POSTED: January 16th 2013

NEIL WILSON: Is it time for a woman's touch at the IOC?

The IOC headquarters in Lausanne / SFC
The IOC headquarters in Lausanne / SFC

THE NEIL WILSON COLUMN / An exclusive, authoritative series from Sports Features Communications

January 16 - There have been eight presidents of the International Olympic Committee in its 119 years of existence. All have been white males. All but one has been Western European,  the exception being  an American.

This year brings the opportunity for IOC members to embrace the internationality it claims in its title, to look beyond Europe and, perhaps, even men when it comes to the election of its ninth president at its 125th Session in Buenos Aires in September. Ng Ser Miang, Singapore’s IOC vice president, has called it a “crucial decision”.

No IOC member has yet announced their candidacy. There is no requirement to do so under the election rules until June. So the names doing the rounds at present are speculative.

Thomas Bach, a German company director, is said by UK bookmakers Ladbrooks to be favourite. Others mentioned are Rene Fasel, a Swiss dentist, and Denis Oswald, a Swiss lawyer. An exception to the continental  bias  is the potential candidate the UK bookmakers see as  second favourite, Richard Carrion, a US-educated Puerto Rican banker.

Again though all are white males who will be at least sixty years of age in 2013. The exception may be Ng, whose comments on the importance of the election hinted strongly at his own candidacy when the time comes. An sixty-plus Asian would at least make a change.

What would make the greatest change and have the most impact on the sporting world would be the election of a person who is both non-European and a woman. The potential candidate I mean is Nawal El Moutawakel, the first Muslim female from Africa to become an Olympic champion in 1984.

The IOC Charter commits the IOC to gender equality. It says the role of the IOC is to “encourage and support the presence of women in sport at all levels.”

It has made a good fist of the commitment on the playing fields. Female participation in the Games has improved dramatically over the last two decades until it reached more than 40% in London. In administration it is far below 20% and less than 5% in many NOCs and international federations.

El Moutawakel, who is only 50, has been in the vanguard of the women’s movement in sport. Not only was she a first on the track as a 400 metres hurdler – Mediterranean, Arab, African, world and Olympic champion – but the first IOC member to chair an Evaluation Commission. She must have done a good job because she has been asked again to chair the 2016 Commission.

If she puts forward her candidacy she will unquestionably have strong support from three constituencies within the membership, African and Arab members and the 19 other IOC women members.

And, we can hope, she will have support from those other members who believe that the election on September 10 should send the strongest possible message to sport about both youth and gender equality.

NEIL WILSON reported his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. He has since covered another nine summer and nine winter Olympics for various newspapers, including The Independent and the Daily Mail with whom he has worked for the last 19 years as Athletics and Olympic correspondent. He was Britain's Sports Journalist of the Year in 1984 and is the author of seven books.

Keywords · Neil Wilson · IOC · Olympics · Ng Ser Miang · Thomas Bach · Rene Fasel · Denis Oswald · Richard Carrion · Nawal El Moutawakel

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