailed out the IOC of its current quandary by accepting to host consecutive Summer Games and give the Movement breathing room to reinvent itself.
Paris' motto is "transparency" and LA's is "new Games for a new era". Both bid leaders committed to working together for the sustainability of their host cities and the Olympic Movement.
It, therefore, behooves Paris and LA to jointly present an ultimatum to the IOC during this week's 131st IOC Session in Peru: "You either change if you want to have a purpose or we withdraw our candidatures". The changes should come out of a Working Group consisting of the IOC, past Olympic Hosts, Host Bidders, Athletes and Games Stakeholders to table a Common Sense Agenda to replace Agenda 2020, which is already out of date.
This would be a shocking game-changer to set fire to a rather lame Session this week.
Today's IOC is not fit for purpose. It must first admit the need to reconstruct itself and, then, lead the rest of the sporting world to reinvent the Olympic Movement.
September 11, 2017
George Courmouzis has been involved professionally with the Olympics since the Montreal 1976 Games, culminating with the Athens 2004 Games. He built a pioneering sports management and marketing business at the international level.