POSTED: July 3rd 2013

NEIL WILSON: Why does the IOC hide behind closed doors?

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

(SFC) Could this have been the most significant week to date of the 21st century for the International Olympic Committee and the Olympic movement?

All but about ten of the IOC members were gathered for the Extraordinary Session in Lausanne to hear views on the direction the five-ringed circus should take in the medium and long term.

Who should lead the body as its president for the next dozen or so years? Which city should host the summer Games of 2020, the last in the present global Olympic TV contracts?

They heard first from the three cities bidding, Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo, each allowed thirty minutes to present their case.

Then, on day two, it was the turn of the six of their IOC colleagues who have put themselves forward to succeed Dr Jacques Rogge as president to tell them how they see the future under their presidency.

None of the IOC members needed to cast a vote immediately on what they heard. They had two months to reflect and decide. But what the vast majority of those who will vote in September heard could very well have made up their minds.

We shall never know. The presentations had one thing in common. They were behind closed doors.

More than five hundred representatives of the media had accredited for the occasion, an illustration of the importance it believes the public attach to matters Olympic. Yet not one of them was able to give their viewers, listeners and readers a first-hand account.

When the doors at the Beaulieu conference centre were shut, they were on the outside not even looking listening in. There was no audio or visual relay of proceedings to them, and all that the world was to hear this week was second-hand spin.

Typical, you might say. The IOC has been a secret society since its creation, self-electing, self-regarding and self-important. Rogge’s predecessor as president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, loathed the media.

Quite deliberately he refused to give straight answers, even at his own press conferences. Any question he disliked would be deflected and to prevent any deeper inquiry,  no follow-up questions were allowed. 

Not surprisingly, when the corruption scandal surrounding the Salt Lake City Games erupted, the media was not on-side. There was a tsunami of negative stories.

Then came Rogge, a breath of fresh air. Asked a straight question, he gave an answer. Not always frank or fulsome but a step in the right direction. We thought things had changed.

So why the secrecy over the two most important questions of the moment? Why should the media representatives of a public which supports the Olympic Games so enthusiastically not know what presidential candidates are thinking, or bidding cities promising?  Has the IOC something to hide?

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.


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