POSTED: April 20th 2017

JOHN GOODBODY: IOC hopes for spreading Olympic Games message hit by scandals

Olympic Rings © Bigstock
Olympic Rings © Bigstock

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

(SFC) When Rio de Janeiro was awarded last year's Olympics in 2009, the decision was influenced by the call to give the Summer Games to a region, which had never previously staged them. Members must have been eager that a country with a population of 207 million and at the time booming economically would be fertile ground for the Olympic Movement.

The IOC quite rightly is always looking to promote both the Olympic Movement and its sports and going to new regions also helps its negotiations with sponsors and television companies.

The experience of staging the Games in Rio became fraught with difficulties, so much so that John Coates, an IOC vice-president, said in 2013 that the situation was "more of a crisis than Athens", referring to the build-up to 2004 when facilities in Greece were only just completed in time. The IOC was indeed so concerned that it was obliged to install its Olympic Games executive director Gilbert Felli as a trouble shooter to ensure the 2016 Games could be staged.

In fact, the Olympics went ahead, as they always do, because otherwise it would be such a blow to the prestige of the host country. But despite many pleasing aspects, they were not truly satisfactory. And many IOC members must have regretted their decision of 2009.

Nor have the problems ended there. The Supreme Court in Brazil is already inquiring into the activities of nine Brazilian government ministers and more than 100 leading politicians over allegations of corruption. Now the newspaper 'O Estadio Sao Paulo' claims that Eduardo Paes, who stood down as Mayor of Rio on January 1, was paid just over $ 5 million for the "facilitation of Olympic related contracts", an allegation he denies.

As the IOC casts around for future candidate cities -given the lack of interest by many established nations--it must also be concerned by the news from India, a nation that has largely remained immune to the delights of The Olympic Movement ---67th in the Rio medal table with one silver and one bronze medal from a country with a population of 1.3 billion people. As for the performances at the Winter Olympics, don't even ask.

Delhi staged the 2010 Commonwealth Games, which was described by one onlooker as only being ready to stage the event on the last day of the Games. Last week, the Public Accounts Committee of the Indian Parliament reported the national sports secretary's "free and frank testimony that there was a complete management failure. The government came to the brink of defaulting on the Games, which would have created a national shame across the world."

Allegations of corruption still swirl round the event seven years after it took place. Suresh Kalmadi, who chaired Delhi 2010 and was President of the Indian Olympic Association for 16 years, has yet to stand trial after being jailed for 18 months of charges of conspiracy, forgery and misconduct, all of which he denies.

The IOC would love to embrace what is quaintly and unfairly called Third World countries but how can they even consider choosing one of them to host the Games in the immediate future after such experiences?

Although the number of competitors at the Summer Games is not increasing, the number of sports is and so is the complexity of putting on the world's biggest sporting festival. The IOC needs to have confidence that the host city will be able to deliver the Games without excessive worry and without any corruption.

I remember my late and much lamented colleague, John Rodda, quoting in 1990 the opinion of one IOC member on the rival candidates for the Olympics. John wrote: "In the end we go with the people we can trust."

At least for 2024, the IOC can rely on two cities, Paris and Los Angeles, and that is another strong reason why the loser should immediately be given the Games of 2028. 

** 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 · John Goodbody · Olympics

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