POSTED: November 9th 2010

JOHN GOODBODY: FIFA needs IOC's Excalibur to carve path to credibility

THE JOHN GOODBODY COLUMN / An authoritative and exclusive series from Sports Features Communications

LONDON, Nov 08: Just as the mythic Round Table of King Arthur was almost destroyed not by its enemies but by the moral  weaknesses of the knights themselves, so the International Olympic Committee suffered the worst crisis in its history not from attacks from outside but because of the unacceptable behaviour of its own members.

Following  the ‘cash-for-votes’ scandal in the election of Salt Lake City to host the 2002 Winter Olympics, 10 IOC members either resigned or were expelled in 1999 and for some months the IOC teetered towards disintegration, with the media and sponsors demanding changes in how cities were awarded the summer and winter Games.

It is to the credit of the IOC that these were subsequently driven through with scant opposition.

What has struck me as so interesting about the current scandal over deciding which countries should hold the FIFA World Cup is the relative lack of international outrage now, compared with that of 12 years ago.

After all, two members of the ruling FIFA executive committee, Nigeria’s Amos Adamu and Tahiti’s Reynald Temarii, have been provisionally suspended following reports by The Sunday Times of London of alleged intention to be involved in corrupt practices.

Claims that there has been collusion between countries vying to host either the 2018 and 2022 tournaments has also been revealed in an outstanding example of investigative journalism.

One reason for this relative indifference is that with the Salt Lake City scandal, the actual favours or money had already taken place and could be demonstrably shown to have happened. With the World Cup, for which the vote takes place on December 2, money had not actually been paid.

It has been an instance of what was expected to have happened rather than actually did.

Moral connection

Another reason is that the Olympic Movement is supposed to have moral connotations and be founded on ethical principles. No such claims can be made for FIFA, which is what it is - the world governing body for football. The nature of the two bodies is different.

The furore over the Salt Lake City scandal was also largely generated in the United States, partly because the city involved was an American one and partly because the biggest paymasters of the Olympic Movement are US-owned sponsorship and television companies.

This time, although The Sunday Times reporters were claiming to represent interests wanting the US bid for the World Cup to succeed, the situation is different. 

Many Americans resent the fact that it has little influence at the IOC, despite being its financial foundation. They care about the Olympics but far fewer care about the World Cup where the big TV money comes largely from Europe.

Dr Jacques Rogge, the IOC president, has spoken to Sepp Blatter, the FIFA president and an IOC member, and encouraged him to “clear out as much as possible.”

FIFAA has acted swiftly in referring the whole case to its Ethics Committee and the suspensions took place quickly, far faster than was the case with the IOC over Salt Lake City. Nevertheless, it is still disappointing that more media outlets across the world have not campaigned more strongly for a complete overhaul of an election system , let alone the administration of FIFA itself, both of which are so blatantly suspect.

And that criticism is putting it mildly.

** JOHN GOODBODY covered the 2008 Olympics for The Sunday Times, his 11th successive Summer Games and is the author of the audio book A History of the Olympics, read by Barry Davies, the BBC commentator. He was Sports News Correspondent of The Times 1986-2007, for whom he received journalistic awards in all three decades on the paper, including Sports Reporter of The Year in 2001

Keywords · Goodbody · King Arthur · FIFA · IOC · Salt Lake City · Blatter · Rogge

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