POSTED: September 13th 2017

NEIL WILSON: Not the time for Olympics to save the world, Mr Bach

IOC President Dr Thomas Bach opened the session in Lima last night © IOC
IOC President Dr Thomas Bach opened the session in Lima last night © IOC

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

(SFC) To paraphrase Thomas Bach's speech to the opening ceremony of the IOC session in Peru this week, the Olympics can save the world. "The world needs our Olympic values," he said.

Or to put another way - and not by Mr Bach - are those Olympic values anymore worth saving? 

The president of the IOC at times seems to live in a parallel universe, one in which every cloud has a silver lining which reflects well on the IOC.

Like this week's speech. It was given just a few days after the arrest of Carlos Nuzman, an IOC honorary member since his 12 years as a member ended in 2012. Mr Nuzman, whom police suspect of involvement in a scheme to buy IOC votes for Rio 2016 whose bid committee he led. 

This came at the same time the Irishman Patrick Hickey resigned his place on the IOC's executive board while the case against him in Brazil for corruption in ticket sales comes to court. 

And it comes while the French authorities refuse to allow another former IOC member Lamine Diack leave the country while they investigate his involvement in a vote-buying scandal which may have affected the decision to award Games to both Rio and Tokyo.

The latter Bach admitted in a pre-Session statement when he revealed that the IOC had been a party to the investigation for more than a year. He declined to label them criminality but referred to 'infringements'. He also blamed individuals for the corruption, not the IOC itself.

No organisation, of course, is immune from the odd rotten apple but the IOC has had too many festering in the bottom of its barrel in the last two decades for the individual defence to stick. Clearly it is something about the culture. 

Corruption in sport is found invariably in organisations run by ancients who have been in office so long that it has become a way of life. Havelange and Blatter at FIFA, Verbruggen at cycling's UCI, Diack at athletics' IAAF, all in office long enough to have created empires. 

The IOC could start by cleaning its own house. A small change would to be the removal of secrecy from voting. 

More significant would be to make election to IOC membership for a fixed period, as it is already for Athletes Commission members, rather than life or the period of your presidency of international sports federations.

Then insist that no elected sports official in bodies it funds can stay in office longer. None could refuse the change because all survive on the IOC's benevolence. Swimming and athletics, for instance, received $32 million from the IOC in the four years to 2016, more likely in the present quadrennial. 

Two small changes but giant steps towards more transparency. Because as Dick Pound, the most independent of IOC members, told the BBC: "We've taken a severe hit in terms of credibility. We have to recognize we have not done enough." 

Bach has grandiose ideas about the importance of the IOC in the world but it must save itself before it offers sport as the savior of the world. 

** 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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