POSTED: February 1st 2017

NEIL WILSON: The IOC should speak up for Olympism

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti © Getty Images
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti © Getty Images

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

(SFC) The Candidature Files will make more noise when they land on the International Olympic Committee's doormat this week than the response from sport's most august body to US President Trump Executive Order on refugees.

In an echo of its weak reaction to Russia's unmasking as a doping culture before the Rio Games, the best the IOC's spokesman could manage was: "The IOC does not comment on the politics of sovereign countries."

That rather missed the point. Reaction was not required to the politics of any country but an order than banned refugees from entering its borders.

The IOC, remember, took pride in its establishment for the Rio Games of a Refugee team. A Syrian member of that team, Yusra Mardini, reminded the world of it only last month with a speech to the World Economic Forum in Davos.

More significantly the IOC had only to look at its own Charter for a reason to comment on the EO, if not the politics of it. The Charter makes clear the Olympic Movement's "respect for universal ethical principles" and opposition to "discrimination of any kind."

Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles, immediately distanced his city from Trump's action. It "unfairly targets refugees", he said, recognised the potential damage to his city's bid for the 2024 Games.

The United States Olympic Committee was similarly robust in its reaction but only one IOC member saw fit to position himself with the opposition. Richard Peterkin, from the Caribbean island of St Lucia, tweeted that it was "totally contrary to Olympic ideals."

Of course, it is. I do not for a moment think the issue will greatly influence the vote on the bids of LA, Paris and Budapest next September. It may harden the attitude of a very few IOC members who shuddered at President Trump's views on women, migrants and Mexicans but they would not have voted for LA in any case.

The majority will make up their minds much closer to the vote in Lima by when the EO may have been rescinded and other issues surfaced.

What concerns now is the weaknesses of the present IOC. Its president travels the world, expecting red carpet treatment and glad handing world leaders, but to what point. His role is to spread the Olympic message but when the opportunity arises, now and before Rio, he throws a cloak of silence over it.

The sovereignty of countries is their business. The Olympic Charter is the IOC's concern. It exists to establish principles and values of Olympism, what it calls "a philosophy of life" which will "place sport at the service of harmonious development of humankind."

Highfalutin words but if it is why the Olympic movement exists surely worth promoting and protecting. Heads below the parapet is not a worthy position.

** 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.


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