POSTED: December 29th 2016

NEIL WILSON: Another year old but is the IOC any wiser?

IOC President Thomas Bach © Getty Images
IOC President Thomas Bach © Getty Images

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

(SFC) The end of a year is a time for reflection. From what angle though do we reflect?

Was 2016 a great year for democracy because Brexit and Trump showed peoples' viewpoints count. Or do the very same results diminish us?

Is 2016 a year to make a popular music lover despair because of the deaths of Bowie, Leonard Cohen and George Michael. Or to celebrate because the Stones and Madonna were still making music?

The same is true of sport. Was this a year to look back on for the perfection of Simone Biles and Charlotte Dujardin's Valegro, the speed of Usain Bolt and Weyde van Niekerk, and the triumph of Brazil's beach volleyball duo.

Or should we remember it for an IOC vice-president pictured naked during a dawn raid by police, the revelations of McLaren Reports I and II and the millions of dollars offered by corrupt football officials in plea bargains with US courts.

Depends always where you are coming from, or from where you are looking. Both views are possible. McLaren I and II may be the best things that happened to Olympic sport in 2016 if the end result is that there is a fairer playing field in 2017. Or they may be the worst if they have destroyed all trust in it.

The one certainty about 2016, whichever way you look at it, is that the International Olympic Committee has had better years and its president, Thomas Bach, has had none worse.

That naked VP arrested in the IOC hotel in Rio may have been the most embarrassing. It may even prove when the court delivers its verdict how close to the top corruption exists. But it was far from an isolated incident in the IOC's annus horribilis.

Bach succeeded in getting it wrong at almost every turn in 2016. Most significantly, he was shown eventually to have downplayed Russia's doping revelations when he ignored the expressed recommendation of WADA to withdraw Russia's invitation to Rio.

By refusing to take a stand over their athletes' participation in Rio, as the IAAF and IPC did, he made himself look weak and earned the epithet of Putin's poodle. Then when he became the first IOC president not to attend the Paralympic Games he made himself seem childishly wilful.

Incredibly, he even went so far towards the end of a fearful year for sporting administrations to declare that "sport is an anchor of stability that more and more people are looking to and have confidence in."

That time may come if the fine work of the US federal prosecutors, the French and Swiss police, the German documentary maker Hans Seppelt and the New York Times succeed in cleansing sport's stable. But for the moment nothing could better illustrate how out of touch it is possible to become inside the IOC bubble.

** 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.

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

Keywords · Olympics · Neil Wilson

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