POSTED: September 13th 2016

JOHN GOODBODY: IOC President Bach's absence from Paralympics is a pity and a mistake

IOC President Thomas Bach (center) attended the closing of the 2016 Summer Games and didn't come back to Rio © Getty Images
IOC President Thomas Bach (center) attended the closing of the 2016 Summer Games and didn't come back to Rio © Getty Images

Thomas Bach arrives for the Memorial Ceremony in honor of former state president Walter Scheel on September 7, 2016 in Berlin, Germany © Getty Images
Thomas Bach arrives for the Memorial Ceremony in honor of former state president Walter Scheel on September 7, 2016 in Berlin, Germany © Getty Images

THE JOHN GOODBODY COLUMN / An authoritative and exclusive series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) The allegations against Patrick Hickey of his involvement in a ticket scam continue to rumble on in Brazil with the President of the Olympic Committee of Ireland (OCI) still in Rio de Janeiro and unable to return home.

In a statement, Hickey, a member of the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), has said that he "intends to face all the charges and fight each and every one of them. I am completely innocent of all such charges and I also will vigorously defend my good name and character that I have spent my lifetimes building through voluntary service and for numerous sporting bodies." Hickey has withdrawn temporarily from his positions as a member of the IOC Executive Board and his Presidency of the European Olympic Committees.

However, emails released by the Brazilian police seem to claim that Hickey had talked to Dr. Thomas Bach about the OCI's allocation of seats for the 2016 Summer Games, although there is absolutely no suggestion the IOC President has himself committed any misdemeanour or was aware of the alleged ticketing scam. The IOC has also emphasised that it will co-operate with the Brazilian police although it insists that the Brazilian police has not asked to interview Dr. Bach.

A natural occasion for any such meeting to have taken place would have been during the Paralympics, which are currently underway in Rio. But Dr. Bach is not there. First, he had to attend the funeral of Walter Scheel, the former West German President and a close friend, and then he went to Zagreb for the 25th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the Croatian Olympic Committee, an event which had previously been postponed because of his unavailability.

This is all understandable but it is a mistake for him not to be present, even for a couple of days, at the Paralympics. He will be the first IOC President to miss the event since 1984, when the Paralympics, which were staged in New York and not in Los Angeles which hosted the Games. Since then the IOC and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) have grown much closer. For instance, it has been agreed that the Olympics and Paralympics will always be held in the same city.

One reason is that there arouses a perception that Dr Bach is not going to Brazil because he is concerned that he might be interviewed by the Brazilian police on its home soil. The perception may be wrong but it remains a perception -and for a person in the position of Dr. Bach as head of the most important organisation in international sport, perception matters.

Going to the Games would also give him the opportunity to see how well the Olympics and Paralympics can link together for their mutual benefit. Looking at this year's Paralympics, the feeling is that they are very much of an anti-climax. This may well be because I am in London, where the enthusiasm for the 2012 Games was subsequently maintained for the Paralympics because no one wanted the party to end, even if so many people were exhausted by the work or the euphoria -or both.

I believe that it would benefit both events if the Paralympics preceded rather than followed the Olympics. First, it would allow the excitement to mount both for the inhabitants of the country and also for the viewers on television.

But there is another practical reason for the change. Because there are fewer competitors, fewer spectators and fewer media, such a sequence would allow the organisers, when the pressure is less intense, to iron out some of the inevitable problems that occur when putting on the Olympics. Some of the deficiencies in transport, ticketing access, facilities and security could be addressed.

Perhaps Dr. Bach and his opposite number, Sir Philip Craven, the IPC President, could consider these for Tokyo in 2020, even if they haven't met in Rio.

** JOHN GOODBODY will cover the 2016 Olympics for The Sunday Times, his 13th successive Summer Games and is the author of the audio book A History of the Olympics, read by Barry Davies, the BBC commentator. He was Sports News Correspondent of The Times 1986-2007, for whom he received journalistic awards in all three decades on the paper, including Sports Reporter of The Year in 2001.  

****The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sports Features Communications.

Keywords · Paralympics · John Goodbody · Olympics · Rio 2016

For more information contact:
Laura Walden ()

All original materials contained in this section are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Sports Features Communications, Inc the owner of that content. It is prohibited to alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.