POSTED: August 28th 2013

NEIL WILSON: An agenda-setting election in Buenos Aires? No chance.

The IOC headquarters in Lausanne
The IOC headquarters in Lausanne

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

(SFC) Michael Payne, a Briton who spent a good portion of his working life enhancing the value of the Olympic brand, believes that the decision the International Olympic Committee will take this month is crucial.

“The single most important sports issue of the year, one that will set the global sports agenda for the next decade or more,” he told his Twitter followers this week.

Which decision? The elimination of the oldest of Olympic sports, wrestling, from future Games? The choice of a city – Istanbul, Madrid or Tokyo to host the 2020 Olympic Games?

No, as Payne made plain in answer to the question from one of his followers, he was referring to the election of the IOC’s next president, the successor to Jacques Rogge.

Not an opinion which should surprise us coming from a man who spent so long working at Chateau de Vidy inside the Olympic bubble, first under the presidency of Juan Antonio Samarach and latterly Rogge. The head honcho is the real deal for those in the building.

But is he right? Would it have made much difference to  global sport, even global  Olympic sport, if Rogge had not been president for the last dozen years.

Of course, it would have made a huge difference if Un Yong Kim, the runner-up to him in the election, had won. He ended up in jail by 2005 and beat expulsion from the IOC only by resigning his membership first.

But what if the other candidate, Dick Pound, had been president. Would it have made a difference to global sport. Pound would have pushed the doping agenda, as Rogge has. Indeed, Rogge’s push for legacy by bidding cities was Pound’s recommendation in the report of his Olympic Games Study Group.

Rogge has been decidedly different from his predecessor. Samaranch, an autocrat, was one for the grand gestures, far less fiscally responsible and not a team player. Nor was he an enthusiast for the anti-doping war. But in all that Pound’s views aligned with Rogge’s.

So are the six men lined up to succeed Rogge so different from each other that the choice will set the global sports agenda for the next decade or longer? I cannot see it.

Thomas Bach, the favourite and friend of Rogge, has been historically a cautious administrator. His election slogan is “Unity in Diversity”, hardly a revolutionary mantra. He will be an extension of Rogge and will probably get his nod on September 10, as Rogge did from his predecessor.

The other five have their own published agendas but all know that the membership will not be looking for a man with big ideas who will make waves. Keeping the boat on an even keel is their fervent wish. The winner will be the man who has upset fewest in the past and worries everybody least about the future.

So do not expect a revolutionary to emerge in Buenos Aires as the next Lord of the Rings. Or anybody who will set the global sporting agenda for years to come.  

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 · Olympics · IOC · Jacques Rogge · Michael Payne

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