POSTED: October 23rd 2014

NEIL WILSON: Ban maintained on Olympic bid city visits

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

(SFC) Never accuse the executive board of the International Olympic Committee of being a talking shop divided on the future direction of the Olympic Games.

They wrapped up a meeting that could portend the most momentous changes in the Olympic movement in a decade in just a day and a half, half the time they had allocated.

Out of  discussions that we must conclude from their brevity were in common agreement came a draft of 40 recommendations that will be put to the full membership in December.

We cannot say what these recommendations are. The members must hear of them first, and the public must wait until mid-November.

What we are permitted to know is that the members will not find among them one that would have restored to them the reputation for honesty and integrity which they enjoyed in former times before bad apples among them blew it for the majority.

That restoration would have come with the return of their rights to visit bidding cities before they voted on which should host Olympic Games, a right lost after the Salt Lake City scandal when the then president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, felt his membership could no longer be trusted..

The EB was not even minded to go halfway towards private visits by introducing  group visits  organised by the IOC itself when there would have been no opportunity for members to feather their nests, as some did in the capital of Utah.  

Some among the members might feel slighted by this decision, their integrity still questioned, but reading between the lines of president Thomas Bach’s briefing on the Montreaux meeting, that interpretation would be wrong.

Bach is minded to make bidding for Games simpler. He talked of bidders presenting a project to the IOC which would benefit their own locality while working with the IOC to refine it instead of “ticking off boxes and being  judged”.

Allowing the best part of 100 members to visit the bidding cities at will, far from simplifying, would have added a complication and expense that would have been the opposite of Bach’s intentions.

Just two candidates for the 2022 Winter Games have been a rude awakening for the IOC top brass, the smallest candidature since Los Angeles had only Teheran to see off for the 1984 Games. Bach is determined that the IOC’s own rules will not be a deterrent to cities when it comes to bidding for the 2024 Summer Games.

The 40 recommendations apparently cover sustainability, credibility and youth, as well as the Olympic programme and a proposed Olympic TV Channel.

There will also be a proposal to raise the retiring age for IOC members from 70. Critics will say it widens the existing age gap between those who govern and those who participate but what member would vote against it. The old junkets may still be denied them but other perks of the role are well worth keeping a little longer. 

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 · Thomas Bach

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