POSTED: October 8th 2014

NEIL WILSON: Bach versus Blatter for rights to 2022

Qatar won the Cup on December 2, 2010 / AFP
Qatar won the Cup on December 2, 2010 / AFP

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

(SFC) The scene is set for the clash of the titans, a show-down between the two biggest beasties of the sporting jungle.

No arena will see or television record the action. The head-to-head  will take place across a polished table somewhere in Switzerland.

On the one side will be Thomas Bach, president of the IOC, and on the other Sepp Blatter, president of FIFA, football’s world governing body. Lawyers will be the seconds.

They will be fighting over a battlefield of 2022, a year by which time even Blatter may have called a day on his reign. At stake the scheduling of the Winter Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup finals.

No  clash there in any other year. The Winter Olympic Games are held in February, the World Cup in June and July. It is a perfect fit for global television, corporate sponsors and, not least, the athletes.

So it should be in 2022. Qatar persuaded FIFA to host its World Cup there in June-July by promising a unique system of open-air air conditioning to overcome temperatures that would fry an egg on its terraces..

Few believed it possible but FIFA’s Exco committee were sold on it. Or, perhaps, an as yet unpublished inquiry might have revealed the better word may be bought.

Whichever, they have come lately to the realisation of all others that June-July is not possible and that a Qatar finals could happen only in the Northern Hemisphere’s winter.

So the gauntlet was thrown down at Bach’s feet this week by Umberto Gandhi, vice-chair of football’s influential European Clubs Association. FIFA should tell the IOC before it decides on which city to host its 2022 Games that they should be held later.

It would suit him and the money-men of football because January is close season for clubs in many countries but not, perhaps, the TV networks who have brought rights already for a Games in February. Or Olympic winter competitors who know that in an age of global warming later is tomorrow’s spring.

Presumably Bach will tell Blatter to take a jump, preferably off the 90 metre tower, but if he is clever Blatter will huff and puff but use the IOC’s intransigence as an excuse to tell Qatar that if it cannot now offer to host in June-July it must relinquish its right.

That would demand a re-run of the original bidders and excuse Blatter from publishing an embarrassing inquiry into a now-invalid vote. So both presidents would be winners, a unique sporting occasion in which there need be no losers.

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 · Qatar 2022 · Thomas Bach · 2022 Olympics · Sepp Blatter

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